Figuring out the light for your outdoor miniature gardens or fairy gardens can seem so arbitrary. I mean, what is part shade anyway? Only part of the garden is in shade? What is part sun? Which part of the plant would get the sun? Lol! I’m kidding! But you can see how some of these terms may be confusing for the new gardener.
There is a formula that gardeners use to help to define what kind of light your garden receives so you can choose plants that will thrive in that spot. You’ll have happier and healthier plants, the maintenance and watering will be more-straightforward, and you’ll be able to enjoy a well-kept, established miniature garden for years to come.
Right Plant, Right Place
“Right plant, right place,” is the golden-garden rule and the very first step to take – even before you start to look at plants. By putting the right plant in the right place means figuring out what zone you are in, what kind of soil you have, and what kind of light your garden gets. Follow this chart to figure out what light your garden bed has, THEN choose the plants that are suitable for those conditions. In other words, you’re choosing the right plant to go in the right place.
- Part shade – is 2 to 4 hours of cool sun, or dappled sun.
- Full shade – is less than 2 hours of direct sun.
- Dappled shade – is called light shade or part shade.
- Part sun – is 4 to 6 hours of direct sun.
- Full sun – is 6 or more hours of direct sun.
- “Cool sun” – is morning sun before 11am or after 3pm, or eastern sun.
- “Hot sun” – is from about 2pm to 7pm in the summertime, or western sun in the summertime.
But the Sun Moves? How Does That Work?
So, you might be reading this in the middle of summer when the sun is at its highest and everything is in full sun, right? Yeah, ignore that because that “high-sun” period during the summer only lasts for a couple of weeks before the sun starts to move through its cycle.
Take note of the amount of sun your garden receives in the fall or springtime to figure out what kind of light it receives. Then use the chart above to determine what plants to look for. Simply put, “full sun” plants won’t do well in part shade or shade. Shade plants will not do well in sun. And, no, you can’t fool Mother Nature.
What direction the light is coming from can help as well. Check out the chart below. Note that this is from my point of view in Seattle, Washington, in the northern US. If you are closer to the equator in the southern US or South America, adjust this chart accordingly, (you’ll also have a different set of plant to choose from, but that’s another blog.)
- Eastern sun = cool sun
- Western sun = full sun
- Southern sun = full sun
- Northern light = part shade to full shade
So for example, if your backyard faces east, you have cool, full sun. This is one of my favorite light conditions for miniature gardening because you can still have a full-sun garden that is protected from the hot afternoon sun.
NOTE that if there is a wall, garage, tree or your neighbor’s house interfering with the light, that changes everything. Take note of how long the sun is shining on your planting-spot and go back to the first chart to define your light.
What about Outdoor Container Gardens?
Container gardens work the same way except you have the freedom to chose where the pot will go, of course. So once you figure out where you’ll want the pot to “live,” then you can choose the plants to suit the light that that spot receives. The beauty of growing a miniature garden in a container is that you can move the pot around to protect it from the hot sun, move it onto a porch for the high-summer or you can move it next to your front door for a special occasion.
Got any questions? Leave them below.
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