How Shady or Sunny is Your Spot
It is generally really helpful to know what the sun is doing in your outdoor space.
Now, please be warned. If you're lazy (like me) you may just want to take your best guess at how much sun or shade each spot gets.
That is completely OK. We're all busy, we've all got a lot on, and sitting down making notes about how the sun moves across the sky absolutely isn't for everyone.
If you're like me, then, you will have to live with the fact that you might just get it wrong sometimes and that some of your plants may become unhappy.
If you keep an eye on them you can sometimes catch it in time (and move them to a better spot). But it can be notoriously tricky to tell whether your plant is getting too much or too little sun. So you may end up with some very sad little plantys indeed.
Before we go on to looking at the 2 different techniques for understanding sun and shade in your spot, first a quick mention about sun and shade terminology.
Sun & shade: An intro to the terminology
You might see across our product pages and other plant websites that there's a specific terminology used for plants' sun requirements.
Before we dive into understanding sun and shade in your particular space, let's start with understanding how plants are divided by their sun and shade preferences.
Any online garden centre or regular garden centre worth its salt should tell you this when you buy plants. And it's important stuff to know, as not every plant is suitable for ever space and that is most often because of its preference for sun or shade.
So what are the categories?
- Full Sun - Likes more than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day
- Partial Shade - Likes to receive between 4 - 6 hours per day
- Full Shade - Can survive with less than 4 hours of sun (will still need some reflected or dappled sunlight though...no plant can survive with literally zero light)
It's also worth noting that these numbers are for mid-summer; as we move away from mid-summer, the amount of sun the plants will receive will gradually decrease (as the sun lowers in the sky).
A full shade garden at work
What influences sun and shade?
How sunny or shady your spot is could be impacted by a number of things.
If your garden is South facing, you'll likely get maximum sunlight for your space. That's great if you're growing sun loving plants, but you might need to create pockets of shade for shade loving plants.
For North facing spaces, you'll likely struggle to get much sun. That's because your or flat will be blocking the sun for most of the day. If your garden extends far back, though, you may get some sun at the end of your garden.
For East and West facing spaces, you'll get generally you'll get more sun than a North facing space but you'll likely be capped at 6 hours maximum (and even then it might only be in one spot of your space).
Nearby tall objects
The other thing that impacts sun is tall objects. Look around; what's surrounds your space or even is there anything tall inside your space?
These could be trees, your own house, neighbouring houses or blocks of flats, some landscaping feature. All of these will have an impact how the sun tracks across your space.
Tall objects, like trees & hedges, create shade patterns
Now, there are two main methods for figuring out how the sun moves through your space.
Both are best done in the Summer & Spring, when we have maximum sun, but you can keep an eye on it during the cooler seasons as well.
Guessing: (Sort-of) understanding sun and shade in your space
The best thing to here is to spend some time getting to know your spot. Sit it in for a nice sunny day, or keep an eye on it through the window.
What bit receives the most sun? What the least? Are there any major patches of shade?
Bucket each area in your mind into Full Sun, Partial Sun and Full Shade - then buy plants accordingly.
Measuring: (Really) understanding the sun and shade in your space
If, however, you're a bit more organised and really want to get your plant choice and planning right, you can create a sun planner.
It's really not very difficult (it just requires some diligence in remembering to check and fill it out) and can be done on a piece of A4 paper.
- Flip your paper horizontally
- Divide out your space into the different major areas. If you were doing this for a small terrace garden, for example, you might have the back fence, the left fence, right fence, porch, front garden etc.
- Write each of them as a separate row
- Then in columns, write the time in hours (from e.g. 8am to 9pm - ideally sunrise to sunset, but no one will judge if you miss the sunrise!)
- Each hour, check what sort of sun each space is getting
- Make a note about the light in the column for each area ('Sun', 'Shade', 'Partial Shade')
By the end of the day, you'll have a clear picture of what the sun is doing in your space, and can count how many hours of full sun your space has!
Well that's it folks. Now you know how to understand light and shade in your space.
If you enjoyed this, why not check out our article on:
- Getting started growing outdoor plants in pots & containers
- 10 ideas for designing you space with pot plants
Or if you now know what the lights doing in your space, check out our collections of:
Thanks for reading, and catch you soon.
Box & Sprout