Sunlight and Your New Plants

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

After you have chosen new plants that will thrive in your Hardiness Zone, you’ll want to place them in the ideal location in your garden or landscape area. The terms full sun, full shade, and partial sun or shade can be confusing, in addition to physically defining those areas in your yard at different points in the season and throughout each day. Planning ahead will help reduce your maintenance workload as well as lessen pest and disease problems. 

Since new plants or seeds typically contain their sunlight exposure needs on tags or on the backs of seed packets, the most challenging task is to determine the general sunlight pattern for your area. Spend some time watching where the sun shines in your yard and make note of where the shadows fall throughout the day. Does your house cast a shadow on an otherwise sunny location? Do bare branches of springtime bushes and trees leaf out during the summer to create areas of shade? Once you have the average daily sunlight pattern figured out, placing your plants is the fun part. 

Plants that require full sun need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. While the mornings may provide gentle sun rays, the afternoons are often hot and bright as the sun beats down. Some perennials that are heat tolerant and thrive in full sunlight include purple coneflower, lavender, Russian sage, and butterfly weed. Of the hydrangea varieties, the panicle hydrangea is one that prefers full sun. Annuals offer plenty of beautiful long-lasting blooms throughout the summer. Marigolds, zinnias, petunias and poppies are a few colorful choices that enjoy full sun.  

Is there a location in your garden that is in full shade most of the day? Full shade is defined as an area of your yard that receives less than four hours of direct sunlight per day. Plants that are considered full shade-loving often prefer a few hours of gentle morning sun. Hostas, bleeding hearts, and coral bells are well-known shade-loving perennials, but what other choices are available for those shady spots? Red columbine, Virginia bluebells, or dutchman’s breeches are other examples of shade-loving perennials.  

Areas that receive between four to six hours of sun can be referred to as partial sun or partial shade. These parts of your flower gardens may be the most challenging to figure out and the terms partial sun and partial shade are sometimes used interchangeably. Partial sun-loving may indicate the need for a combination of cool morning sun and a little of the afternoon sun. Partial shade can refer to the need for protection from the most intense afternoon sun rays. For example, some varieties of hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Some hostas, daylilies, and bee balm prefer partial sun while some impatiens and begonias prefer an area of partial shade. You’ll need to observe your plants to determine if they need to be moved toward areas of  more or less direct sunlight.  

Bloch’s Farm is open to the public 7 days a week from 8 am to 6pm. We have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials! Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you find the right plants for the right spot in your yard. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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