The Q&A Archives: Defining Part-Sun, Part-Shade

Question: How are the terms Full Sun, Partial Sun/Shade, and Shade, defined?

Answer: These terms are subject interpretation and some trial and error in the garden. Some guidelines to help you determine the degree of light you're working with include:

Full sun: usually means full sun all day long, or for at least 6 or 7 hours including the noon hour.

Partial shade: includes full morning sun or dappled light all day, or bright but diffuse light on the north side of a building. Afternoon-only sun is closer to full sun because it is generally more intense and hot.

Shade: Truly shady areas receive only reflected light. They might have trees, shrubs, or structures blocking light from several directions.

Of course, there are plants that do well in full sun in Iowa that prefer some afternoon or dappled shade in Texas or the mountains of Colorado, as the intensity and heat of the sun's rays varies with latitude and altitude.

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