Do Pergolas Really Provide Shade? | All You Need to Know

Pergolas are gorgeous freestanding structures that have been around for centuries. But the amount of shade they provide primarily depends on the build material. 

To answer your question – yes, pergolas can provide shade, but in modern establishments, it’s more of an aesthetic addition that enhances outdoor living through shade. That said, this quadrangular structure can truly elevate your porch or deck, creating a cozy hangout for family and friends. 

So, if you’re looking to add a vibrant and exquisite element to your home, pergolas are a great way to do it. And as far as their practicality is concerned, let’s discuss the different shade materials and the purpose they fulfill. 

Without further ado, let’s begin.  

Different Ways to Design Pergola Shades

1. Foliage


Pergolas typically feature cross beams or lattice work, enabling plants to grow within the structure. Therefore, you can train creepers to intertwine with the grids, thereby providing shade and aesthetic value. 

For instance, the Tuscans grew grapevines on these structures as the foliage was a practical choice for both summers and winters. The leaves provide sufficient shade coverage in the hot and sultry months and allow sunlight to permeate during the fall and the cold season. 

It’s an excellent option for the North American climate since there’s hardly any need for rain protection. Other than that, you could consider Wisteria or flowering vines, among other options. Some of the top choices for foliage pergola shade include Honeysuckle, Clematis, Climbing Rose, Morning Glory, Black Eyed Susan Vine, and Trumpet Vine.

So, turn your outdoor sitting area into a colorful, flowery space where you can kick back after a long day at work.

2. Reeds and Leaves

Reeds and leaves

If you don’t want to put much effort into your pergola, we suggest keeping it utilitarian with reeds and leaves. This design was popular among ancient Egyptians and, as such, remains relevant in the current times. 

This is highly recommended if you’re looking for an efficient sunblock, especially in locations with a drier climate. You can alternatively use it as a sukkah and transform your pergola into a comfortable shelter. 

The reed mats create a perfect beachy vibe, which is great when you are in the mood to lounge outside with a pitcher of your favorite drink. Therefore, you can relax in the shade without the sun getting in your eye.

3. Lattice Panels

Lattice panels

You can already see how gorgeous and inviting it looks. The lattice panel is another great option for your pergola shade, as the criss-cross design truly enhances the architectural elegance of this outdoor setup. 

You can choose among cedar or pressure-treated wood varieties to create a beautiful chequered pattern on the top. Besides, it’s affordable and easy to maintain, which is a win-win for most homeowners. 

However, this option does not win a lot of points for shade coverage. If you want more shade, you can choose panels with 25% light entry. You can also find 50% options, which are ideal for sunbathing in the winter.

4. Bamboo or Branches

Bamboo or branches

This is another practical choice for dry climate areas, such as the southwest region of North America. The bamboo sticks or branches imbibe a rustic charm to your outdoor space and work perfectly if you want to create a countryside theme. 

Usually, these structures are more extensive than the others and are paired with unpolished wooden frames, further accentuating the pastoral vibe. 

The bamboo shades are more prevalent in the eastern islands, where it’s also used for multiple other things. They provide sufficient sunblock, so you can relax for hours under the cool shade. 

5. Fixed Fabric

Fixed fabric

If leaves or foliage is not your cup of tea, we suggest using awning fabrics for the job. These coverings are usually available as one large piece or multiple strips that have to be woven together. 

The one-piece fabric is only suitable for dry areas and not in any other climate since rainwater pooling in between the rafters can ruin the covering. If you want to add an exciting touch to your outdoor decor, use multi-colored strips to create the shade. 

The weaving pattern runs in an over-under sequence across the rafters, creating a chic and stylish pergola shade. While the fabric pieces form a wave-like design, it allows light to enter through the gaps, so you can enjoy a little bit of the sun as well. 

Therefore, if you’re looking to achieve a fun, boho look, this is one superb way to do so. However, it’s only feasible if you don’t require any rain protection.

6. Retractable Canopies

Retractable canopies

What if your fabric shade also provided protection against rain? That’s where retractable canopies come into the picture, ensuring convenience from the get-go. This single piece of cloth material not only provides shade but also offers shelter from the rain. 

However, the best part about it is that the fabric top/canopy can be folded back when you want to bask in the sun. So, when you want to look up at the spring sky and enjoy the comfortably warm sun rays, simply retract the pergola roof and experience the charming outdoors.  

On the other hand, when it gets too sunny, you can extend the canopy and relax under the UV-protected shade. Depending on your budget and requirements, you can invest in fabrics offering up to 98% UV-blocking, but as a consequence, your color options may shrink.  

Alternatively, you can use a shade screen instead of a one-piece fabric; however, it does not provide the same level of UV protection.

7. Shade Cloth

Shade cloth

If you’re on a low budget and want an effective sun blocker over your pergola, use a shade cloth to do the job. These fabrics are generally used in greenhouses, providing adequate shelter from the sun. However, the results are not always visually appealing, so it’s best to know what you can expect from the project.

8. Pergola Curtains

Pergola curtains

For some users, sun and rain protection is not enough, as they also want a little privacy during their outdoor sessions. Having a pergola is all fun and games till you have annoying neighbors looking over or trying to make conversations. 

You can avoid all the curious glances and get curtains around your pergola. Usually, people match the drapes with the top fabric, but you can also create a contrast that perfectly syncs with the existing decor. 

Besides, curtains are an excellent way to create an outdoor hangout spot, perfect for evening dates with a little privacy. You can also add curtains just on the sides for increased shade coverage. 

The setting sun can still radiate a lot of heat, especially in peak summers, so you’d want to hang drapes to keep the shaded area cool. In fact, if your pergola has a southwest opening, we suggest using a curtain to screen the sunlight. Furthermore, it’s a practical way to keep your outdoor space cleaner. 

Final Words

Sitting under a pergola is much like resting under a tree. While there’s enough shade, some amount of sunlight enters through the top structure, creating a fascinating interplay of light and shadow.  

So, if you want to elevate the front porch or patio with an attractive outdoor accessory, a pergola is a great idea. Even though these structures are primarily meant to enhance the decor, your pergola should also have some practical benefits. 

That said, the amount of shade you can expect from a pergola also depends on the latticework and the installation angle. For the best results, get it professionally done and use a shade material suitable for the existing climate. 

Furthermore, to make the most out of this structure, you can install an operable pergola, so you can open and close the roof at your convenience. Ultimately, it should reflect your sense of style and comfort as nothing is set in stone. 

Feel free to experiment with different architectural styles and shade materials and create the most attractive outdoor space in your neighborhood. On that note, we’d like to take your leave. 

Till next time!

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