When you buy a plant for your yard or landscape you’ll find that it comes with a plant tag that includes information about how much sun it will need. The tag typically indicates one of three necessary sunlight levels:

● Full sun
● Partial sun
● Shade

But just what do these levels mean? What counts as “partial” sun? Does “shade” mean a plant can’t be in direct sunlight at all? Continue reading below to learn more about how to make sure your plants get the right amount of sun.

Full Sun

The “full sun” category includes those plants that require the most amount of direct sunlight. Full sun plants need six or more hours of direct, uninterrupted, unfiltered sunlight each day in order to thrive.

You’ll need to make sure that they’re in an area that has few trees blocking or filtering the sunlight and that they’re not in an area where buildings or other obstructions block the sun.

Typically, for a house in the middle of a field with zero obstructions in any direction, the southern and western side of your lawn will be the best places to place a “full sun” plant.

Partial Sun

The “partial sun” category includes those plants that require three to six hours of unfiltered sunlight each day to grow properly. While they can tolerate a few hours of their sunlight being dappled or interrupted by trees or other foliage, they’ll need at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive.

Usually, the eastern side of a lawn is the best place to put “partial sun” plants. These areas get the rising sun each day, which isn’t as strong as it is at noon or the late afternoon.


The “shade” category includes those plants that do best when they receive three or fewer hours of uninterrupted sunlight. You’ll notice that we didn’t say they must be in shade all the time. In fact, few plants do well in deep shade all day long. Rather, plants in this category do best with a couple of hours of uninterrupted sunlight combined with dappled, interrupted, or indirect sunlight throughout the rest of the day.

Often, the northern side of a home is a great place for plants in the “shade” category. This location offers the best combination of direct and dappled sunlight.

Other Considerations

There’s often trial-and-error involved when placing your plants, and you may wish to consider hiring a professional landscaper with experience in this area. That’s because plant placement is not an exact science. Several variables can affect whether a “full sun,” “partial sun,” or “shade” plant will thrive in a particular location, including:

● The size and location of buildings on the property
● The size, density, and location of trees and large foliage on the property
● The frequency and amount of water the plants receive
● The soil conditions in the area
● The relative strength of sunlight in your area

A good professional landscaper will have developed a significant amount of knowledge in this area that will let you minimize inefficient or ineffective plant placement and get things right the first time.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not a plant thrives in your landscape will depend on all the factors listed in this article. And while there are no guarantees in horticulture, gardening, or landscaping, following the advice we’ve included above will make it much more likely that the plants you choose will thrive and add to the beauty of your yard for years to come.