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Different shade cloths installed in a greenhouse with the text: What Percentage Shade Cloth for a Greenhouse?

What Percentage Shade Cloth for Greenhouse?

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Life in a greenhouse can get a bit hot for some plants and flowers, and it takes its toll on young seedlings and plants that aren’t as tolerant to the harsh rays of the sun. This is where a shade cloth comes in handy, but what percentage of shade cloth for greenhouse gardening is right for your needs? 

A greenhouse provides the optimal environment for plant growth by maintaining warmth and humidity levels. Regardless of the outdoor climate, season, or weather, a well-designed greenhouse allows you to grow plants too sensitive for outdoor conditions. The right shade cloth is an essential component of that design. 

Greenhouse with seating area and plants with interior shade cloth, with text: What Percentage Shade Cloth for Greenhouse? A Complete Guide

Find out more in the guide to greenhouse shade cloth percentages, below.

What this article covers:

What percent of shade cloth do you need for a greenhouse?

What do you need to make a greenhouse environment suitable for optimal plant growth? You need just the right mix of warmth, humidity, air circulation, and shade. Ensure this with well-chosen materials that provide heat retention, insulation, and ventilation. When beginning their aquaponic greenhouse setup, novice gardeners are often unaware that the need for shade is just as important as the need for light. This is true for ordinary outdoor gardening as well as greenhouse gardening. That’s where the right type of shade cloth, at the right percentage, comes in.

Although you could use other forms of shading for your plants, shade cloth specifically designed for greenhouse gardening is always preferable. It’s made of material that will block harmful UV rays and is assigned a shade percentage figure to help you make the right choice for your needs.

In general, anywhere from 30 to 50% shade is required for most types of plants. If you’re unsure, ask your local gardening center experts for advice. They’re well-versed in the water, light, and shade requirements of the plants they sell. Just remember to mention that your plants are in a greenhouse.

Why do shade cloths have different percentages?

The percentage that you see listed on the shade cloth designates the percentage of sunlight (and its harmful UV rays) that the shade cloth can block. Therefore, 50% of shade cloth blocks half (50%) of the sun’s rays, 60% blocks 60%, and so on.

This makes it easier to choose one that meets your requirements. The ideal percentage of shade cloth for greenhouse gardening isn’t the same as for other outdoor applications. 

The most common percentage of shade cloth used over a deck, for example, is 50 or 60%. If you live in a very sunny climate, it’s not unusual to see much higher percentages used. The most popular choice for greenhouse gardening is usually lower than that. It generally falls into the 30 to 50% range. Naturally, this is highly dependent on your local conditions, how your greenhouse is oriented, and most importantly, what you’ve got growing there. The greenhouse accessories and the percentage of shade cloth you choose are more important in some areas than others. Some states are hotter and sunnier.

If you live in Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada, you’ll know what we mean. You’re getting a lot more sunlight than your friends in Vermont do! Your greenhouse gardening requirements will be very different.

Why is shade cloth necessary?

Greenhouses can get very hot inside in the summer or very cold in the winter. But why is this the case? It often boils down to the question, “What is a greenhouse made of?” There are several materials needed to build a greenhouse, and the most popular choice for the roof and walls is polycarbonate. 

During daylight hours, sunlight shines through the glass, and this heat is captured inside the structure. It retains some of this heat, even into the colder nighttime hours. This is why greenhouses are the perfect choice for overwintering plants when you can’t or don’t wish to take them indoors.

Of course, some areas get far more sunlight than others. Many gardeners who live in areas that get a lot of sun opt to build a solar greenhouse. This helps even further with harnessing the energy of the sun to power an exhaust fan that cools the greenhouse. 

But even without solar panels, if your greenhouse is made of glass, the heating effect is pronounced.The seasons can play havoc with your plants. Some plants struggle to survive the winter. And the harsh rays of the summer sun can be a bit much for others. Delicate seedlings or plants that aren’t sun-loving can get burned.

It’s easier to get enough light and warmth into your greenhouse than it is to supply the right amount of shade. This is why shade cloth is essential for the greenhouse gardener. 

Sure, the sun’s warmth and light are necessary for everything on this planet to grow and thrive – humans, animals, and plants. But just like we need to wear sun protection on hot, sunny days, so do your plants. Carefully positioned shade cloth provides sun protection for your more sun-sensitive plants.

How to choose the proper percentage shade of cloth 

The best greenhouse layout takes your specific location, climate, weather, and available sunlight hours into consideration; all are integral parts of preparing a base for a greenhouse. Much depends on your greenhouse direction and what you grow in your greenhouse. There’s great diversity in the plant and flower kingdoms. Some specimens have greater sunlight needs; others prefer shade. 

Most heat-tolerant plants do just fine with 30-40% shade cloth, whereas vegetables like lettuce usually thrive in up to 50% shade. Are you nurturing your delicate orchids in your greenhouse? They’ll need a shade cloth percentage of 75 to 80%. You need to consider location too. Even knowing where to position a mini greenhouse can affect the percentage of shade cloth you need.  

What about those shade-loving plants, staghorn ferns? They get easily scorched, so like the rest of their fern friends, they need shade of up to 70%. Be careful, though. Staghorn ferns will suffer stunted growth if the shade is too dense.

When you choose an insulated greenhouse kit from our range, you can get started with greenhouse gardening in next to no time. In temperate weather conditions, this will suffice in the fall or spring. But for more severe weather variations, you’ll need to adapt it to your local requirements.

We stock shade cloth, heating equipment, and cooling and ventilation equipment for all seasonal gardening needs in all greenhouse sizes.

Which percentage shade of cloth have you found works for you? Leave a comment here and share your tips with the greater gardening community. Still unsure about what percentage of shade cloth for greenhouse gardening will work for you? Contact us for expert advice.
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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