Are your outdoor plants getting the right light?
Do your plants love the sun?
For those that have to manage exterior landscapes there is a lot to know when caring for plants. The key to success is right plant, right place. That phrase is easy to say but has a lot of elements to dissect in order to create and maintain a beautiful environment. Soil, water and fertility are all important but the most misunderstood factor of all is light.
Defining sun requirements
We have all had a discussion with an “expert” who tells you the plant is right for sun, part sun, part shade or shade. What do these light patterns all mean?
Light patterns are really about understanding microclimates in our landscape and then finding the right plant that will thrive in the right spot. Consistent hours of sunlight in the Middle East means heat, but even then, shade conditions may be 10 to 15 degrees cooler and more humid.
Plants have evolved over time to favour a particular conditions and positions for optimal growth to achieve a balance in nature. Your objective is to mimic these natural conditions.
What are the light patterns to understand?
Full sun is pretty easy for most of us to understand. Full sun is direct sun for six or more hours per day. Full sun plants generally require high levels of water in this region although there are indigenous plant species that can minimise water consumption.
Shade — light, partial, full and dense
Understanding shade conditions is more complex. And to help you know what plants are best for your exterior landscape and gardens we have broken shade into 4 categories:
Light shade can be defined as receiving between three and five hours of direct sun. Light shade may be the best growing conditions in the tough summers witnessed in the Middle East. These locations are sunny enough that many sun loving plants will grow while many shady lovers can still make it. Keep in mind that morning sun, which is cooler and less intense, is easier on shade loving plants then the hot afternoon sun. Plants that receive too much intense light will scorch if pushed into too much hot sun.
Partial shade is often defined as an area that receives two hours of direct sun each day. Here again, remember the difference between morning and afternoon sun and its effects on some more shade loving plants. Partial shade is good for many flowering shrubs that will produce more blooms with a little sun.
Partial shade can also be found under or around trees. This is hard to determine but these conditions can exist under or near trees that have less than 50 percent canopy. It can also be found in the reflections of light off of buildings. Another way to look at partial shade would be more cooler morning sun and little or no hot afternoon sun.
Full shade is the third type of shade. These areas take in less than an hour of direct sunlight each day. It could also be dappled light through a tree canopy for most of the day. Full shade is not just a result of trees but also buildings, fences and other structures that cast shadows or block the sun rays.
When planting in full shade soil moisture can be an issue as the competition with tree roots can be high. Plants in this area should not only be shade tolerant but also drought tolerant unless supplemental water will be applied.
Dense shade is the last in this category. This means no direct sunlight and little indirect light seldom reaches the ground. This would be the light under evergreen trees or overhangs of buildings. It can be found under shrubs, decks and dark corners and passages between houses. The ground is usually dry and dark from lack of light.
Dense shade is the most difficult and limiting growing condition. Plant selections are few due to the combination of shade and root competition.
Plants create a great exterior landscape for your customers, employees and stakeholders and by looking after them, you enable them to look after you.