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Most gardeners know that the amount of sunlight plants receive influences their growth. This makes the study of sun patterns in the garden an important part of your garden planning, especially when it comes to full sun landscaping.

What is Full Sun?

Yes, this may seem an obvious question to some, but in fact, it is not. Many people think this means having sun all day; others feel that full sun is direct sunlight part of the day. For example, your garden might receive three to four hours of direct sun in the morning with a break in sunlight around lunchtime and then full sun for the remainder of the day. By definition full sun is considered to be at least six or more hours of direct sun each day within a given area. That said, the sun's strength varies with the time of day as well as the season. For instance, the sun is strongest during the summer months in the United States and more intense in the early afternoon. It's also stronger here in the south (where I am located) versus areas further north.

Sun Patterns in the Garden

Growing full sun plants successfully means understanding how sun patterns in the garden work in your particular area. Plants normally grown in full sun in southern climates generally benefit from some partial shade during the hottest part of the day to avoid scorching, as these areas are naturally warmer than northernmost locations. For most plants, sunlight is necessary in order to produce enough energy for photosynthesis, or food for the plant. However, different plants have different needs, so make sure that the plants you choose for full sun landscaping are also suitable for areas having partial shade should your climate dictate this. In addition to sun patterns, you need to pay attention to microclimates in the garden. Even with full sun landscaping, the various patterns between sun and shade can create areas having slightly different temperatures and soil moisture, which can affect plant growth.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.