When you’re talking about “squash,” you’re really talking about an entire type of vegetable. Are you talking about zucchini or crookneck squash, summer varieties?
Or are you talking about winter squashes like the iconic pumpkin or the versatile spaghetti squash?
Though they all have similarities, there are naturally some differences you’ll need to be aware of such as the amount of sunlight they need. On that note, just how much sun does an average squash need per day?
Most squashes need 6 hours of direct sun every day. More sun usually means better growth so long as they are not allowed to dry out. Reduced sunlight is associated with slower growth and smaller overall yield.
When many gardeners think of squashes instinctively, they tend to think of the winter variety or others that grow best in cool weather.
But in reality, there are at least one and probably more varieties of squash that can grow well in just about any weather, including warm weather during the summer.
I’ll tell you more about growing squashes, and specifically how much sunlight they require below…
Is Full Sun Best for Squashes?
Yes, generally speaking, though many cultivars are tolerant of shade, and some even need a little bit of shade. However, all squashes need plenty of sunlight to grow big and healthy.
How Many Hours of Sun a Day is Best for Squashes?
The sunlight requirements of different varieties of squash can range anywhere from 7 to 8 hours all the way up to 14 hours daily of direct sun.
The bare minimum is 6 hours, though. Any less than that, and your squash is not going to grow very well and might even stop entirely.
Generally speaking, your smaller squash varieties can get by with less, whereas your larger ones, like many pumpkin cultivars, need a whole lot more.
Will Too Much Sun Hurt Squashes?
Possibly, but only likely during times of elevated temperatures. I say elevated temperatures because summer squash varieties are naturally more tolerant of warm weather than winter squash varieties.
Basically, if your forecast is looking unseasonably hot, you might need to worry about your squashes getting too much sun.
If this is the case, be prepared to shade them with mesh or cloth, or plan ahead of time and strategically plant some taller plants that will shade them in the afternoon.
But, so long as temperatures are usual or even a little bit cool for whatever season you are growing your squashes, more sunlight is generally a good thing.
Do Squashes Do Well in Indirect Sun?
Surprisingly, yes, they can do okay so long as they are getting the prescribed amount of light one way or the other, be it through a window or from a grow lamp.
If you’re asking about indirect sun because you are planning on growing or starting your squashes indoors, consider the smaller cultivars for your chosen season.
You may also want to further look into varieties that are known as “shrub” squashes; they typically grow more easily and reliably in containers compared to vine varieties.
If you notice your squashes are struggling indoors, the solution is usually to simply increase the amount of light that they get through a window if possible, leave the grow lamps on longer or potentially add another lamp. That will often solve the problem…
Will Squashes Thrive in Shade?
No, unfortunately. Squashes will never thrive in the shade, and they are particularly vulnerable to too much of (or rather not enough sun) starting out, and that will regularly lead to them failing to develop at all.
Something else to keep in mind is that many squashes grow wide, and grow wide quickly.
Their large leaves take up a ton of space, and if you don’t leave enough room between plants it is possible they can start shading their neighbors with disastrous results.
Generally, you’ll want to leave no less than 18 inches between plants, and potentially much more depending on your specific type.
What Will Happen to a Squash That Doesn’t Get Enough Sun?
If your squash isn’t getting enough sunlight it can start to suffer in various ways depending on the phase of growth.
Early on in its life cycle, it might fail to fruit entirely! That can set you back a whole season…
If it has already started fruiting, a lack of sunlight will slow down and potentially halt growth, and if that goes on too long its overall growth could stay stymied even if it starts getting more light later.
Many squashes, particularly pumpkins, become even more vulnerable to diseases and pests if they aren’t getting enough light, and this can quickly lead to a vicious cycle of increasing stress that can result in a total loss of the plant.
Squashes are in reality easier to grow than some of their detractors would have you believe, but you’re going to make things a lot harder on yourself if you don’t ensure they are getting enough sunlight every day.
Sun Requirements for Different Squash Varieties
As I alluded to up above, there are many different types of squash, and even more variations and cultivars in each category, meaning it is crucial to really learn the specifics of your squash so you can provide for its needs.
Let’s look at winter squashes as an example. Butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkins, spaghetti squash; each and every one needs lots of sunlight, at least 6 hours and preferably around 8 hours or more daily to thrive.
The larger varieties need tons of sun, but they’re all vulnerable to heat. In cooler weather, lots of sun is not a problem because it will usually just translate into faster growth and larger fruit.
But when temperatures climb, sustained sunlight, particularly during the hottest parts of the day, can mean the squash gets too hot. This can damage them and even start them rotting!
Looking at the other end of the spectrum, summer squashes like crookneck, zucchini, and zephyr squash need lots of sun, as always, but they’re more tolerant of high temperatures in general.
However, depending on the variety, if temperatures are too high too much sun might cause the fruits to turn bitter or even get hard (though they’re still technically edible, and won’t be damaged in the same way as winter squashes).
Navigating this intersection of variables as it concerns all the different varieties of squashes is what makes them intimidating for some gardeners but they really aren’t.
Understand the typical weather from season to season in your area, and then choose a winter or summer variety according to the weather you can expect, and you shouldn’t have any issues protecting your plants.
Tips for Bringing Indoor Squashes Outside
Whatever kind of squash you are starting indoors, it’s likely that they will soon enough be ready for transplanting outdoors.
Even the smaller varieties can get big quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be running out of room!
But when they are ready for transplanting outside you must take the time to harden off the plants because squashes in particular often suffer greatly during transplanting.
If they run into any additional stress, you’ll probably lose a few of them.
To harden off your squash plants, simply place them outside in the shade for a couple of hours when they are ready for transplant.
Bring them back inside after two hours have passed, then repeat the process the next day, increasing the amount of time they are outside by 30 to 45 minutes each day.
Continue this process for at least a week, maybe two, and then they will be acclimatized to conditions outdoors.
Then finally stick them in the ground and they should do well! Remember to leave plenty of room between plants so they don’t shade their neighbors.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.