shade treeYour perennial bed receives a few hours of morning sun, but shade during the rest of the day. So, should you consider plants that require shade, partial shade, or partial sun conditions?

Gardeners understand that different plants require different degrees of shade ranging from dense shade to dappled or partial shade. However, shade is a concept which can have a multitude of meanings when used by gardeners. For one gardener, shade may describe the dimly lit area in the Southeast corner of the home landscape where that towering live oak grows and which is bounded by a six-foot tall wood fence. For another gardener, shade may describe the bright but non-sunny spot on the north side of the home. What one gardener might consider to be light shade conditions, may in fact refer to partial shade conditions as described in the nursery drawing trade.

The following provides a description of various light conditions (and other descriptive names) ranging from full sun to dense shade:

FULL SUN: Direct sunlight on plant all day

LIGHT SHADE: (Also called "Thin, Filtered Shade")

10:00 a.m. ---- 6:00 p.m. In summer when sun is most intense, there is either:

A. 2-3 hours without direct sunlight on plant

 - - OR - -

B. a slight, light pattern of shade all the time (or there is shade through young trees or shade through open-canopy trees).

PARTIAL SHADE: (Also called "Dappled Shade", "Half Shade", "Medium Shade", and "Semi-Shade")

10:00 a.m. ---- 6:00 p.m. In summer when sun is most intense, there is either:

A. 4-5 hours without direct sunlight on plant

 - - OR - -

B. a defined dappled pattern of equal sun & shade all the time under trees whose leaves let sunlight through all day in a changing pattern (dappled shade).

FULL SHADE: Shade all day.  Under Full Shade conditions, plants do not receive any direct exposure to the sun. Under such growing conditions, plants receive only reflected, indirect light.

DENSE SHADE: (Also called "Deep Shade", and "Heavy Shade")  No direct sunlight all day with very little reflected, indirect light.

Examples:  Shade under large, fully mature evergreens; shade under raised decks; shade under large trees with dense canopies, such as live oaks.

In order to successfully garden under shade conditions, it is important that you analyze and understand the type or types of light conditions under which your plants will be growing.  Hence, all of the above considerations should be taken into account in order to provide optimum growing conditions for what you intend to grow in your shade garden.

This web site is maintained by Master Gardener Laura Bellmore, under the direction of William M. Johnson, Ph.D., County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.

All digital photographs are the property of  the Galveston County Master Gardener Association, Inc. (GCMGA) 2002-2006 GCMGA - All Rights Reserved.