What does my plant require in terms of light? This is an appropriate question since too little sunlight will cause the plant to wilt and deteriorate. The leaves of your plant could burn if you provide it with too much light. Therefore, we will explain the different light levels for plants in this article.
Often when reading plant care guides, you will hear the terms “bright indirect light”, “medium light”, tolerating “low light levels”, place in front of a “west-facing window”, amongst others. However, what does this actually mean and where might you bring in “bright indirect light”?
Light Levels for Plants Explained
This 101 Guide about light levels for plants aims to bring light into dark corners, explain different light levels and help you find the perfect place for your plants in an apartment.
Plants need six ingredients to survive, which are light, water, humidity, healthy soil, warm temperatures, and nutrients. The right balance between these four elements is critical. Too much of any one of these, and most plants won’t survive.
For photosynthesis to occur, light levels need to be studied as they vary considerably from plant to plant. The plants use light, water, and carbon dioxide to conduct a chemical process that transforms it into sugars.
It is crucial to choose the right light level for your plants in order to avoid as much damage as possible. Instead of trying to determine where indoor plants will look best and fit best in your interior design, it is essential to understand the needs of your indoor plants.
These needs are determined by the natural habitat of each plant, as this determines what plants need to survive and thrive.
Light Levels for Plants Cheat Sheet
With this handy cheat sheet, you’ll never have to guess again about where light levels are needed for plants.
Is it true that the distance from a window determines how much light a plant receives? Moving a plant 2-3 feet can reduce the light level by more than 50%!
The ultimate light levels cheat sheet for indoor plants. It tells you where direct light reigns, where bright indirect light reigns and where the best places are for lower light plants and medium light plants.
Bright Direct Light
Light shining directly on your house plants is bright direct light. Windows facing south and west will receive the most direct light. Usually, plants that require bright direct light need at least five to six hours of sunlight if not more. In autumn and winter, the amount of direct sunlight is significantly reduced.
Bright direct light is considered to be between 2000 and 5000 foot candles.
Let’s now examine bright indirect light.
Bright Indirect Light
The concept of Bright indirect light for plants is probably the hardest to understand. But don’t worry, the concept is very straightforward.
Bright indirect light is light that lands on something other than the leaves of your plant after being sent from the sun.
The light should be between 1000-2000 foot candles. The brightness of the indirect light should produce defined shadows.
Here are some indoor plants that do well in indirect light:
- Kentia palm
- African Violet
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- White Bird of Paradise
- Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
What is medium-light then? It is the light you can see in a bright room, but it is not direct. Those plants that are not near a window receive medium light levels.
Medium light is considered 250 to 1000 feet–candles.
Plants growing well in medium-light:
- African Violet
- Boston Fern
- Dumb cane
- Moth Orchid
The plants that thrive in low light are mostly also hardy and easy to maintain and they are best when grown in medium light.
Low-light conditions can only be tolerated by the hardiest and strongest indoor plants, and few flourish in this category.
Light levels between 50 and 250 foot candles are considered low light.
Plants that thrive in low light include:
- Snake plant
- ZZ Plant
- Spider plant
- Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
- Arrowhead plant
- Heart-leaf philodendron
It is impossible for plants to grow in the absence of light. The truth is that fake plants will do quite well under these circumstances. If you cannot offer even a minimal amount of direct sunlight or very little light investing in a fake plant might be your best choice. Alternatives include artificial light sources and grow lights.
It is crucial to choose the windows facing the right direction for your house plants. Because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, not all window directions are the same. East-facing windows will, therefore, have a couple of hours of direct morning sunlight while south-facing windows will have bright sunlight for several hours in the afternoon.
Let us examine the various light levels for plants based on their orientation in relation to the window.
The direction of your window has an impact on how much light your plant gets, as well as whether it gets direct or indirect light.
Furthermore, since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it also impacts how much light your plants get in the morning and in the afternoon.
We will discuss the location of the light and also when the light exposure will be the largest in this handy guide.
We have also listed plants that are best suited to each window direction for you. Different plants have different needs. There is also the right amount of light to be considered, in addition to the right amount of water and humidity, the right kind of soil as well. This arguably is the most important factor of all as it plays a crucial role in photosynthesis.
We’ll start with the north-facing window
North Facing Window
The north-facing windows don’t receive direct sunlight, which means plants receive a limited amount of light. However, this does not necessarily mean the windows are unsuitable for plants. Plants in jungles and arid climates tend to thrive even in a north-facing window even with limited light.
Here are some examples of plants that thrive in front of north-facing windows:
- ZZ plant
- Snake plant
- Heartleaf plant
- Arrowhead plant
- Spider plant
- Monstera Adansonii
- Monstera Deliciosa
- Alocasia Frydek
East Facing Window
East-facing windows receive a lot of bright indirect light, and get a few hours of direct sunlight in the morning. The light isn’t as harsh as direct sunlight in the afternoon, so plants can tolerate this type of light. The temperatures in an east-facing window are usually cooler in the afternoon because they receive large amounts of indirect light.
For many plants, bright indirect light is the best amount of light needed to grow well and produce good foliage. It is no surprise that east-facing windows are the ideal place to place most houseplants.
An east-facing window plant list:
- Most palms
- String of Hearts
- Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Ferns (Boston Fern)
- Peperomia Plants
Windows with an easterly orientation are generally considered to be the best to grow plants in front of. Plants that take a few hours of direct morning sun well are often happy with curtains in front of the window.
South Facing Window
Direct sunlight will come through south-facing windows, allowing the plants to thrive. Despite the fact that some plants may tolerate and even enjoy the light, you have to ensure that it isn’t too much. Consider that the light will get stronger and brighter as it will come in through the windows.
The signs of a burnt plant might include brown spots on the leaves, holes, and even rotting stems.
Here are a few plants that can withstand large amounts of direct sunlight:
- Aloe Vera
- Cacti in general
- Crown of Thorns
- Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks)
Put curtains and fabric screens in front of the window if you want to shade your plants at any time. The leaves of plants may receive a smaller amount of sunlight, and direct sunlight can become bright indirect light.
West Facing Window
In the morning, windows facing west receive little sunlight due to the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. On the other hand, more sun rays arrive in the afternoons and evenings. Plants that tolerate strong sunlight or afternoon sun do best in a west-facing window.
- Umbrella tree
- Aloe Vera
- Christmas Cactus
- English Ivy
- Air Plants
- Birds of Paradise
How to know if your plant gets enough light
For most plants, sufficient light will ensure that they have lush green foliage. An indication of insufficient light is that your plants get leggy. For instance, cacti become thin and grow tall.
Some plants like Pothos will develop larger spaces between their leaves. This may be an indication that your houseplant isn’t getting enough light.
A sign of too much light are burned leaves or leaves falling off entirely. Burnt leaves turn brown and sometimes even develop holes due to the sun’s rays.
It should be remembered that windows often act as magnifiers, allowing the sun to shine stronger and warmer.
Light Levels For Plants Outro
Understand the different light levels plants need by now. How the lighting conditions differ for windows facing north, east, south, and west, what plants thrive under what levels of light.
This knowledge will likely help you determine where to place your houseplants in order to avoid leggy plants and unruly houseplants.
Another thing to remember is that your plants’ exposure to light varies based on the season. The months with the longest amount of sunshine are obviously summer and spring, while winter and autumn have a considerably less amount of sunshine.
During winter and autumn, houseplants will grow slower than normal due to this.
A second thing worth noting is that you have the opportunity to use grow lights to supplement natural light. You may need artificial grow lights during the winter as they will allow your plants to thrive in the darker months.
It is important to consider the intensity of the grow light and also its distance from the plant. I invite you to check out the grow lights in our shop. We have sourced great and powerful grow lights that are not too pricey.
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