Kale is regarded as one of the healthiest of the leafy vegetables, one with an excellent complement of vitamins and minerals.
Kale is also popular because it is cold hardy, and can be grown throughout the winter in some growing zones.
But what about its sunlight requirements? How much sunlight does kale need to grow?
Kale needs at least 6 hours of sunlight to grow plentifully, and more sunlight generally results in a better harvest. However, in hotter regions it can make do with less sunlight or partial sunlight.
If kale is being grown in an ideal temperature region, more sun is almost always better and will produce larger, fuller leaves.
However, things get tricky when you try to grow kale any place with high ambient temperatures. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about this delicate balancing act.
Does Kale Need Full Sun?
Yes, and it does better with abundant sun when it is growing in a climate that is suitable for it.
Kale does not like it hot, so in warmer regions it is best to give it some afternoon shade.
If you live in a warm climate and want to grow kale, look for a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
How Many Hours of Sun Does Kale Need?
Six hours is the minimum, but more sun is always better so long as it is in a climate that is not too hot.
Kale will do best in full sun when the temperatures are cool, such as in the spring or fall. It can handle some heat, but if it is grown in a hot climate it should be given some afternoon shade.
Can Kale Grow in Shade?
It can, so long as it gets enough sun throughout the day. This is especially a good idea when trying to grow kale in a hot environment.
When you notice leaves starting to turn yellow and growth to slow down or halt, you’ll know it’s not getting enough sun.
Kale can handle some shade in cooler weather, but it will not grow as well. It is a only a wise to give kale some afternoon shade if you are growing it in a hot climate.
Can Kale Get Too Much Sun?
While sunlight is essential for photosynthesis, too much sun can cause the leaves of kale to die back. In extreme cases, the plant may bolt or even die off.
Kale will bolt (go to seed) if it gets too hot, so in warm climates it is best to grow it in the cooler months and give it some afternoon shade.
However, if you live in an area with strong sunlight, there are a few things you can do to protect your kale plants.
For example, you can provide shade by growing taller plants around them or by using a canopy.
You can also water the plants more frequently to help cool the soil and prevent the leaves from drying out.
By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your kale plants get the sunlight they need without suffering from any harmful side effects.
Do Different Varieties of Kale Need More or Less Sun?
Kale is a hearty vegetable that can withstand a fair amount of abuse, but even this sturdy plant has its limits. When it comes to sun exposure, different varieties of kale will have different needs.
For example, Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato or Dinosaur kale) is quite tolerant of shade, while curly kale tends to do best in full sun.
In general, the darker the kale leaves, the more tolerant the plant will be of low light levels.
This is because darker leaves have more pigment, which helps to absorb a higher “value” of sunlight and convert it into energy.
So, if you’re not sure how much sun your kale needs, it’s best to err on the side of too little rather than too much when it is planted in temps over 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
In temperatures under that, you can go for more sun. With a little trial and error, you’ll soon find the perfect spot for your kale plants.
What Happens if Kale Doesn’t Get Enough Sun?
If kale does not get enough sun, it will begin to turn yellow and wilt. The leaves will also become more bitter in taste. In extreme cases, the plant may die.
Alternately it might become leggy, a term that describes a plant that is growing too tall and thin. This is often caused by insufficient sun, as the plant stretches to try and reach the light.
Leggy kale plants are not very productive and rarely tasty, and they are also more susceptible to pests and diseases.
If you notice your kale plants starting to stretch, give them more sun or move them to a sunnier location if you can.
While kale in cooler climes can still grow in partial shade, it will not be as healthy or produce as much.
So if you’re looking to get the most out of your kale plants, make sure they get plenty of sunlight.
Can Kale Grow in Indirect Sun?
Yes, it can. Kale is a fairly tolerant plant, and it can handle a wide range of light conditions.
However, it will not grow as well in low light levels as it will in higher ones assuming all other conditions are met, as detailed above.
I should also point out it is entirely possible to start kale indoors…
If you are growing kale indoors, make sure to place it in a bright spot where it will get at least six hours of sunlight per day.
A south-facing window is ideal, but a west- or east-facing one will also work. You can also supplement the natural light with grow lights if necessary.
Also, consider sprouting kale during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight available.
Sprouting is a process of germinating seeds that can be done indoors with little more than a mason jar, some water, and a bit of patience.
Not only is it a great way to get your kale fix during the off-season (you can eat those tiny leaves!) but it’s also an easy way to make sure your plants are getting the jumpstart they need for the upcoming season.
Transitioning Kale from Indoors to Sunlight
If you are growing kale indoors and want to transition it to sunlight, do so gradually.
Start by placing the plants in a shady spot outside for a few hours each day and then slowly increase the amount of time they spend in direct sunlight each day.
This process, called hardening off, will help prevent your plants from being “shocked” by the change in conditions, and will help them to acclimate to their new environment more easily.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.