How Much Sunlight Do Vegetables Need?

Sunlight shining on tomato plants in the garden

Planning a garden and wondering exactly how much sunlight do vegetables need? You’re not alone. The key to growing vegetables successfully always begins with the proper amount of sunlight. Without it, no amount of water, fertilizer, or weeding will bring about a bountiful harvest.

We’ll start out by saying that all vegetables will grow in full sun. But knowing that not all of us have an area that receives full sun, there are options! Many varieties can be grown with part sun or even part shade. We’ll go through these below.

To clarify, when someone says full sun, it means 6+ hours of direct sunlight. Part sun is 4 – 6 hours, and part shade is at least 4 hours.

Thinking about planting in a new area? Observe it throughout a sunny day as spring approaches. Look every couple of hours or so to determine the total hours of sunlight the garden area will receive.

If you don’t have the time to observe the area, we recommend using a sunlight calculator. These are inexpensive devices that stick into the ground. They measure the sunlight over the course of a day, then indicate if it’s full sun, part sun or a part shade area.

Now that you know what amount of sunlight your growing area receives, its time to choose from the list of vegetables that will grow best in this garden.

Vegetables that must have Full Sun

Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Sweet Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Honeydew, Okra, Pepper, Pumpkin, Squash, Strawberries, Tomato, and Watermelon

Vegetables that will thrive in Part Sun

Bean, Beet, Broccoli, Carrot, Cauliflower, Collard Green, Garlic, Kale, Leek, Onion, Pea, Potato, Radish, Swiss Chard, Asparagus, Spinach Herbs, and Turnip

Vegetables you can grow in Part Shade

Asian Green and Lettuce

As an easy-to-remember rule, leafy vegetables are the most adaptable to low light conditions. Root vegetables are the next in line, and fruit-bearing vegetables requiring the greatest amount of sunlight.

If your garden site offers less than desirable sunlight, consider planting in another area or think about planting your vegetable plants in containers on your sunny deck or patio.

Happy growing!

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  • Reply
    Linda-Claire Steager
    April 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Robes sanguine -Red Flowering Currant- a native to the West coast should definitely be added to this list.

    • Reply
      GrowJoy Plants
      September 7, 2020 at 6:35 pm

      Linda-Claire, thank you so much for the suggestion! Duly noted. 🙂

  • Reply
    Glenda Emanuel
    February 17, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    For those who can’t provide 6+ hours of direct sun: don’t give up. With a little trial and error you can find varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers that will bear all season long. It might not be a bumper crop, but we’ve managed to provide enough “fruit” from tomatoes and cucumbers to keep me and my husband eating fresh-from-the-vine during the growing season. This from a smallish container garden on a largely shady deck. My garden gets a maximum of 4 hours of morning sun. We live in central SC, where the summers can be too hot for even the strongest plants in the afternoons., especially when coupled with high humidity. We’ve learned to adjust our expectations to a smaller crop, and I don’t try to grow for canning or passing around the neighborhood! It’s still worth the effort! Nothing from the grocery store tastes as good! Best varieties for me: Braveheart and Sweet Million. Both are “cherries”,. I’m still searching for a disease-resistant slicer that will produce well enough to provide all we could eat!
    I love the Braveheart so much, this year I ordered extra plants (from GrowJoy, of course) so I can give them as gifts and my friends can grow their own!

    • Reply
      February 19, 2021 at 7:44 pm

      Great info here Glenda!

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