Even plants that love bright light need a break from the harsh summer sun, especially in the afternoon.
The morning sun gives plants the energy they need for photosynthesis. As the day goes on, though, the light becomes harsher and the temperature increases, which puts a lot of stress on your plants.
Another benefit to providing shade for your plants is that it lowers the speed of moisture loss. The soil and the plants won’t dry out as quickly if they’re protected from the sun.
Let’s take a closer look at what plants will benefit from shade and a few ideas for how to provide it.
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What Plants Need Shade?
Here is a list of some plants that benefit from afternoon shade:
Note that protecting your plants from the sun is only advantageous in the summer. During the hottest months of the year, the temperature can get too hot, and direct sunlight can burn delicate leaves and zap the moisture.
In cooler months, sunshine is an asset, so shading from the sun is not necessary. What does that mean? The best ways to provide shade in the summer should be temporary or semi-permanent. It’s likely you’ll be removing in when the fall and winter come around.
How to Shade Outdoor Plants from the Sun
Here are a few creative ways to provide shade to your plants to protect them from the sun:
1. Plant strategically
One of the easiest ways to provide afternoon shade is to plant things so that they get afternoon shade naturally. This approach takes a bit of planning but is much more convenient in the long run.
Remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That means that the side of your house facing east will naturally get more light in the morning. Then, as the sun crosses the sky, it will cross to the side of your house that faces west, blocking the sun from the east side.
By planting on the eastern side of your home, your plants may naturally get shade in the afternoon. If you plant on the south or west side of your home, you’ll likely have to worry about adding shade.
2. Use sunflowers
As their name suggests, sunflowers love the sun. They’re easy to grow and they get very tall, very fast. Some varieties work really well at providing shade. Plant them in a row on the western side of the garden and wait.
At the end of the growing season, simply cut the stems down to the ground. They’ll decomposite and fertilize the soil for next year.
One great thing about sunflowers is they tend to come back summer after summer. So, if this approach works for you, don’t worry, the sunflowers will probably come back next summer. If any unwanted sunflowers return, they’re pretty easy to pull out of the ground.
3. Use a shade cloth
A shade cloth is a woven or knitted piece of fabric that provides various amounts of shade. You can choose how much of the sun it blocks. Options typically run from 30 percent shade, which will still let some sun through, up to 90 percent shade, which blocks out nearly everything.
Most shade cloth also provides UV protection, which is great for light-sensitive plants. Woven shade cloth is usually made of polypropylene, while knitted shade cloth uses polyethylene fibers. The difference is that knitted shade clothes are a little more durable and less likely to snag or unravel.
If you choose to use a shade cloth, place it high enough that it doesn’t come into contact with your plants. Leave at least three feet between the cloth and your plants to make sure enough air can circulate around them.
Set up a simple trellis over your plants and attach the shade cloth using rope, twine, or zip tips. At the end of the season, just cut the ties, roll up the cloth, and store it for next year.
4. Add an arbor
Adding an arbor is a great way to add shade while also upping the look of your garden. Arbors can be simple, or you can make them more elaborate by adding a bench, trellis, or planter so you can customize it to your needs.
5. Use umbrellas
Large patio umbrellas are a great way to shade your outdoor plants from the sun, and they’re one of the most convenient options, too. Not only are they easily portable, but you can change the angle to make sure your plants get as much coverage as possible.
One of the downsides is that umbrellas are very easy to knock over. If a storm comes through or the wind picks up, be sure to collapse the umbrella so it doesn’t fall over into your plants or blow away.
If you don’t want to use a typical patio umbrella, try a cantilever umbrella. These are the large umbrellas that hang from the mount. They’re not as easy to position, but they provide a lot of covers, and you can position the base so it’s not in the way.
6. Invest in a retractable awning
If you’re looking for a semipermanent way to provide shade to your plants, consider a retractable awning. These awnings attach to the side of your home, so they have limited use unless most of your plants are located that close to your home.
That said, they’re very well constructed and will last for years, making them a great investment.
7. Try outdoor curtains
Outdoor curtains are a great way to block the sun, and they provide a unique opportunity to add some more character to your garden. All you have to do is set up a simple frame to hang them from.
Not every material works well as an outdoor curtain, though there is a quick and simple fix: use a shower curtain. Shower curtains are made of material that withstands the heat and humidity of a bathroom, so they’re more likely to withstand the changing weather outdoors.
8. Pitch a canopy tent
Pop-up canopies are really easy to set up and provide a lot of shade. They’re freestanding, so you can set them up just about anywhere, and you can easily take them down and store them at the end of the season.
Because canopies don’t have walls, the sunlight can still get to your plants in the morning. But when the sun gets high overhead, everything underneath the canopy is protected in the shade.
9. Hoist a sun sail shades
A sun sail shade is a large canopy suspended in the air. They’re quick to put up and relatively inexpensive. The best part is that you can completely customize the shape and coverage area.
Be careful with the type of fabric you choose. Waterproof or water-resistant fabrics are better because they’re more likely to stand up to harsh weather. That said, some people prefer a fabric that isn’t waterproof because it prevents pooling, and the sails tend to dry quickly in the sun.
Installation kits are available that include all the hardware you need to set up the sail. Usually, these include mounts, carabiners, and chains.
As you can see, there are many ways to shade outdoor plants. Whether you’re looking for a permanent solution or something that you can move around as needed, we hope we gave you some good ideas that you can put to use.
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