Sunlight is necessary for all of the plants. If you think back to high school biology, you’ll remember that light strikes the green pigment in plants called chlorophyll. This causes a series of chemical reactions to occur which result in the formation of a basic sugar that is used by the plant for metabolic processes. While we cannot do a great job of explaining photosynthesis in two sentences you can rest easy that in-depth knowledge of it is not required for gardening success. Thank goodness!
What is required for success is knowledge of how much sunlight to give a plant. Some plants need full sun while others exist in shade. If you mix that up it’s going to be lethal for the plant. Full sun is defined as 6-8 hours of sun from between 10 AM and 5 PM and later. Sunlight outside of those times is generally weaker and thus would not drive photosynthesis like full sun at 1PM would. Most of the plants we sell are full or part sun plants. Evidence that your plant is getting too much sun includes yellowing leaves followed by burned, crispy leaf tissue. Plants that are wilting at the end of the day either need to be moved to an area with less full sun or irrigated more frequently.
Our pot tags are designed to give you the most accurate information on two very important elements to planting success: sun and water. The first line of the tag at the very top is where we locate the information on sun exposure. We do this with three letters: F, P and S. These stand for F
ull sun, P
art sun and S
hade. If the label has “F” this translates into a full sun exposure, and you should plant accordingly.
Our nursery is located in central Ohio. Our full sun exposure is less intense than you would find in southern states. In these more southern environments it may be beneficial to situate your plants where they can get some relief from the sun during the day. These areas can be found in your yard by observing when and where the shadows fall on your lawn at around 2 or 3PM. Marking these areas with flagging will help to define an area that gets good full sun but not too much of a good thing.
Part sun or partial sun plants are at home in areas where they get direct sun for about 4 to 6 hours of sun, typically morning sun into early afternoon. The intensity of the mid-afternoon and late afternoon sun for these species can be scorchingly hot so it’s best to give them shade during the hottest period of the day. This can be accomplished by situating them on the east or north side of a structure, plant border or edge of wooded area. These exposures offer the least intense sunshine. Keep in mind that as the sun moves across the sky shadows move and lengthen. If you situate your plants on the east side of your house close to the foundation, they’ll get shade sooner than if you planted them further out from your foundation. Planting them further from the structure or border increases their time in full sun conditions.
Evidence that your plant is getting too much sun include wilting, necrotic (dead) leaf tissue, bleached leaves and general dull green appearance.
Many people believe that part sun and part shade are interchangeable…. they are not. While part sun refers to getting 4 to 6 hours of direct sun into the early afternoon; part shade is different. Part shade is less direct sun than part sun. An example of this would be a plant getting good morning sun, then shade, skipping the couple of hours of afternoon sun altogether. Here in the nursery, we would plant part shade plants under our trees with lower branches or on the east side of our tree line.
If a plant is not happy with where you have planted it, you’ll know. Common symptoms of too much shade include leggy, spindly growth as the plant tries to stretch to reach the light, slow or no new growth and small leaves. Any and all of these characteristics may be displayed if it’s planted in the wrong location. You could trim surrounding vegetation, if possible, to help increase the amount of light or you can transplant it to a newer area with more light. Don’t be afraid to move plants when necessary. Improving their location will allow for better growth and more flowers. Try to do this when the plant is still small and do expect that their growth will be slowed initially until they get their roots back under them again. The TLC we mentioned above will help reduce this down-time. Plants labelled with P
only on their tags are part shade plants.
Shade loving plants do need sun, just not a lot of it. The sunlight these plants get should be confined to early morning sun until about 10 AM. After that the sun is too intense and they may burn.