Matching Plants to Hours of Sunlight

Learn how to match plant purchases to hours of sunlight in your garden and backyard to optimize your growing space.

Share with a Friend...


Matching Plant Purchases to Hours of Sunlight

As we enter the season of fall gardening we’re also walking into a time of transition.  The days become shorter and eventually temperatures will also cool.  As many of us know this can have quite an impact on our next planting decisions.

What gardeners plant up north will vary from those of us down south because our warmer temperatures stick around.

Thankfully most nurseries stock shelves according to their climate.  This is also true for when preparing to plant for sprnig.


I love going to the nursery, especially in the fall because the selections inspire and the colors are warm. I’m known for getting side tracked and what I love seems to grab my attention first.

Sometimes what we love isn’t what’s best for our garden.   I’m so guilty of this…

So, before we fall in love with a certain plant, first investigate how it will thrive in our space.

This is as simple as monitoring hours of sunlight where you want to plant; do this before you go to the nursery.

Matching Plant Purchases to Hours of Sunlight

Matching Plants to Hours of Sunlight

Matching plants to hours of sunlight really isn’t that difficult and nurseries make this pretty easy by offering care instructions.

Every outdoor area offers a different amount of sunlight and shade each day.  If you’ve been gardening in the same location for years then you probably have a good handle on things but it’s always good to double check especially if you have neighbors.

New tree growth or even removal of trees or shrubs in someone else’s yard can have an impact on your garden, especially if outdoor spaces are close together.

So, let’s simplify matching plants to hours of sunlight by:

  • Understanding your climate, investigate your planting areas for hours of sunlight and record those findings.
  • Read plant tags before purchasing and tailor your selections to local conditions.

If you’d like to record your findings then make sure to grab my Free Seasonal Garden Planner here.

This planner is a 12-page beauty, using a watercolor theme that I painted over the summer. You’re going to love it!


Full Sun GardeningFull Sun

The following information can also be used when selecting plants for spring or early summer planting.

Plants described as drought tolerant or needing “full sun” require at least 6 hours of daily sun exposure.   These areas are bright and wide open to the sunlight and can sometimes receive more than 6 hours each day.

Some plants will thrive in these conditions but others simply cannot take the heat.

Part Sun

Part sun areas require at least 3 t0 6 hours of daily sunlight. These areas can sometimes be filtered as “full sun gardening” because they offer semi-shade for plants.

Part sun is best described as, “Periods of direct sunlight lasting for hours and shade follows later.”

Shade is provided by nearby trees, a trellis or even flowing branches.  These are some of my favorite places to plant because they’re easy to maintain.

Another reminder is morning sunlight will always be cooler than afternoon sun temperatures.

Plants labeled part shade means they’re more sensitive to full sun, especially when temperatures rise; also remember you have a little more flexibility in these areas.

Gardening with Sunlight hours

Part and Full Shade

Full shade describes an area where direct sunlight never penetrates due to shadows.  These could be spots with heavy greenery, buildings, or even a covered porch.

Growing up I use to love going on nature trail walks because I was fascinated by the green plant growth where there wasn’t sunlight.  The temperature was always cooler and the air was moist.

If you haven’t explored a nature trail walk in a while, I highly recommend it…

So, how does a gardener match planting in these types of conditions?  You search for shade plants that thrive from indirect light, this includes evergreens and ferns.

Some of these areas offer filtered light, known as partly shaded areas where full shade plants will still thrive as most full shade plants can tolerate a tad of sunlight.

So, don’t be hasty when choosing the right plants for you space.

Always garden according to matching the right plants with the hours of sunlight and find joy in your environment as we transition into a new season.


If you liked this article, then you may also enjoy reading my book,  Startle Garden.

This is a complete guide to beginning your garden using smaller and taller raised beds that are easier to maintain.  Very similar to container gardening for those with limited space or anyone looking to downsize their garden.


Matching Plant Purchases to Hours of Sunlight

Share with a Friend...


  1. This is a great guide for anyone to read before planting! You have the best way of explaining things, friend!

    Happy gardening!

    1. Carole says:

      Thanks Karianne,
      Who knows maybe I’ll get you gardening one of these days!


  2. Patti says:

    Great post with important thorough explanations. I still after so many years sometimes struggle with light issues. Not directly but in the nuance of an area that gets a combination of sun and shade. I also notice that this changes as you mentioned during different times of the season. Spring looks much different than summer when all the trees have leafed out. Fall is cooler here but just how cool and how early is often unknown. Keeps us on our toes. 🙂

    1. Carole says:

      Definately keeps us on our toes because the lighting at our new place has been a huge challenge. We have so many trees on our lot and we keep cutting them down but like you said when summer hits they fill out even more. Glad you found this information helpful, sometimes I still miss my farm garden because the sunlight was perfect and we even had a couple of cyprus tress that provided perfect afternoon shade.

  3. Christine says:

    Welcome back, Carole!! So glad to hear you enjoyed your time away!! A good “refresh” is amazing for the soul!! Your post is spot on btw!! I’ve been at fault a few times for planting in inefficient lighting!! It can be a costly mistake but also quite silly too! Like the time we first moved into our current home and I just HAD to plant my favorite rose bush in the perfect spot. Except that spot had over hanging branches that blocked the majority of sun. So I grabbed a ladder and chopped those branches off. Of course all was fine until the next summer when they all grew back thicker than ever!! ? oh well live and learn right!! Anyhoo good to have you back in blog land!! Missed your inspiration!!

    1. Carole says:

      Hey Christine – feels good to be back writing, I’ve even started a new book and hope to have it completed before the new year.

      Correct lighting is so important, it’s been difficult at our property because the area in which we live there’s a lot of trees. We keep taking the necessary ones down but it seems the ones left behind just continue to grow even more with their new found space so I get what you’re saying. Hope to clear out more over the winter and hopefully have a brighter 2020. Hugs!

  4. Kim says:

    New follower–I found your website via Pinterest from the post you wrote about How to Grow Kale. It was our first year growing kale this year and that post was extremely helpful, especially the part about using mulch. Your current post is also helpful in that we truly do need to take a step back and decide once again what we will plant next year based on light. Light especially, maybe more than anything, is determining whether or not our container garden is a success/worth the investment or not. You have built a beautifully informative website here and when I get a little less busy I’ll be sure to stop back and catch up on some posts. Thank you!

    1. Carole says:

      That’s awesome to hear and thank you for taking the time to share. I love grow and eat kale. Over the winter I started to cook and serve like spinach and it was so good. I do my best to write helpful posts that can be applied to your garden in the present or future. Gardening is such a beneficial activity and it’s my hope to continue helping others improve their journey.

Comments are closed.