MARCH 8, 2022

Our plant listings give the light conditions needed by each plant using just three symbols: sun, part sun, and shade.

Sometimes a special requirement will be noted in the description. Be aware that there is no absolute definition of these terms and that your plants and the light in various areas of your yard are things to learn about from experience.

Each of the three symbols can mean any of the following:


  • Full sun = direct sun from dawn to sunset
  • Sun = six or more hours of direct sun (some sun plants actually appreciate afternoon shade)
  • Light shade = direct sun all day except two to three hours at midday
  • Open or high shade = lots of ­filtered light reaches the plant through tall trees

Part sun/part shade 

  • Part sun = four to six hours of direct sun, preferably midday and afternoon sun
  • Half shade = a total of four to five hours of shade with periods of sun and periods of shade. It is more direct sun than many shade plants can tolerate.
  • Part shade = some morning sun, but midday and afternoon shade


  • Shade = less than four hours of direct sun
  • Indirect sun or bright shade = only reflected, indirect light all day, such as the north side of walls or fences; open to the sky, but no direct sun
  • Full, dense, heavy, or deep shade = little or no direct sun at any time, such as the shade under raised decks or large trees with dense foliage