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The Many Definitions of Shade

I’m confused about all the terminology that is used to define shade. How do I differentiate between all the types of shade?

The word shade by definition means absence of light. However, in an outdoor setting there are many different kinds of shade including dappled, partial, deep, and even wet or dry. It is important to take the time to determine what type of shade you have in your yard so you can select the plants that will thrive in your conditions. Happy, healthy plants require a lot less work and worry.

Dappled Shade – This type of shade occurs when there is a moving pattern of sunlight and shadow created by the open branching of shrubs and trees. Because this is the lightest type of shade, it offers the widest range of plant choices.

Partial Shade – There are several ways to define partial shade, but I think of it in terms of how the sun moves through the sky. Depending on the time of day, plants may be in either sun or shade. When plants get direct sun in early morning or late afternoon with shade through most of the day, that creates a “partial shade” environment.

Deep Shade – You will find deep shade conditions under evergreen trees, in dense woodlands, along tall fences and shrubs or on north-facing areas of the house.

Dry or Wet – Moisture is also an important factor in a reduced light area. As you select a shade plant, be sure to check the label to see if it grows best in wet areas or is more drought tolerant.