Everyone does better with some sun — and so do your plants! Part sun or part shade, full sun or full shade — what does it mean and how do you determine it?

Follow along, discover the differences, and learn how you can define each area of your yard.

This post is sponsored by Exmark, the official mowers of the Backyard life.

bright yellow flowers low angle with sun and sky
When it comes to sun exposure, plants are like people — they all have different needs! (treasurephoto via Canva.com)

What is Sun Exposure?

Sun exposure is simple: it’s how many hours of sunlight a plant needs to grow. And, the plant tag tells you all that you need.

Full sun and full shade are both fairly self-explanatory: full-sun plants need to be in direct sunlight for most of the day, and full-shade plants need only a few hours of light.

However, “full sun” doesn’t mean it needs twelve hours of sunlight a day; instead, full-sun plants require at least six hours of light a day.

And “full shade” doesn’t mean the plant has to be located in the pitch black. They need, at most, four hours of sun and can also thrive in areas of dappled shade, or light filtered through a leafy canopy.

Likewise, part sun and part shade plants are two sides of the same coin. Both require four to six hours of sun a day, but the main difference is in the time of day in which they receive their sun.

Part sun plans require an hour or two of afternoon shine, while part shade plants like to get all of their light before noon rolls around.

And, like all things, there are always a few exceptions to the rule.

Part-sun-to-full-sun plants need a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight but also thrive in warmer climates and temperatures.

Part-shade-to-full-shade plants need at most six hours of sunlight and do better in cooler climates.

And, full-sun-to-full-shade plants don’t care about how much light they do (or don’t) receive, and thrive in any situation imaginable.

Sun shining through a shade tree
To determine the sun exposure in your yard, take notes of the levels of light and shade every hour from sunrise to sunset. (isarescheewin via Canva.com)

How Do You Determine Sun Exposure?

While there are tools you can buy to measure light levels, the simplest, tried-and-true way of determining the sun exposure in your yard is observation.

Starting at sunrise, head out back every hour and take note of the levels of light and shade (and the different kinds of shade).

It’s that easy — in fact, we’ve created a convenient sun exposure chart that you can download, print, and take outside to get a lay of your land.

About Backyard Smart

The more you fall in love with having a great backyard, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Exmark Backyard Smart answers the lawn-and-garden questions homeowners are looking for.

Learn more at Exmark.com/Backyard

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