What lighting does your plant require?
Light is one of the most important factors for growing houseplants. All plants require light for photosynthesis, the process within a plant that converts light, oxygen and water into carbohydrates (energy). Each plant will have its own needs, and even the toughest plant, if placed in the wrong lighting, may fail to thrive. To ensure you find the best location for your plant it is important to match the lighting needs of your plant with the right lighting condition in your home or office.
The lovely diagram shows the different types of lighting that you can expect in your space:
Illustrated by Amina Akhmadeeva | aminaillustration.com
This is the most intense sunlight near a window. The sun rays will shine on the plant. With bright direct sun you can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Perfect location for cacti, succulents, and sun-loving plants.
This is just beyond the direct beam of light (or through cracked blinds or a sheer curtain filtering direct sun). This means the plant is near a bright window but receives limited direct sunlight on their leaves throughout the day. Most houseplants thrive in bright indirect light.
Beyond bright indirect light. These areas have naturally diffused light. This means plants will receive filtered light throughout the day but no direct sunlight. Medium light plant options include Alocacia (elephant ears), Calathea (prayer plant), Maranta, Dracaena (wide leafed varieties), and Howea forsteriana (kentia palm).
Dim light, usually the backs of rooms and a few feet away from a light source (sunny window) or in a room with artificial light. Low light means less energy and less food. While some plants can adapt to low light conditions, it may be harder for them to thrive. Some plants that adapt to low light conditions include the Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant), Sansevieria (snake plants, flat types), Epipremnum auruem (golden pothos), and ferns (most).
What is the difference between south, west, east and north windows? Here is a quick break down from highest amount of light to least amount of direct sunlight.
South windows receive lots of direct sun from mid-morning to late afternoon. This window direction typically receives 4+ hours of direct sun. Perfect place for cacti, succulents and our sun-loving plant friends. Plenty of plants will thrive in south-facing windows, as long as you place the plant a few feet away from the window where they won’t receive the full amount of heat and light these windows normally receive during spring and summer.
West windows get direct sun in the late afternoon and early evening and bright indirect light the rest of the day. During summer months they also emit a lot of heat. These make great homes for cacti and succulents. Other plants can thrive here as long as you place them out of reach of direct rays as this could scorch the foliage.
East windows receive direct sun in the morning only, which is less intense than late evening sun, and bright indirect light the rest of the day. Making these windows perfect for most tropical plants.
North windows will give your plants the least amount of light and never get direct sunlight. The light will be bright indirect to medium right up in the window. It is best to place plants close to the window. This is not a good location for plants like succulents and cacti.
What other things should you consider with lighting and finding the best place for your plant?
There are a number of factors that can interfere with the amount and intensity of light your plants receive.
Obstructions: Exterior obstructions such as buildings or trees generally reduce the light of a room.
Seasonal changes: Light durations fluctuate seasonally. A spot that was ideal for a plant during the winter months may be too intense during the summer.
Duration of time: Always consider how long the light is coming into the room. If the sun only passes through a room for a short period during the day, your plants may not be getting as much light as you think.
What if my space has minimal or no light?
Minimal or no light = grow light. If you’re looking to place a plant in a really dark corner or want succulents placed by a north facing window, the solution is a grow light. Grow lights can be found at most hardware stores and online vendors. You can choose a bulb to screw into an existing lamp or an entire grow light fixture. You will need to ensure the grow light is on long enough for plants to get enough light to grow and thrive.
What are the signs my plant is not receiving enough light?
- Plant does not produce chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants) and as a result the plant can turn pale green to yellow to white.
- Plant stems become “leggy,” meaning stems become long and thin and appear to be reaching toward the sun.
- Variegated plant (leaves that are white, green, pink) may revert to being solid green.
- Flowering plants may fail to produce flower buds.
How can I determine lighting conditions?
There are many tools to help you take out all the guess work such as a light meter tool or even an app on your phone. While the app may not be perfect it will give you a good estimate.
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