Spots that soak up sunshine from sunrise to sunset are prime candidates for gardens overflowing with color, flowers and tasty produce. But not all plants can stand up to direct, full sun. By understanding your garden's light levels and meeting the needs of sun-loving plants, you can enjoy a beautiful full-sun garden worthy of a gardener's dreams.
Creating a full-sun garden starts with understanding what "full sun" means. Light levels can be confusing, especially when you're faced with plant tags or descriptions that read "full sun" or "partial sun" and nothing more. Plant professionals (and the companies that print plant catalogs and tags) typically define full sun as six to eight hours of direct sun or more each day. Partial sun refers to areas that receive between four and six hours of direct daily sun.
When planning a sunny garden, take time to track the actual amount of direct, unfiltered sun your garden spot receives. It may surprise you. Nearby plants, trees and buildings can shade sunny areas as the sun moves through the sky each day. Sunlight also changes with the seasons. A patch of lawn that receives full sun before trees leaf out in spring can be a perfect spot for early blooming, full-sun bulbs, but it's a no-planting zone for sun-loving summer perennials.
Daily hours of sun can occur in a single stretch or be broken up by times of shade. Focus on the total for the day. If you're an outdoor person, you understand that morning rays are gentler than midday sun, so keep that difference in mind as well. Shorter hours of intense sun can have an impact similar to longer hours of less intense rays.
Most succulents withstand hot, sunny gardens well.
When choosing plants to fill your full-sun garden, keep two concerns in mind: the plant's hardiness zones and its minimum daily sun requirement. Hardiness zone ratings found in catalogs and on plants tags usually have a lower and upper zone listed. The lower zone reflects the coldest winter temperatures the plant can take, while the upper limit reflects the warmest areas where it will thrive.
Warm climates and intense sunlight often go hand in hand, so geography makes a difference. Plants that prefer full sun in northern gardens may need less sun or more protection in southern gardens and at higher elevations.
By choosing plants suited to your sunny garden, you help ensure they flourish in sunshine instead of fading or withering away. Look for favorite no-fuss annuals such as heat- and drought-tolerant zinnias or gomphrenas for summer color alongside long-blooming, full-sun perennials. Natural habitats of native plants hold good clues to sun needs. Prairie natives such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans naturally thrive in open meadows with no shade in site.
Summer-flowering shrubs, such as vibrant hibiscus, or berry-bearing shrubs, such as blueberries, typically give their best performance and production when they receive full sun. The same holds true for your well-fed veggies and ground fruits, from tasty tomatoes to delectable strawberries, which only achieve their full potential in full sun. Many edibles, including blueberries and strawberries, give an added ornamental bonus in fall when full sun turns leaves orange and red.
Most vegetables need full sun to do their best.
When planning a full-sun garden, group your plants according to their shared needs for water and fertilizer. Many full-sun plants prefer dry soil, but others need plentiful moisture and extra nutrients. Group drought-tolerant plants, such as Mediterranean herbs, separate from plants such as roses or vegetables with greater water needs. You'll cut down on maintenance time and enjoy better results when full-sun plants get just what they need.
When you water, water deeply and thoroughly to encourage deep, vigorous root growth. This helps plants withstand the drying heat and wind that often comes with exposed, full-sun locations. A 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch, such as compost, helps retain soil moisture and control wide fluctuations in soil temperatures that can happen on hot summer days.
Fertilizing your sun-loving plants with premium plant foods helps keep them healthy, resilient and productive, too. Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 or Pennington UltraGreen Color blooms and Bulbs Plant Food 15-10-10 start feeding immediately to provide sun-drenched plants with a well-balanced nutritional foundation, then they keep on feeding for up to four months.
OMRI-listed Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1 offers an ideal solution for full-sun plants and veggies grown with an organic approach. Follow your product's instructions for the proper rates and frequency of feeding, so your full-sun plants look and produce their best.
Grouping plants by water needs simplifies full-sun gardening.When your garden benefits from hours of plentiful sun, make the most of nature's gift. You can create a beautiful, productive, full-sun garden that flourishes under your care. Pennington is committed to providing you with the finest in lawn and garden products and timely advice to help you make the most of your garden and every ray of sunlight.
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