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The pergola is a perennially popular choice for garden designers. These attractive structures add an area of dappled shade to the outdoors, and can be used as a cover for walkways and seating areas.

Pergolas do provide shade, but exactly how much shade a pergola can add to your garden will depend on the exact design.

Some pergolas use clever planting and open lattice to recreate the feeling of sitting beneath the branches of a tree. Other pergolas have roofing and curtains for a secluded shade spot.

To find out how to use a pergola to introduce just the right amount of shade to your garden, take a look at this guide.

How Much Shade Does A Pergola Provide?

How Much Shade Does A Pergola Provide?

Pergolas are structures that are designed to add shade to the garden. They’re typically made of wood and use posts and beams to create a walkway or sitting area.

Pergolas do have roofs, typically made of an open lattice, which might then be decorated with vines or planting.

So, a pergola should add some shade to your garden. But just how much shade should you expect?

Pergolas tend to offer a dappled sunlight shade. It’s a retreat from the harsh glare of the sun, without completely immersing you in shade.

The average pergola provides about 20 to 30% shade coverage, and won’t protect against the sun's rays. If you’re sitting under a pergola, you should definitely be wearing sun cream.

Think of it like sitting beneath a tree. You can still feel the sun, but you have some protection.

However, not all pergolas are the same, and different designs offer different levels of coverage. It is possible to design a pergola with full coverage shade, but you can also install pergolas that are more open to the sunlight.

Which Style Of Pergola Provides The Most Shade?

Pergolas offer an excellent seating area in gardens that experience both full and partial sunlight. If you want your pergola to provide a heavily shaded seating spot, here are some design features to consider.

Retractable Canopies

Retractable canopies offer the best of both worlds when it comes to shade. When the sun is overhead, you can simply pull across the canopy, and immerse the seating area in cooling darkness.

When you don’t need quite that level of protection, you can put the canopy away. The lattice of the pergola roof will still provide a small amount of shade.

The disadvantage to the retractable canopy is that it tends to look bulky, particularly on a freestanding pergola. Retractable canopies also reduce your design choices, and you won’t be able to train vines across the roof.

Close Lattice Work

The pergola roof is traditionally a lattice design. An open lattice will have plenty of space between beams, allowing extra sunlight to shine through. For a close lattice, the beams are placed to limit the gaps.

This offers better shade protection while encouraging that lovely dappled light effect.

Reed Or Bamboo Roof

Adding a layer of reed or bamboo to the roof of your pergola will increase the level of shade while maintaining the natural appearance of the pergola.

An advantage of the reed or bamboo roof is that you can control the level of coverage. Tightly bound bamboo will add plenty of shade, while lightly bundled reeds can let in light.

Heavy Foliage

Training vines to trail the latticework roof and standing posts of the pergola is traditional and brings to mind the vineyards of Italy.

Heavier vines, designed to cover the roof, can offer an exceptional level of shade and can look suitably natural when used alongside wooden pergolas. And if things get a bit too dark, you can always cut the planting back. Foliage or vines require a greater level of upkeep, but they really do look spectacular.

Fabric Roof And Curtains

Want shade and privacy? Fabric might be your best choice. A fabric roof and curtain creates a pleasant and cooling atmosphere, letting in light without allowing for glare.

Attach curtain ties to the wooden posts of the pergola, so you can adjust your level of coverage.

What Pergolas Provide The Least Shade?

What Pergolas Provide The Least Shade?

Pergolas can be an incredible garden design feature, and you might prefer an area of dappled sunshine to total coverage. These pergola designs offer less shade, more sun.

Open Lattice Work

The lattice roof of the pergola can be quite open, with large areas between the beams. These designs are often favoured by those who prefer a clean and simple style.

Open lattice work still provides some shade, without enclosing the space below the pergola roof. An advantage to open lattice is you have the opportunity to increase the shade by adding fabric, planting, or vines, with little extra effort.

Light Foliage

Flowering vines often provide a lighter level of coverage, while still adding some extra shade.

These flowers also tend to die back in winter, providing a smaller amount of coverage when it’s needed less. They also look fantastic and can transform a simple pergola into a real design feature.

Other Factors To Consider

Where you choose to place your pergola will have a noticeable impact on the amount of shade it provides. A freestanding pergola will offer less protection from the sun. Without any sides, the open roof is responsible for providing all the shade.

A pergola attached to the house, however, will have more shade at certain times of day.

If you have planting providing shade across your lattice roof, you might find the pergola offers less protection during the winter months. Depending on the plants, the thick growth could die down, exposing the lattice, and letting in more light.

Consider the direction your pergola is facing before installation, and where in the garden catches the sun.

Final Thoughts

Pergolas provide some shade, but how much shade they give depends on the design. If you want your pergola to provide heavier shade, then consider installing a fabric roof, or using bamboo and reeds.

For a lighter shade, foliage and latticework create a dappled sunlight effect. It might not offer complete shade from the glare of the sun, but a considered design can still make your pergola an enticing and cooling place to sit.



How Much Shade Does A Pergola Provide?

8 Jul 2022
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