Identify the Shade in Your Garden

February 14, 2017


Certain flowers like sunlight and certain flowers like the shade. Knowing the type of shade in your garden will help you know which flowers will thrive in your little piece of paradise. Knowing how to identify and define the levels of shade in your garden can be tricky, so we’re here to drop some shade facts for you.


Patterns of Shade

The shade garden consists of shade loving plants... in general. However, not all plants are shade-loving to the same degree. Some plants and flowers can survive without any direct exposure to sunlight at all, while some others will require varying degrees of exposure to the sun and light to survive. You have to learn to understand the needs of plants by looking at the pattern of shaded areas and different types of shade in your garden, and decide how to design your shade gardening and choose plants best suited to the types of shade in your garden.



Shade from Structures or Plants?

Foremost is the difference between shades from man-made structures—such as walls and buildings—and those more natural types of shade—such as from trees and plants. Typically, types of tree shade offer some sunlight occasionally or as dappled light, whereas walls and buildings tend to block out sunlight completely at different times of day. Even among species of trees, depending on the leaf size, the kind and degree of shade may vary. Understanding this helps the gardener determine which plants would grow well under different trees.



Defining Shade

Typically, six hours of sunlight exposure is the demarcation. Any location that gets less than six hours of full and direct sunlight is considered shady.


Shade Classified into Shade Types


Dense Shade

This is probably the toughest of the shade types; typically the areas under and around man-made structures fall under dense shade categories. If you have some dense growing evergreen trees, they too many create dense and dark shade underneath them. The best use of a dense shade area in the garden is to lay walkways. The only plants that can be placed here are potted ones that can be manually placed in sunlight regularly to stimulate some growth for a while.


Full Shade

These are very shady regions similar to dense shade but these types of shades lighten up in different seasons. The full shade areas are good places to grow plants that are tolerant to shades and can survive on reflected light. To lighten the full shade areas, you can use common light reflection techniques such as using light colors on fences, or placing light-colored walkways and ornamental stones around that area.


Light Shade

Typically, these areas lay under tall trees. The area is not completely deprived of all light, but at the same time, it is not sufficiently lit to say that plants get enough sunlight. The best description of light shade regions is dappled shade. The movement of leaves and mesh of vegetation on top filters out most of sun’s rays but will let some still pass through. These are great places for shade loving plants.


Part Shade

These areas receive direct sunlight, but not sufficiently long enough to be categorized as full sun areas. There are two categories in part shade: 'Morning Shade' areas that are in shade at dawn and dusk but well lit in afternoon, and 'Afternoon Shade' areas that are shaded in afternoon and well lit at dawn and dusk.


Shade Garden Test

Of course, before you start, you need to know which shade types are in your garden. It is often difficult to categorize shade areas. I suggest you do a test on how shady your garden is and which parts of it you would categorize as areas described above.




One suggestion is to plant petunias and see how they grow. Petunias prefers sun, will also tolerate partial shade, but it will not grow completely in shade. So if you have petunia plants that bloom abundantly, then you know you have a full sun spot. If your petunias tends to bloom more modestly without very much vigor, then you know you have a partial shade in the garden... and if they don't grow at all, you know you have full shade.


Have fun choosing flowers for your garden, but make sure you know your types of shade first!

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