Sunny or Shady? Understanding Sun and Soil for Houston Gardens

Full sun? Part shade? Part Sun? How do you know what plant works for the amount of sunlight in your garden?

Houstonians have to consider sun exposure, soil type, and soil moisture when planning our gardens. Most plant tags only have some of this some of this information, and it might be geared toward areas with temperate climates.

We want to make it easy for you to choose the right plants for the right spot. We've broken down the different combinations of sun and soil moisture into types - all of the plants we sell thrive in the clay soils of the Houston area.

How to Determine Your Sun Exposure

Pick the spot in your garden where you want to add plants. Go out at 9 AM and see what kind of sunlight it gets. Do this again at 3 PM. 

If there is no direct or dappled sunlight at either time, it’s Type 1.
This spot may be under multiple tree canopies or under the eave of a house. It can be difficult to find plants that thrive on ambient light, but luckily many plants native to the Gulf Coast grow at the bottom of swamps and forests without direct sunlight. This is also called "full shade".
If there is dappled sunlight at either time, it’s Type 2.
This looks like a mix of light and shadows projected on the garden. If you have a spot with a tree canopy between the garden bed and the sky, it’s probably Type 2. This is often called "part shade"
If there is direct sunlight in the morning from any direction, OR there is morning shade with direct afternoon sun from the North or East, it’s Type 3.
These spots get a few hours of direct, gentle sunlight. It is a good place for plants that need sun but cannot tolerate high temperatures or overly dry soil. This is also called "part shade"
If there is direct sunlight in the afternoon from the South or West, it’s Type 4.
For this spot, choose plants that only need four hours of sunlight but can withstand high temperatures and dry soil. Plants with a native range in Central Texas do well here. This is also called "part sun"
If there is direct sunlight in the morning and the afternoon, it’s Type 5.
Think of a big prairie: no trees or buildings blocking the sun and a vast expanse of wildflowers. If your Type 5 spot is prone to drying out, choose plants that are drought tolerant and whose native range includes Central Texas. This is also called "full sun"


How to Determine Your Soil Moisture

Wait until it rains or you give your garden a deep watering. After 24 hours, touch the soil.

If it feels muddy or very wet, you have moist soil.
If it feels damp but doesn't stick together, you have medium soil.
If it feels dry and crumbly, you have dry soil.