Where is the sun?
This isn’t a really hard question, the sun is in the sky…sorry about that.
My real question is where is the sun in your yard?
Knowing where the sun is in your yard and knowing how long you get sun for in these areas can help you plan for a garden that will flourish. All plants need sun but some have evolved to need less than others and if these plants get too much sun they won’t flourish and may even die. Likewise plants that have evolved to need a lot of sun will be equally as upset when placed in a garden too shady for them.
Plants placed in areas where they are not meeting their sun or shade requirements are more susceptible to pests and diseases so knowing how much sun an area gets can help you plan what plants will grow the best. This is a great first step before planning a garden. It’s easy to get excited about a new plant and not realise that you have no suitable place to put it, only to have it wither away after receiving too much/not enough sunlight.
To determine if your garden is full sun or full shade check the areas during morning, mid-morning, and throughout the day until dusk. The easiest way to do this is to pick a sunny day that you have free and set a timer for every two or so hours, keep a little notebook to check - sun or shade and track throughout the day. You will be able to easily determine if you are full sun, full shade or a partial sun or shade.
Full Sun or Full Shade.
These are the easiest areas to determine. If you have full shade you are likely to have tall trees around your home or more along the south side. Full sun will have fewer tall trees or trees that are mostly on the Northern side of your home. Full sun areas will have sunlight from at least 10 am until around 5 pm or later. These areas will receive the hottest sun of the day and will benefit from plants that are drought tolerant and/or specifically bred for full sun. Full shade locations will get the morning sun but then be shaded fully from the afternoon sun or at least for a full 6 hours. These plants will be shade tolerant and will not tolerate any of the hot full afternoon sun without burning or crisping on their leaves, even if they are in full shade the rest of the time.
Part shade or Part sun
You would think that these are the same thing but actually they are opposites. Part shade plants are plants that can handle mostly shade with a little bit of sun. They may be able to take full sun for a little while but are still at risk of burning if they dry out. These plants are not drought tolerant and will need to be kept mulched and well watered if put in an area that is sunnier than shadier. Part-sun plants are plants that can handle a bit of shade but prefer mostly sun. They will usually do OK in a shadier area but will be susceptible to overwatering and will not like full shade. This means that they will most likely not bloom and may become ‘leggy’ as they stretch for the sun.
I hope that these guidelines can help you plan for a garden that will really prosper. Although it can be disappointing to realise your garden is too shady/sunny for the plant you really want there are a few ways you can alter your surroundings so that your desired plant can thrive. The easiest way is to make shade where there is sun. A new tree, shrub or even a garden wall or screen can give your shade plants the extra hour or two of shade they need to thrive. Sun is a little harder but you can always look for trees that can be pruned to allow more light in or think about creating a garden bed in a different area that has more light.
Whatever you choose I wish you happy gardening!