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You go to a garden center and all the plants seem to thrive in either full sun or the sunny side of partial sun. What are you to do if you want to grow plants indoors? On your porch? In the shade?

Most places in which you’ll want to grow plants will not receive the “ideal” full sun all day, but that doesn’t mean you lack options. We’ve assembled this guide as a handy reference tool as you plan out your garden.

This is a great place to remind you to not let perfect be the enemy of good. Even the most experienced gardener has some plants die off. Each plant is different, and some are just not “meant to be.” Don’t let plant death discourage you from this hobby or lose faith in your skills. That said, you can always learn something knew, so keep reading and discussing with your fellow gardeners.

Basics About Sun Exposure

Before we proceed, it’s important to define the different measures of light on plants. Most plants that you buy have labels on them that detail out their sun requirements, though often they are in terms of the following grades:

  1. Full sun – These plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If they bear fruit or vegetables, their needs are closer to 8-10 hours daily. These do not have to be continuous hours, just total daily.
  2. Partial sun – These plants need generally 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day, erring on the side of sunnier. They are usually a bit more heat-tolerant.
  3. Partial shade – These plants need about 2-4 hours of direct sunlight per day, and so they can tolerate erring toward a bit less light per day than their “partial sun” counterparts.
  4. Shade – These plants still need light, but it can be a bit spottier or dappled. Generally, shade plants can live off of less than 2 hours of direct sunlight per day.

If you’re shopping online, you can often filter based on sun exposure, e.g. full-sun shrubs.

Indoor Gardening

Traditionally we think of gardening as an outdoor activity, but growing indoors is easier than you think! You get the added benefit of being around your plants more, and of having some flexibility in terms of where you place them. A good rule of thumb is to look for plants that do best between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, since that’s the range of normal in household temperatures.

Here are some more tips to get you started:

  1. Define the space you’ll be using to grow – a corner of the room, a windowsill, a table, etc. Know the dimensions of the area you’re working with so that you can define how big your pot will be.
  2. Evaluate the lighting – Know how much light you will be able to get reliably and consistently. Does it change through the course of day? Does it change throughout the year? You must factor this all in.
  3. Remember you can move your plants – Much easier to do with indoor potted plants, don’t forget that you can always move your plants around to adjust for light, temperature within the room, etc. Just don’t do it too often; give your plants time – on the scale of weeks – to adapt before you move them.
  4. Rotate your plants – Make sure that they receive even light throughout.
  5. Don’t fear dappled light – In nature, plants have neighbors, so it’s ok if the entire plant is not wholly bathed in light. Again, feel free to rotate the plants over time to try to even out the light, but don’t hold back from trying to make a plant’s growth work in a narrower spot of sunlight.
  6. Group plants together – Plants with similar dispositions – lovers of humidity, those that favor the sun, etc. – can be kept together to make care easier. If one plant shows issues and not the others, then you know it is likely a problem with that individual plant versus the conditions you are offering your plants.
  7. Use well draining pots with holes on the bottom – Some recommend watering straight into the dish versus the soil, to make sure it reaches the plants roots while also ensuring the soil does not flood.
  8. Pick the right sized pot – The last thing you want to do is stunt your plant’s growth. Pick a pot that’s the same size as what you bought it in; when it’s outgrowing its current pot – usually indicated by a decline in growth – look for one that is 2-4 inches in diameter larger.
  9. Remember there is still a dormant period – Plants will grow more slowly during the fall and winter – no need for alarm.
  10. Sometimes you can bring outdoor plants in – And vice versa! If you take an outdoor plant in, you will likely need to place it in ample sun. If you take an indoor plant out, make sure the change in temperature and humidity is not too drastic.
  11. Water appropriately – Look at the plants to know if they need more water. If you tend to dry out your plants, repot them with a damp sponge at the bottom of the soil – this will act as a moisture reservoir.

Growing a tree indoors can make a bold statement in a room, and yet many people don’t think to grow them inside! Because you control the climate and the trees live a relatively stress-free life, you can get tons of fruit for your labor.