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Some plants aren't fussy about whether they grow in sun or shade, but most have a preference. When plants don't thrive, it's often because they're getting too little or too much sun. Simply moving them to a better location can improve their health and vigor.

Read on to learn about how sunlight affects plant growth and how to match the light conditions in your yard with the right types of plants.


It's important for your plants to get the right quality of light as well as the right amount of it. Tuberous begonias, for example, will tolerate morning sun, but not the harsh light of mid-afternoon. Hostas are known as shade plants, but in northern areas they can often be grown in full sun. Light intensity is determined by the time of day, latitude and season. 

Time of Day

In the morning and late afternoon, the sun’s rays strike the earth at a low angle. At these times the light may be bright, but it's not very intense. The sun is strongest from 11am to 3pm. As a general rule, sun-sensitive plants plants prefer morning or late afternoon light and should be protected from harsh midday sun.


The angle of the sun changes between spring and fall, and this affects the intensity of the light as well as where sunlight falls in your yard. Observe your garden through the seasons so you get to know how the light moves around. This will help you match the right plants with the right location.


Sunlight gets more intense the closer you get to the equator. This is why shade-loving plants need more shade in the South than they do in the North. Planting and care labels rarely differentiate between growing regions, so keep in mind how your geographical location will affect your plants.


If you suspect that a plant may not be getting the right amount of light, there are several things you can do. To create more shade, you can add a tree or shrub to help block the sun. An arbor or temporary screen could also be a solution. To bring in more sun, you might remove a few overhead branches or take out a neighboring plant. Here is how to recognize an unhappy plant:

Too Much Sun

Fair-skinned people get sunburned very easily. The same is true for sun-sensitive plants. Too many hours of sunlight, or sun that’s too intense, can bleach out the color of a plant's flowers and foliage. The leaves may be scorched or the edges may brown and curl. Sun sensitive plants may also wilt in response to hot sun.

Not Enough Sun

Plants need sunlight to produce energy for growth and flower production. When they don’t get enough sun they are typically shorter than normal and may be weak or spindly. The foliage may be pale and limp rather than robust. Flowering will decrease or completely stop. Sun-starved plants are also more susceptible to disese problems such as mildew.

For healthier, happier, better-looking plants, try to give them the light conditions that will help them succeed.

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