Knowing where to place your vegetables is as important as knowing what types to grow in the first place. Your temperature zone defines what can be easily grown. Yet, the ultimate placement of your chosen vegetables will decide how well they’ll grow for you.
Some plants crave for bright sunny conditions and other plants for the shade.
Here’s a list of full sun, partial sun and light shade vegetables that grow well in most of North America.
Click through on the link for each vegetable to learn more about it.
Can You Grow a Garden in the Shade?
Are you afraid your crops, flowers, and foliage might suffer if your garden doesn’t get enough sun? Don’t be.
Choose wisely and your veggies will be fine with as little as two hours of direct sun a day. You can have a successful vegetable garden with dappled sunlight throughout the day.
Depending on how much sunlight it receives, your garden can be:
- Fully shaded. In a fully shaded yard, your veggies won’t receive any direct sunlight. A plant can’t survive without the sun, so a full shade garden is not the best idea for growing crops. Though some flowers will do fine.
- Lightly shaded. In a lightly shaded yard, veggies will receive an hour or two of sun each day. Here a high canopy tree or other types of lower growing foliage can obstruct the sun. Yet, there’s just enough indirect light that your veggies stand a chance of success. Leafy and root crops will make it just fine.
- Partially shaded. In a partially shaded yard, your crops will receive plenty of direct sunlight, between two to six hours a day. These are good conditions for growing root, leafy, and fruiting crops. And a couple of pretty flowers or shrubs.
All plant species need sunlight to thrive but not all are equal. Some vegetables or flowers may ask for sunlight and another plant for shade. So, look for a plant label when buying seeds. The label will tell you if your vegetables or flowers prefer full sun, part sun, part shade, or full shade.
Novice gardeners might prefer not to leave anything to chance and it’s better not to. It’s in your best interest to pick a good spot for each veggie.
So, let’s look at the types of veggies that prefer different sun exposure.
Full Sun Vegetables
Full sun vegetables need a minimum of six hours (usually at least eight) of sunlight per day. For at least six hours, the sun should be directly shining onto the plants nearly every day of the season.
Obviously inclement weather and overcast days are not counted. No trees or buildings should be blocking sunlight from full-sun veggies.
Tomato, melon, and pepper plants that soak up plenty of sun with their leafy foliage and flowers will develop sooner than plants in the shade. They’re sun-loving annuals. As such, they need enough sunlight to thrive, so choose a sunny spot for them.
Vegetables such as peppers, squash, and cucumbers, also love growing in sun-kissed areas. Choose a plot with plenty of sunlight and you’ll increase your crop yields.
One of the easiest to grow, cukes have very broad leafy foliage, a common trait in many full-sun plants. Care for them properly and plant them in well-drained, fertilized soil (they prefer a pH between 6 and 7). If you do so, you can expect your own yields in 50 to 70 days.
These do better in some climates than in others but are popular for early spring and late fall harvest. Not only are they tasty and nutritious, but they also display soft purple flowers and are self-pollinating.
Most types of peppers prefer as much sun as they can get. Yet, extreme variation in temperature can cause the flowers to drop off and the plant to forgo producing for the year.
If you opt for growing bell peppers, water them daily as they’re highly sensitive to heat. Too much sun can cause sunscald damage which appears in the form of large, pale areas on the fruit.
Like cucumbers, squash plants have very broad leaves and beg for sunlight. Growing them on a trellis or stand can maximize sun exposure. Try frying squash flowers and stuffing them with ricotta for a tasty treat!
Assuming plenty of water is available, tomatoes will always take as much sun as they can get. If you provide rich soil and good positioning, your tomatoes can reach a height of up to seven feet tall.
Make sure your soil is free of nitrogen, as it can cause vigorous foliage and poor fruit production.
Partial Sun Vegetables
It sometimes pays to have a shade garden. All the more so if you have a slew of shade-loving herbs and vegetables planted every year.
Partial sun vegetables need at least four hours of sunlight a day. Still, they often thrive with less than six hours of direct sunlight. These are usually listed as “partial sun” or “partial shade” veggies in garden stores.
Partial sun usually means that the plant could still do well with more sun. Whereas partial shade often means that the plant would do better with four to six hours as a maximum.
Here are some of the vegetable crops that do well in partial shade:
- Root vegetables. Potatoes, beets, and carrots will bloom in partially shaded areas.
- Vegetables from the bean and squash family. Bush beans and summer squash are in season during the summer but will thrive in areas with less sun.
- Adapted varieties of bush tomatoes. Some bush tomato varieties are adopted to cool regions and can thrive in shaded plots. They usually come with regional names on labels such as Oregon, San Francisco, and Siberia.
As for pro gardening advice, plant the shade-loving ground cover veggies under taller foliage. For example, you can plant lettuces and radishes under taller tomato shrubs. These can get between three and five feet tall and serve as protective foliage.
When in bush variety, these do well with more sun (closer to six hours). In vine varieties, though, they can do well with less sun if they’re on a trellis.
Vine beans, also known as pole beans, are easy to grow legumes. Much of the beans sold on markets as dried beans fall under pole varieties. Some of those are kidney, pinto, and navy beans.
Keep beets partially shaded and they’ll thrive, even in relatively dry conditions. Beet plants need plenty of space for growing, so keep that in mind when planting.
If the fruit gets too small the soil may be lacking phosphorus. To help your beets propagate, add rock phosphate to your garden bed.
Full sun on broccoli will lead to the rapid growth of flowers (which ruins the taste). Whereas partial sun encourages tighter heads and slower development of flowers.
Seasoned gardeners choose to plant their broccoli before or after summer’s heat. Alternatively, they pick a shaded plot for these cool weather lovers. Yet, if you plant them in full shade, paint your walls and fences white so the crop can get some reflected sunlight.
Although cabbage is broad-leafed, too much sun will dry it out and encourage smaller heads. Although it thrives in partial shade, colder spring temperatures can damage your crop. They can cause the plant to form loose heads or cause them to not form at all.
If it gets too much sun, the carrot plant grows more foliage than root. Although they don’t appreciate full sun exposure, they require between six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
So, place your carrots in a partially shaded area to get a larger crop.
Like broccoli, limiting sunlight to under six hours daily means tighter heads of cauliflower. To protect them from too much sun exposure, plant them in early spring or autumn.
There are other ways to shelter your cauliflower crops from the sun. Tie the leaves together once the heads have reached two to three inches across.
When you limit sunlight to coriander, it will keep smaller and larger-leafed. This means a bigger harvest and better taste.
If you plant the herb in pots, place them in a shielded patio area to protect your coriander from direct, burning heat.
Leeks thrive in cooler, moist environments compared to regular root onions. Leafy crops like leeks prefer a soil rich in nitrogen. To help them develop fully, spread poultry manure widely around the roots.
If your soil is not well-drained, plant your leeks in raised bed kits that are high enough above the native soil (6 -12 inches).
Root onions, like most root-based edibles, need less sun to encourage below-ground growth.
Onions prefer temperate climates without extreme hot or cold temperatures. The size of your onion bulbs will depend on the length of the days in your area. So, pick your cultivars depending on your growing zone.
Pea, this early summer vegetable, will develop more foliage than edible seeds if exposed to too much sun.
Broadcast your pea seeds close together. If planted this way, the leaf foliage will cover the weed and keep the soil cool for better yields. This also allows for smart use of garden space.
Again, with root plants like radishes, it’s all about encouraging root growth. Plant your radishes two inches apart to get full, fleshy bulbs.
Spring varieties of radishes tend to mature rapidly, so harvest them before they pass their prime.
Similar to beets and onions in growth pattern, the rutabaga needs restricted sunlight in order to encourage deeper (larger) roots.
They prefer cooler soil, so if your climate includes intense periods of heat, make sure to give them some shade. Bear in mind that your rutabaga will develop a smaller root crop if planted in full shade.
Similar to carrots, turnips prefer growing downwards when less sun is available to them. Light promotes the growth of turnip plants. They do well in dappled shaded areas, but it takes them longer to mature.
Light Shade Vegetables
Vegetables that do well in less sunlight (two to four hours) are often called “light shade” or “shaded” plants. Some “partial shade” plants are also light shade, such as cauliflower and many spices.
While they won’t appreciate full shade, some vegetables have a high tolerance for a shady environment. A spot with dappled sunlight is the perfect choice for plants that grow in shade.
Here are some of the light shade vegetables:
- Cool-season vegetables. Asparagus, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, radishes, and parsnips bloom in shady spots. Shaded conditions will extend the growing season of your cool-season crops.
- Leafy vegetables. Leafy greens such as lettuce, cabbage, and watercress are good in the shade. And so are dark green vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, and kale. These green edibles will even lose a bitter taste if grown in a shaded garden.
If you’re already planting your own seasonal food, you might as well make the most of your garden. Cool-season veggies are a great choice as ground cover.
Even if some tall veggies block the sun, those shade-lovers won’t mind it.
If you’re lacking shady spots, there are alternatives to growing these plants. You can shield them using floating row covers.
Being leafy, you’d think of arugula as a sun-lover. Yet, sunlight often droops the leaves, so this is a good “under” plant to put underneath other, larger ones.
Just like with other cold-tolerant plants, shade suits Brussels sprouts, as does the limited sunlight. If they’re left to mature in hot, dry weather, the crops will develop bitter flavor and flimsy texture.
These leafy greens prefer temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Endive is likely the most shade-loving of all the leafy lettuce-type plants. This doesn’t mean they tolerate low temperatures. Make sure to harvest your endives before the first frost, because waiting until after will ruin your plants.
Like its cousins the cabbages, kale loves cold weather and less light. However, look for a spot that receives some sun. This will ensure your kale matures into a leafy crop. Feeding your soil with plenty of organic matter will help the plant produce tender leaves.
Most lettuce plants prefer less sun. Too much sun can cause lettuce to start diverting nutrients to seed production which results in a bitter taste.
You can stop this from happening by getting bolt-resistant lettuce cultivars that thrive in warmer temperatures. You can also choose to position your lettuce in shady areas or use overhead irrigation to cool plants.
A popular plant in the U.S., this one is often grown in flower gardens and near porches where sunlight is limited.
Like lettuce, spinach needs cooler temperatures and less sun. Weather that is too warm will cause the plant to flower and go to seed. The perfect growing conditions for spinach are temperatures between 50°F to 70°F.
Another delicate leafy plant, swiss chard doesn’t enjoy a lot of sunlight. Swiss chard is a hardy plant that can thrive in almost fully shaded garden areas.
Want to Learn More About Sun and Shade Loving Vegetables?
Gardening in the Shade from University of Minnesota Extension Where to Put Your Vegetable Garden, a PDF from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Photo from pikrepo.com