Sunlight and Potted Plants

Plant LightTurn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. – Maori Proverb

All potted plants need sunlight, but how much varies from plant to plant.

For example, vegetables grown for their fruits or seeds, like tomatoes, peppers and corn, need around six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Ideally, this might be from dawn until about three in the afternoon. The sun is often hottest (and toughest on plants) from after three until just before sundown. Leafy crops such as Swiss chard, lettuce and cabbage can tolerate much less sun and plants such as flowers and herbs may have different lighting requirements depending on the varieties grown.

When deciding what plants to grow, check their labels and read seed packets for specific lighting recommendations. Also, become familiar with the amount of sunlight a specific garden spot receives. If possible, try to imagine the change in sun exposure as trees grow leaves and the seasons change. For productive container gardens, do not combine plants with vastly different lighting preferences, especially if growing several containers in one area, or many plants in one container.

Here is a guide to help decode the lighting instructions found on plant labels and seed packets.

Full Sun: Between six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

Partial Sun: Plants require between four and six hours of sunlight a day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon.

Shade: Less than four hours of direct sunlight per day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day.

The advantage container gardening has over regular soil gardens is that they can be moved. If you notice that your plants are not happy with the amount of sunlight they are receiving, it’s relatively easy to pick them up and carry them to a different location with better growing conditions.

Tip: When growing flowering plants indoors supplement sunlight with high intensity plant lighting, especially during the winter months. Want to garden year-round? offers a large selection of gardening supplies, including plant grow lights, at very reasonable prices.

Another way around this cultivating conundrum, known as plant lighting, is to select plant varieties that are native to your area. Native plants are well adjusted to the specific growing conditions for your area and are better able to adapt to local lighting and climate changes. They will grow much better and be easier to care for than say, trying to raise a banana tree in New Hampshire.

Trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and herbs all grow well in containers. However, it’s important to remember that container gardening does not change a plant’s basic needs. Sun-loving plants still need plenty of sun and shade-loving plants continue to grow best in dappled light. It’s just easier to move them to a garden spot that keeps them happy!

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