Sunlight and Potted Plants


All container grown plants need light, but how much varies from plant to plant. Here’s what you need to know to keep your plants healthy and productive throughout the year.

Vegetables grown for their fruits or seeds, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers, 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, spinach and cabbage can tolerate much less sun and plants such as flowering houseplants and culinary 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.

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.

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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