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Glass greenhouse with internal shade cloths and plants and the text: Internal vs External Shade Cloths for greenhouses

Internal vs External Shade Cloths for a Greenhouse – What’s Better?

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A greenhouse ought to provide the perfect environment for year-round growing. But at times, it can get too hot or too cold for your plants. There are several options to ensure proper temperature, but shade cloths are a great way of doing this.

These shades are budget-friendly, effective, long-lasting, and very easy to use. They are the perfect option for temperature regulation in your greenhouse. The big question is – is it better to put shade cloths inside or outside the greenhouse?

There are several factors to consider. Your choice will depend on the plants you are growing and the size of your greenhouse. Here, you’ll find the pros and cons of both options. This should help you select which one is better for you.

Internal shade cloths for a greenhouse

Internal shade cloths, as the name suggests, are installed on the inside. They are fixed on the ceiling and walls of the greenhouse. Often they use a sliding system like curtains that is attached in the center of the roof and then on the side wall (shoulder).

A regular kit will usually come with different accessories and it may include multiple curtains depending on the size of the greenhouse.

Black internal shade cloth installed on a greenhouse with a shelf full of plants
Internal shade cloth

Benefits of using internal shade cloths

1. Energy conservation

Internal shade cloths will let radiant energy get into your greenhouse. So the major benefit of installing shade cloths inside your greenhouse is that it’ll conserve energy better than external shade cloths will.

2. Long-lasting option

Another benefit of installing shade cloths inside your structure is durability. Your shade cloths will last much longer and you won’t have to worry much about wind, dirt, rain, or any other condition.

3. Easy maintenance and better appearance

A lot of growers put their shade cloth inside because it’s easier to maintain that way. It won’t get dirty and it looks much better on the inside than on the outside.

4. Individually adjustable

Often these internal shade clothes are sectioned which allows you to open and close them individually by using a cord or pulley. This is really helpful if you want to provide some more sun to certain plants.

Glass greenhouse with internal shade curtains
Internal shade curtains

Disadvantages of having shade cloths inside your greenhouse

1. Not as easy to install as external solutions

Interior shade cloths are a bit difficult to install and remove. You’ll need additional accessories to hold them in place, but these usually come with your kit. Once they are set up, they’ll hold up for a long time.

2. Not so effective at blocking out sun rays

Internal shades only block the sunlight after it passes through the greenhouse glazing. This means ultimately, the sun does enter your greenhouse. Since the sun rays go in through the greenhouse structure, these can not be counted on to keep them out of your building.

3. Doesn’t decrease internal temperature

Having this kind of shade cloth means that the internal temperature will be higher than if it was outside of your greenhouse. While dark internal shade cloths tend to absorb solar energy and convert it to heat, the light shade cloths simply reflect the radiation rather than absorbing them. However, they are still inside the greenhouse so the effects may not be as significant as with external products.

4. May block space for hanging planters or for other accessories

Depending on the product you choose, it may keep you from installing other accessories on the ceiling, such as watering systems and hangers. If you plan to use specific accessories, make sure you can use all of them together.

External shade cloths for a greenhouse

Although it’s probably quite obvious what external shade cloths are, I will still explain it. These products are installed over the top of the greenhouse and then fixed to the ground in order to hold them in place. They often stretch a little over the gutter/shoulder (not all the way to the ground).

Pro tip: If you install it with some room between shade cloth and greenhouse, you will eliminate one of the disadvantages. However, this means you’ll need posts or trees to fix the corners of the shade cloth.

White external shade cloth strapped over a greenhouse
External shade cloth

Benefits of installing external shade clothes on your greenhouse

1. Effective cooling option

External shade cloths are effective at blocking out sunlight and reducing the temperature inside a greenhouse. If your primary reason for installing shade cloths is to reduce heat in the greenhouse, then you should install them on the outside. By doing this, you’ll get a cooling effect as opposed to the heating effect you’ll get from internal shade cloths.

2. Blocks sun rays

Shade cloths installed on the exterior of the greenhouse protect against overheating and block the sun rays before they get to the greenhouse glazing. This keeps the greenhouse temperature regulated. This is why an external shade cloth is a great option for the warmer months of summer.

3. Easy installation

It’s much easier to install shade cloths outside. You can simply purchase in bundles and spread them over your structure. Ensure they are secured to the ground when installing.

Disadvantages of external shade clothes

1. Exposed to environmental hazards and weather

One big disadvantage of external shade cloths is that they’ll not last as long as internal shade cloths will. They’re subject to sun, wind, rain, bird crap, dirt, and leaf deposits. This will eventually tear on the material no matter how good the quality is.

2. Reduced ventilation

Installing shade cloths on the outside of greenhouses will lead to reduced ventilation. You may block out the windows or vents because it’s installed tightly over the greenhouse. Make sure you’ll find a way to keep quality air circulation because it’s important for a healthy growing environment.

3. It may not look great

Placing your shade cloth outside your greenhouse will make it look a bit untidy. It’ll look more like a tarp hanging over your greenhouse. Even if this isn’t the look you prefer, sometimes this might still be the better option for the health of your plants.

However, some growers actually take time to cut the shade cloths to create openings for the vents and windows, this is more achievable with knitted materials.

Image of greenhouse interior with shade cloths, written text: Are Internal or External Shade Cloths in a greenhouse better?

Internal vs external shade cloths for a greenhouse – So, which one is better?

Both internal and external shade cloths have their ideal purposes. You just need to determine what your particular needs are. Make sure to consider your climate. This is important when picking the perfect option to create an ideal temperature for your plants.

If the appearance of your greenhouse is a priority for you, then internal shade cloths are the perfect solution. These are also the winner when it comes to adjusting the sun/shade within your greenhouse.

But if your major aim is to block out as much heat as possible, installing shade cloths on the outside will work better. These are also the better option if you are looking for something a little easier on your wallet. They can be purchased in a roll and you can style and cut them yourself in place of buying a kit. For a grower who’s looking to cool the temperature of their greenhouse and reduce heat levels, external shade cloths are perfect options.

Did we leave any questions unanswered? Ask us in the comments!
Picture of Jesse James
Jesse James

Jesse James, an Army Veteran, now shares his passion for gardening through engaging articles on Greenhouse Emporium. Leveraging his experience and love for nature, Jesse provides practical advice and inspires others on their gardening journey.

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