How to Get Light into Shaded Gardens – Tips and Tools


Sunlight is an important requirement for any garden, but unfortunately, depending on where we live, we’re not all blessed with southern or eastern exposures or lots of land that get hours of direct sunlight. Some of us live in cities, so our modest gardens might often be shaded by tall buildings, while others might have tall trees stealing their much-needed natural light.

Luckily, there rea a few tricks and tools you can use to maximize the amount and strength of light available for your garden.

To get more light into shaded gardens, you should brighten the surface next to the shaded garden, by using bright white paint on available walls or surfaces. Mirrors, reflectors, grow lights, and aluminum are also perfect for reflecting or adding more light in to your garden.

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Below, we’ll discuss a few methods on how you can increase the amount of light coming into your garden, so hopefully you can find one or two that work best for you! Keep in mind that you might want to try a combination of a few to best brighten your garden.

Paint Surrounding Walls and Surfaces White

If you have a garden that is surrounded by a wall or a fence, consider painting those surfaces white. White paint will absorb and reflect more light back on to your garden, and might be a quick way to increase the available amount of sunlight for your plants.

Photo of ornamental garden mirror with reflection of gravel pathway and some plants
Photo by Larry Gevert

Place Garden Mirrors in Strategic Locations

Like white paint, garden mirrors can be another great tool to reflect sunlight back on to your plants and might be a good option for those that are renting and might not be able to re-paint walls.

A nice-looking garden mirror can also add a nice aesthetic to any garden, which is a nice bonus!

When well placed, mirrors help to distribute the little amount of light in a shaded garden evenly to ensure that every plant in the garden benefits. However, there are a few things to consider and keep in mind when using garden mirrors to ensure you gain the most benefits.

The Dos of Garden Mirrors

  • Location is very important when it comes to garden mirrors. Keep in mind what you’re hoping to reflect and what plant you want to receive light, when considering where to place your garden mirror. If you want to reflect a bright wall, place the mirror at an angle where there is the maximum reflection of the wall.
  • Use full-length mirrors for maximum light reflection.
  • Place the mirror at an angle that will brighten the garden but not too much on a specific plant.
  • Paint the mirror frames with bright colors to help improve the brightness of the garden, and maximize the amount of light reflected back on your plants.
  • Ensure that the mirror has a water-resistant backing which will prevent damage.

The Don’ts of Garden Mirrors

  • Don’t place the mirrors high up where they will interfere with bird movement. Birds may confuse what they see in the mirror and assume that it is another environment where they can explore, and this might lead to bird fatalities.
  • Do not use a magnifying mirror. A magnifying mirror will reflect a lot of light and heat at a certain spot, which could lead to a fire.

When used correctly, garden mirrors are a safe and easy way to add light to a shaded garden. The video below illustrates how you can benefit from using garden mirrors:

Use a Light Reflector

As the name suggests, a light or sunlight reflector is a tool that reflects light. You’ve probably seen these things if you’ve ever been to a photo studio.

The reflectors help maximize the amount of light falling into a shady garden. Additionally, with a light reflector, you can control the quality and strength of the light you are reflecting which helps to avoid damaging the plants by reflecting too much light.

So long as the light reflector is placed at the right angle, you can have some control on how much light your garden is receiving. The light reflector can also bounce light from surrounding brightly colored surfaces into the shady garden.

Steps to Ensure You Are Using the Light Reflector Correctly

  • Ensure that you reflect the necessary amount of light. Different plants need varying amounts of light for proper growth. Therefore, it’s best to have an idea of the amount of light that the plants in your garden need before using the light reflector. Otherwise, you risk using a sunlight reflector that might do more harm than good by accidentally burning your plants.
  • Get the right type of sunlight reflector. There are three types of sunlight reflectors: flat plate, spherical, and parabolic. These reflectors reflect light differently based on the source of light and the garden’s size. Others differ in size, shape, and colors. Understand how each of them works to help you get the one which best fits your needs.

Use Outdoor Grow Lights

If you have a garden that just doesn’t get enough natural sunlight to even reflect, grow lights might be an option for you. Grow lights are LED lights with qualities similar to natural sunlight and can help with plant growth. When you choose the right outdoor grow lights, your plants will grow as if growing under direct sunshine.

Choosing the Right Outdoor Grow Light Bulbs for Your Garden

Different plants require different grow lights. If you have hard plants, such as rose bushes and ferns, get high-density bulbs since these plants require a lot of light. On the other hand, soft-stemmed plants and flowers don’t require as strong of a light, so you might opt for low-density bulbs for them. Depending on what you are growing, you might also consider different colored lights, since some plants do better under red or blue, or a combination of colors.

Setting Up and Positioning Outdoor Grow Lights

When setting up the grow lights, bend the light bulb to get it closer to the target plant or plants. It is also good to attach the bulb to a wall and use effective screws to prevent it from falling, but also ones that you can easily remove to re-position the lights as needed. Position the bulb at a distance of about four to five feet from the plant, to prevent burning.

Re-position Outdoor Grow Lights as Needed

After setting up the outdoor grow lights, you will need to check on them from time to time. As your plants grow, you might need to change the height or position of your grow lamps. You might also need to replace bulbs as they die.

The video below will guide you on using grow lights in your shaded garden:

Use Aluminum Foil

If you’re thrifty like us, you might consider some DIY solutions to improve the amount of light in your garden. One tip is to use aluminum foil, which acts as a cheaper light reflector. You can use aluminum to cover a wall instead of painting it with bright colors.

The aluminum will help reflect more light on the garden and distribute it evenly. You can also place the aluminum foil at the plant’s base, especially if there is little sunlight hitting the ground. This helps the plant to access the light on the ground, thus, improving its photosynthesis process.

Other Advantages of Using Aluminum in Your Garden Include

  • Aluminum can help keep birds that may ruin your plants away.
  • It can protect the stems and leaves of the plant from holes created by snails and slugs
  • It can help keep rodents away
  • When mixed with mulch, it can help prevent garden pests and insects.

Closing Thoughts

Using any of the methods above, or a combination of a few, will help your garden produce beautiful and healthy plants, even if it is shaded and doesn’t receive too much natural light.  

Here are Some of my Favorite Gardening Products and Tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful for growing some new plants in your home or garden. Here are some products I like that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, and I am compensated for referring traffic. But in all honesty, these are the exact product that I use or recommend to everyone.

Soil: For high-quality soil, I really like Fox Farm Ocean Forest. I do all my growing in containers and this soil has worked great for me. I like how they use nutrient-rich contents like earthworm castings, bat guano, and composted crab and fish.

Fertilizer: Currently I am using a seaweed-based organic fertilizer call Neptunes Harvest. This is a great milder fertilizer option if you want to use something organic. If you want a more powerful fertilizer, I recommend Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio, lots of people have had great growing success with this product.

Pruning Shears: Pruning shears are one of the most useful gardening tools to have because it’s important to prune your plants to keep them healthy. The pruning shears I recommend are the Gonicc 8’’ pruning shears. I like them because they are built sturdy and work both on bigger and smaller plants, so you don’t need to have multiple pruning shears.

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