greenhouse plastic or shade cloth

Greenhouses are essential for creating optimal growing environments for a variety of plants. An important aspect of greenhouse management is choosing the right type of cover to balance light exposure, temperature control, and other environmental factors. This article delves into two popular options: shade cloth and plastic.

Each has its unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, making them suitable for different scenarios. In the following sections, we will explore the specifics of greenhouse shade cloth and plastic, compare their features, and discuss their applications in real-world scenarios.

Greenhouse Shade Cloth

Greenhouse shade cloth plays a vital role in regulating the microclimate within a greenhouse. It’s particularly crucial in areas with intense sunlight, where it helps to mitigate heat stress on plants. Let’s delve into its definition and the various types available, advantages and disadvantages.

Definition and Types

A shade cloth is a woven or knitted fabric specifically designed to control light and temperature in greenhouses. Its primary role is to provide a shaded environment, which is vital for protecting plants from excessive sunlight and heat.

Shade cloths come in various densities, often measured in percentages, indicating the amount of light they block. The common types include:

  • Light-Density Shade Cloths (30-50%): Ideal for plants that require low to moderate levels of shade.
  • Medium-Density Shade Cloths (50-70%): Suitable for a wider range of plants, offering a balance between light and shade.
  • High-Density Shade Cloths (70-90%): Used for plants that thrive in minimal sunlight, providing maximum protection against heat and intense light.

Each type caters to different plant needs, making it crucial to choose the right density based on the specific requirements of your greenhouse crops.


Shade cloth offers several benefits that make it an appealing choice for greenhouse covering. Here, we highlight the key advantages presented in a table.

Advantage Description
Controlled Light Exposure Shade cloths, with varying densities, allow precise control over the amount of light entering the greenhouse. This helps in managing the growth and health of light-sensitive plants.
Temperature Regulation By blocking out a portion of sunlight, these cloths help in maintaining a cooler and more stable temperature inside the greenhouse, which is crucial for plant growth, especially in hotter climates.
Protection from UV Rays High-quality shade cloths are designed to filter out harmful UV rays, protecting plants from potential damage and stress.
Versatility Available in various densities and sizes, shade cloths cater to a wide range of greenhouse needs, making them suitable for different types of plants and environmental conditions.
Ease of Installation and Removal Compared to more permanent solutions, shade cloths are relatively easy to install and remove, offering flexibility in greenhouse management.
Cost-Effective Generally, shade cloths are less expensive than other greenhouse covering options, making them a budget-friendly choice for many gardeners.

These advantages demonstrate why shade cloth is a popular option for greenhouse farmers seeking a flexible and effective solution.


Despite its advantages, the use of shade cloth isn’t without its challenges. Recognizing these limitations is key for gardeners who need to weigh all factors before choosing this option for their greenhouses. Below is a table summarizing these key disadvantages:

Disadvantage Description
Limited Durability While shade cloths are designed to withstand outdoor conditions, they can degrade over time due to constant exposure to elements like sun and rain.
Reduced Light for Some Plants In situations where light is excessively blocked, especially with high-density cloths, plants that require more sunlight might not thrive.
Maintenance Requirements Shade cloths can accumulate dirt and debris, requiring regular cleaning to maintain their effectiveness and prolong their lifespan.
Wind Damage If not properly secured, shade cloths can be susceptible to damage from strong winds, leading to tears or detachment from the greenhouse structure.
Aesthetic Considerations Some gardeners might find the appearance of shade cloths less appealing compared to other covering options, impacting the overall look of the greenhouse.
No Insulation Benefit Unlike some other coverings, shade cloths do not offer additional insulation, which can be a drawback in cooler climates or seasons.

These disadvantages highlight the importance of considering the specific needs of your greenhouse and its environment before deciding on using shade cloth as the primary covering material.

Greenhouse Plastic

Transitioning from shade cloth, greenhouse plastic offers a different approach to creating an optimal growth environment. It’s especially valued for its ability to maintain more stable conditions within the greenhouse. Here, we explore what greenhouse plastic is, different types, its advantages and disadvantages.

Definition and Types

Greenhouse plastic, distinct from typical plastic materials, is specially designed for agricultural use. It’s crafted to withstand environmental factors like UV rays, temperature fluctuations, and physical wear.

The main types of greenhouse plastic include:

  • Polyethylene (PE): A flexible, commonly used plastic that’s relatively inexpensive. It’s available in various thicknesses and can be either clear or diffused.
  • Polycarbonate: Known for its durability, polycarbonate is more resistant to impact than PE and provides excellent light transmission. It comes in both rigid panels and flexible sheets.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): While less common due to its potential to release harmful chemicals under high temperatures, PVC is still used for its strength and clarity.
  • Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA): This type offers better UV resistance and durability than standard PE, making it a more premium option.

Each type of greenhouse plastic has unique properties that cater to different requirements, such as longevity, light diffusion, and insulation.


Greenhouse plastic, as a covering material, offers a range of benefits that contribute to its popularity among gardeners. These advantages are detailed in the table below:

Advantage Description
Durability Greenhouse plastics, especially polycarbonate, are known for their strength and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.
Cost-Effectiveness Compared to other materials like glass, plastic is generally more affordable and offers good value for its durability and functionality.
Variety in Light Transmission These plastics come in different levels of light transmission, allowing for customization based on plant needs and climate conditions.
UV Resistance High-quality greenhouse plastics are treated to resist UV degradation, ensuring longer life and better protection for plants.
Energy Efficiency Some types of greenhouse plastic provide excellent insulation, helping to maintain stable temperatures and reduce energy costs.
Easy to Install and Modify Lightweight and flexible, these plastics are easier to install and can be cut to size, making them suitable for a variety of greenhouse structures.

These attributes highlight why greenhouse plastic is an attractive option for those seeking a versatile and cost-effective solution.


While greenhouse plastic provides numerous advantages, it’s not without its own set of drawbacks. Gardeners should be aware of these issues to ensure they select the most appropriate covering for their specific needs. The table below outlines the key disadvantages:

Disadvantage Description
Susceptibility to Damage Some types of plastic, like polyethylene, can degrade over time, becoming brittle and prone to tearing, especially under UV exposure.
Environmental Impact Plastic coverings are not biodegradable, raising concerns about environmental sustainability and disposal issues.
Temperature Control Issues In some cases, especially with clear plastics, overheating can occur, requiring additional ventilation or shading solutions.
Limited Lifespan While durable, plastics typically have a shorter lifespan compared to more permanent materials like glass, requiring eventual replacement.
Condensation and Humidity Control Plastics can lead to increased humidity and condensation inside the greenhouse, which might require extra management efforts.
Chemical Sensitivity Certain plastics, like PVC, can release harmful chemicals under high temperatures, posing a risk to plant health and safety.

These drawbacks should be weighed against the benefits when choosing plastic as a greenhouse covering, to ensure it aligns with the specific needs and values of the gardener and their greenhouse environment.

Comparison of Shade Cloth and Plastic in Greenhouse

After exploring the individual characteristics of both shade cloth and greenhouse plastic, it’s essential to juxtapose them to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses. This comparison is particularly vital in the context of temperature control and light management, two critical factors in greenhouse gardening.

Temperature Control and Light Management

The effectiveness of shade cloth and plastic in regulating temperature and light varies significantly, influenced by their inherent properties. The table below outlines the comparative aspects of both materials in these areas:

Aspect Shade Cloth Greenhouse Plastic
Light Diffusion Varies with density; can range from light to heavy shading, allowing for precise control. Typically offers more consistent light diffusion, but less adjustable compared to shade cloth.
Temperature Regulation Effective in reducing heat buildup; the extent depends on the cloth’s density. Can trap heat, especially clear plastics, potentially requiring additional ventilation systems.
Adaptability to Seasons Easier to adjust or remove according to seasonal changes, offering more flexibility. Less adaptable; once installed, it’s usually a more permanent solution regardless of seasonal changes.
UV Protection Some are designed to block harmful UV rays, but this varies greatly between products. Generally treated for UV resistance, offering consistent protection over a broader area.
Energy Efficiency Primarily focused on shading; does not provide significant insulation against cold. Better at retaining heat, making them more energy-efficient in cooler climates or seasons.

This comparison underscores that the choice between shade cloth and plastic should be guided by the specific environmental conditions and requirements of the greenhouse. While shade cloth offers flexibility and precise control over light and temperature, greenhouse plastic provides a more durable and energy-efficient solution, albeit with less adaptability.

Durability and Cost-Effectiveness

Evaluating the durability and cost-effectiveness of shade cloth versus greenhouse plastic is crucial for gardeners to make a cost-efficient choice. The following table compares these two aspects for both materials:

Aspect Shade Cloth Greenhouse Plastic
Durability Moderate; varies with material quality. Susceptible to wear and tear from environmental factors. High; especially polycarbonate and UV-treated plastics. Generally withstands environmental stress better.
Lifespan Typically lasts a few years, depending on the climate and maintenance. Often lasts longer than shade cloth, with some types enduring for several years.
Initial Cost Generally less expensive than greenhouse plastics. Higher upfront cost, but can be more cost-effective in the long run due to durability.
Maintenance Cost Lower maintenance costs; easy to repair or replace. Higher maintenance costs, particularly if specialized cleaning or repair is needed.
Energy Efficiency Does not provide significant insulation, potentially leading to higher heating costs in cooler climates. Better insulation properties can lead to energy savings in terms of heating.
Overall Cost-Effectiveness Good for short-term or seasonal use, especially for budget-conscious gardeners. More suitable for long-term investment due to longer lifespan and energy efficiency benefits.

This comparison shows that while shade cloth may be a more budget-friendly option initially, greenhouse plastic often presents a more durable and energy-efficient choice in the long term. Gardeners should consider both the immediate and long-term costs associated with each option, in relation to their specific greenhouse needs and environmental conditions.

Application Scenes

Choosing between shade cloth and greenhouse plastic largely depends on the specific requirements of each greenhouse. Different scenarios call for different materials based on factors like climate, plant types, and greenhouse design. Below is a table that helps in determining which material might be more suitable in various greenhouse scenarios:

Scene Shade Cloth Ideal Use Greenhouse Plastic Ideal Use
Mild Climate Suitable for areas with mild, consistent temperatures where overheating is not a major concern. Can be used, but might require additional ventilation to prevent overheating in sunny conditions.
Harsh Sunlight/Hot Climate Highly effective in protecting plants from intense sunlight and heat, especially in arid regions. May require careful selection (e.g., UV-resistant or diffused types) to prevent excessive heat buildup.
Cold Climate Not the best option since it doesn’t provide insulation. Additional heating may be needed in winter. Better choice for insulation; helps in retaining heat, reducing energy costs for heating.
Growing Light-Sensitive Plants Excellent for managing light levels for plants that require specific light conditions. Can be used, but less adjustable in terms of light control compared to shade cloth.
Year-Round Growing Can be used year-round but may need to be replaced or adjusted with changing seasons. More suitable for permanent, year-round setups due to its durability and insulation properties.
Budget Constraints A more economical option for those with limited budgets, offering good protection at a lower cost. Initially more expensive, but could be more cost-effective in the long term due to lower replacement rate.
Easy Installation and Adjustability Easier to install and adjust, making it suitable for gardeners who prefer a flexible setup. Typically requires a more permanent setup, which might not be ideal for those who frequently modify their greenhouse.

This table provides a guideline for gardeners to choose the right material based on their unique greenhouse conditions and requirements. It’s important to consider the local climate, the types of plants being grown, and the gardener’s budget and preferences when making this decision.

Case Studies Of Shade Cloth And Plastic In Greenhouse

This section presents real-world applications of shade cloth and plastic as greenhouse coverings, illustrating their performance and impact in various settings. These case studies provide practical insights into how each material can be optimally utilized in different greenhouse environments.

Case Study 1: Shade Cloth in a Vegetable Garden

Location: Suburban Home Garden

Material Used: 50% Density Shade Cloth


  • Successful growth of leafy vegetables which require diffused light.
  • Reduced water evaporation rates, leading to less frequent watering needs.
  • Notable decrease in leaf burn during peak summer months.

Case Study 2: Plastic Covering in a Commercial Greenhouse

Location: Commercial Greenhouse in a Temperate Climate

Material Used: Polycarbonate Plastic


  • Year-round cultivation of a variety of plants, including sensitive tropical species.
  • Improved temperature control, resulting in lower heating costs during winter.
  • Enhanced durability, with the plastic showing minimal wear over several seasons.

Case Study 3: Combined Use in a Research Greenhouse

Location: University Research Greenhouse

Materials Used: Shade Cloth in Summer, Plastic in Winter


  • Effective adaptation to seasonal changes, ensuring optimal growth conditions year-round.
  • Shade cloth used to prevent overheating and light stress in summer months.
  • Plastic covering provided necessary insulation and light transmission in colder months.


In conclusion, both shade cloth and greenhouse plastic offer unique benefits and challenges, making them suitable for different greenhouse environments and needs. Shade cloth excels in its ability to provide adjustable light control and reduce heat, making it ideal for environments where temperature regulation is key. It’s a cost-effective solution for gardeners who require flexibility and ease of use. On the other hand, greenhouse plastic stands out for its durability, UV protection, and superior insulation properties, making it a long-term investment, especially in climates that demand consistent temperature control.

The choice between shade cloth and greenhouse plastic should be based on specific factors such as local climate conditions, the type of plants being cultivated, and the gardener’s budget and preferences. While shade cloth might be more suitable for temporary or seasonal use, greenhouse plastic offers a more permanent solution, particularly in environments with extreme weather conditions.

For gardeners who are considering shade cloth for their greenhouse, QiBang Netting provides high-quality options tailored to various needs. With their expertise and range of products, QiBang Netting is an excellent resource for those looking to optimize their greenhouse environment.

Remember, the key to successful greenhouse gardening lies in choosing the right cover material that aligns with your specific gardening goals and environmental conditions. Whether it’s the adaptable shade cloth or the sturdy greenhouse plastic, the right choice will enhance your greenhouse’s efficiency and productivity.

FAQs about Greenhouse Cover

Is plastic better than shade cloth for greenhouse?

Plastic and shade cloth serve different purposes in greenhouses. Plastic provides better insulation and moisture retention, ideal for colder climates. Shade cloth is preferable in hot areas, as it helps control temperature and light intensity. Choose based on your climate needs.

Does greenhouse plastic block sunlight?

Greenhouse plastic typically allows high levels of sunlight to pass through, but it can be treated to block certain UV rays while still letting through the light needed for plant growth.

Does greenhouse plastic have to be clear?

Greenhouse plastic does not have to be clear. While clear plastic is popular for maximizing light transmission, which is crucial for plant growth, other types like white or green plastic can be used to diffuse light and reduce heat, suitable for plants that need indirect sunlight.