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Does Partial Sun vs. Full Sun Really Matter to Trees?

Trees add so much beauty and functionality to our property and our lives, such as providing clean air and a wonderful place to lounge in the shade. It’s no wonder we take pride in our trees. With that in mind, we will want to take good care of our trees to keep them as healthy as possible. Part of that is making sure the trees on your property are receiving the necessary amount of sun to thrive. Some trees require partial sun and some require full sun, but what exactly is the difference between partial and full sun, and what is the impact on your tree? What will most benefit the trees on your property?

What Is Partial Sun?

With the term “partial sun,” it’s easy to understand that your plant needs only some sun, but there is a standard for how much time that actually means. On top of that, and what can sometimes make this term confusing, is that it’s not only about how long your plant gets sunlight, but also the intensity of the sun it receives.

Getting sunlight from the south or east is usually less intense than the afternoon sunlight from the west. As an added twist, the intensity of the sun in your yard changes along with the changing of the seasons. It can take time and intentionality to figure out what sun conditions you have in your yard and if there are consistent partial sun or full sun areas throughout the year.

The standard amount of time for partial sun trees is between three and six hours of direct sun per day. This means that your plant or tree should be protected from the sun in the harsher afternoon. Just as there are different intensities of the sun, there are also different levels of shade. Partial shade doesn’t mean pitch-black shade but more of a patchy shade.

What Is Full Sun?

As with partial sun, full sun is about the timing. It doesn’t mean the tree needs sun all day long. Six hours is considered full-time sun and can include the cooler morning or cooler evening sun as part of those hours. Receiving sun during the harsher time of day is fine. Just make sure you’re taking precautions during summer to help protect your trees during the hottest days.

Photosynthesis (the use of the sun to produce food from water and carbon dioxide) is how trees get their food, and each type of tree has a different need. This is why it’s important to determine whether partial sun or full sun is needed for your trees.

How Much Sun Do Trees Need?

There are many different sunlight requirements for trees, and while there are some that need partial shade, the majority of trees do require plenty of sun. The amount of sun a tree requires will affect the tree’s flowering, foliage, and fruiting abilities. Because the amount of sun has such an effect on the health of the tree, it’s important to take into consideration shady and sunny areas when planting new trees in your yard.

Full Sun Trees

Here are some trees that grow well in full sunlight:

  • Oregon white oak—This is a large oak that can grow 25 to 70 feet tall and 30 to 60 feet wide. This tree is great for attracting pest-eating insects like ladybugs. It sprouts acorns in the fall.
  • Indian plum/osoberry—This smaller tree is sometimes considered a shrub and grows between 8 and 15 feet tall. This early bloomer will produce flowers as soon as February and can produce berries, which are a favorite bird snack, but only when a male and female tree species are planted close for pollination.
  • Grand fir—This evergreen grows up to 200 feet tall and 40 feet wide. It adds a lot of beauty to a landscape and is a great home for birds and pest-eating insects like ladybugs.
  • Mountain hemlock—This is another large evergreen that can grow from 60 to 120 feet tall and about 15 feet wide. This slower-growing tree is part of the pine family and sprouts cones that are lime-green, purple, and red.
  • Ponderosa pine—This large evergreen grows between 150 and 200 feet tall and 25 to 30 feet wide. This pine, in its maturity, is fire- and wind-resistant, produces reddish-brown cones, and has a sweet scent.

Full Shade Trees

Here are some trees that grow well in shade:

  • American beech—This tree can live up to four hundred years and is one source of beechnuts, which are enjoyed by wildlife and can be eaten by humans.
  • American hornbeam—This tree is very strong and produces flowers that can be used in alternative medicine.
  • Bigleaf maple—This tree has leaves that can grow up to two feet long, and it needs lots of water to thrive.
  • Eastern hemlock—There are not many evergreens that do well in shade, but this species can do well with less sun during the day.
  • American hop-hornbeam—This tree is a cousin of true hornbeams and produces flowers that look similar to the flowers on hops vines.
  • Common hoptree—This smaller tree is one that can fit into most gardens. It has sweet-smelling flowers, but the bark can have an unpleasant odor if damaged.
  • Japanese maple—These popular trees are enjoyed for the beauty they add to landscapes. The shade helps protect their foliage from the harsh sun. These trees can range in size from larger shrubs to the size of small trees.
  • Sugar maple—This tree is known for amazing scarlet foliage in fall. This tree also produces sap for making maple syrup as well as adding beauty to the landscape.

Our team at Mr. Tree understands the needs of trees. We know what keeps trees healthy and how to treat them when they’re sick. From the beginning to the end of a tree’s life cycle, we’re happy to help you with any of your tree needs. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.