Struggle to figure out exactly where to put your plant? Unsure how to check the light levels in your room? Delve a little deeper to find out whether you should put your plant a in east-, west-, south- or north-facing room and how to measure the light your plant receives. Afterall, it’s the key factor to indoor plant care to help keep your plant thriving. You don’t want to miss this!
Why Do Plants Need Light?
Just like us, plants have certain basic needs to survive. While our human needs are pretty complex, plants need 3 key elements to keep living and thriving: light, air, and water.
So, why do plants need sunlight? Sunlight is essential in allowing plants to conduct photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a chemical process that allows plants to make food. Basically, a plant can take carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water and turn them into sugar (food for itself) and oxygen (which is good for us). Being able to make its own food through photosynthesis is what allows plants to grow bigger, stronger, and healthier!
All plants need sunlight to survive, but, the good news is that not all plants need the same levels of sunlight. This makes it possible to have indoor plants in spots that don’t get direct sunlight all day. Whenever you buy a plant, it is always important to check how much light it needs, so you can place it in the best spot for it to thrive. For example, an Aloe Vera plant loves to enjoy lots of bright sunlight, but a Dracaena can cope in low light conditions.
However, generally, when it comes to indoor plants, the more sunlight the better! That’s why we are here with all the top tips for lighting your indoor plants…
How Bright Is Your House?
So, how can you tell if your house is light enough for your indoor plants to thrive? It can be hard to test by eye how bright your house is but, don’t worry, we have two handy hacks for helping you to judge the best spots for your indoor plants.
A Light Meter
A Light Meter is a tool that directly measures the number of foot-candles in any spot in your home (foot-candles are measurements of the amount of light). You can either buy a Light Meter in a store or online, or there are apps you can download onto your phone that do the same job.
Light Meters are a great way to get a really exact measurement of the amount of light in your home. However, the only problem is, if you don’t have one already, they can be expensive.
The Shadow Test
The shadow test is a cheaper and easier way of testing how bright your house is. All you need is your hand!
Basically, what you need to do is wait until around mid-day, when the sun should be at its brightest. Position your hand in the spot where you are thinking about placing your indoor plant and it should cast a shadow.
The crispness of this shadow should be able to tell you roughly how bright that spot is. A well-defined clear shadow means it is an excellent spot for bright light. A really faint shadow, or no shadow at all, suggests there may not be enough light in that spot for your plant to thrive.
The Shadow Test is an easy way to get a rough idea about how much light is in a particular spot, but if you want a more precise method the Light Meter might be your best bet! It is also important to remember that, depending on the time of year, the amount of light in each spot will change.
Explaining the different light levels in your house…
So, you may be wondering why some spots in your house are brighter than others. Here is the bad news… just because there is a window does not necessarily mean there will be a bright light. But don’t fret! Understanding why there are different levels of light in your house will allow you to put your indoor plants in all the right spots to fulfil their sunlight needs. Here’s what you need to know…
So, as you may know, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. But, what does this mean for your indoor plants?
It means that the sun will shine on east-facing houses in the morning (as the sun rises) and, west-facing houses in the evening (as the sun sets). So what about the south and north-facing houses? South-facing houses are renowned for being the ultimate sunlight spot. This is because they get the sun all day, as the sun rises and sets. North-facing windows are also good for having a consistent level of sunlight all day, but this will be a lot softer than the south-facing because, in the northern hemisphere, the sun shines from the south.
The light levels in your house will also depend on other factors, including, the size of your windows, the position of the windows in your house, and obstacles like trees or curtains that may obstruct the light.
It’s likely that every room in your house will have many different light levels at different spots within it, ranging from low light to medium light, to bright light. Here are some examples of the many different light levels you can have in one room…
And remember… the areas in your house that have low, medium, and bright light will change over the course of the day as the sun moves. One spot may have a bright light in the morning but low light for the rest of the day.
These changes in light levels are also seasonal. Although one area may have high enough light levels in the summer for your plant, in the winter it may need to be moved, as the sun’s position changes and it is not out for so long.
Bright Direct & Bright Indirect Light
When it comes to light levels, bright light is the card that trumps the rest…
A spot with bright light is the strongest level of light that will shine into your house without any barriers obstructing it. This makes it ideal for giving your plant the time of its life, or, sitting in yourself to soak up those rays.
Bright light can be either direct or indirect, and both would cast a clearly defined shadow if you try the Shadow Test. When direct light shines through your window, it will cast different types of bright light.
For example, a south-facing window is likely to get around 2-3 feet of bright direct light closest to the window, and then around 5 feet of bright indirect light further away. This is around the same for east and west-facing windows when the sun shines through them. A north-facing window will get less bright direct light.
Some plants LOVE bright direct light and need it in order to survive. Take the humble basil plant, for example, it is a direct sunlight plant and it will only flourish with lots of bright light. Other bright light plants include:
As mentioned, how much bright light the sun provides will depend on the season. How bright is the sun in winter? Well, the sun is always bright (-26.74 magnitude to be exact) but in winter we get less of this bright light as the days are shorter. For example, in winter, you may only get a few hours of bright sunlight in the middle of the day, rather than all day in the summer.
If you don’t have bright direct sunlight in your house, don’t panic! While we may not all be blessed with big south-facing windows, most of us can rely on medium-light to keep our indoor plants smiling. This medium-light comes from indirect light…
An area with medium-light is an area that does not get direct sunlight but is still well lit with indirect light. For example, a plant placed in a bright room, but not by the window (around 5 feet away from the window to be exact), will get medium indirect light.
You are also likely to get medium light if there is something filtering out the sun's rays. For example, if your plant is based on a window, but there is a sheer curtain covering the window, this is likely to create a medium level of indirect sunlight.
The good news is that there are also loads of indoor plants that thrive on medium, indirect sunlight. These include:
Again, the amount of medium indirect light your house will receive will depend on the season. In winter you may get more medium-light throughout the day (rather than bright light), but, there will be fewer hours of daylight in the day.
Low light is the lowest level of light you can have in your house (without it being pitch black). Low light usually occurs in rooms that don’t get any direct sunlight, or, in areas of a room that are really far from the window. These conditions may also occur in the winter when there is less bright sunlight in general.
But, if you have mainly low light in your house, do not worry! Actually, there are still plants that can live happy lives in low-light conditions, and these low-light indoor plants tend to be extremely hardy. This makes them a dream to look after because they mainly look after themselves!
Some big names in the world of low-light indoor plants include…
As always, when the seasons change the light levels in your house will change too. It’s likely that in the winter you will have low light for a greater proportion of the day. However, the good news is that, unless there is no light at all, these low-light indoor plants won’t be affected, as they can manage so well in low light conditions.
Where should I put my Plant?
North Facing window
As we have mentioned, the characteristics of a North Facing Window usually include:
- No direct sunlight
- Medium or low light
- A consistent amount of light throughout the day
This means that the type of plant you will want to pop by your north-facing window is a plant that does not need direct sunlight to survive. However, this still means you have lots of options.
Indoor plants that thrive next to north-facing windows are often the type of plants that would survive well in the jungle (where not many plants can get direct sunlight).
Examples of north-facing window plants include:
Now, let’s recap what we know about south-facing windows… Generally, a south-facing window is likely to have these characteristics:
- Bright light for most of the day
- Direct sunlight
- A consistent amount of light throughout the day
These bright light conditions make south-facing windows perfect for certain types of indoor plants that need lots of hours of sunlight to survive and thrive. Examples of these types of plants include:
However, if you have south-facing windows that take in a lot of direct sunlight, be careful. While a general rule may be that the more light a plant can get the better, there are limits to this rule. Too much sunlight can actually dry out and damage a plant. Also, south-facing windows can also bring in a lot of heat. Again, this might be too much for even a south-facing window plant.
So, always be mindful that your indoor plants are happy by the south-facing window, and aren’t getting too much sun.
An east-facing window will also have its own special characteristics which make it perfect for certain types of plants. These characteristics include:
- Both bright and medium light
- Direct sunlight in the morning
- Indirect sunlight in the afternoon
While the light you get from an east-facing window is less consistent than north or south-facing window, as it changes throughout the day, this actually can provide the perfect balance of light conditions for plants which need some bright direct light, but not lots. What also makes east-facing windows great, is that they get the sun in the morning, when the direct sunlight is less fierce, and more tolerable for sensitive plants!
In other words, an east-facing window is an all-rounder, and there are loads of examples of east-facing window plants which will thrive in these conditions. These include:
There’s one window left! The west-facing window. Here are the key things we need to remember about this spot:
- Both bright and medium light
- No direct sunlight in the morning
- Direct sunlight in the afternoon
Remember that morning sun in your east-facing window? Well, when the sun leaves your east-facing window around midday, it crosses over your house to shine into your west-facing window.
This means that your west-facing window will be not so bright at the beginning of the day, but will get a hefty dose of direct sunlight in the afternoon. This makes a west-facing window quite a good spot for indoor plants for the same reasons as the east-facing window - because they have bursts of both medium light (in the morning) and bright light (in the afternoon).
But the afternoon's sun should not be underestimated! Remember that the sun is strongest in the afternoon, so any indoor plant placed by your west-facing window will need to be able to withstand some substantial rays and it needs to be able to handle them.
Here are some key west-facing window plants…
What Happens if your Plant gets Too Much Light?
Indoor plants are delicate creatures and they can only thrive in the right conditions. That's why we love to care for them so much. However, There's nothing worse than noticing your plant is unhappy but not knowing why…
Well, the problem may be that your indoor plant is getting either too much or too little light. Don't worry - we are here to help. There are some key noticeable signs that can help you diagnose what is wrong with your plant, and fix it!
So, even though plants love light, surprisingly, too much light can kill a plant. Too much bright sunlight can dry out a plant which means it cannot perform photosynthesis, a process essential for its survival. This can even happen when your plant gets too much bright indirect light. Turns out you can have too much of a good thing!
So, what are the signs your plant has had too much light?
- the edges of the leaves are going brown
- there are brown patches on the leaves
- leaves turn pale or yellow
- the leaves are wilting
If you notice any of these signs, it is likely that your plant is getting too much bright light. Sometimes it can be easy to confuse these symptoms with other problems, so make sure to pay attention to the whole plant when trying to diagnose the issue. When a plant has sun damage, while the leaves go yellow or brown, the veins stay green, so this is something to look out for. Also, if sun damage is the problem, the leaves won't fall off, they will just change colour.
So, if you notice these symptoms, it's likely you need to move your plant to a darker spot. It’s a good idea to always double-check the requirements of your variety of plants so you can find the best spot for your leafy friend! Remember, only direct sunlight plants can withstand bright sunlight for long periods of time - it’s not for everyone! If we think about how bright the sun is, we can see why we may not want to sit in it ALL day.
What happens if your plant gets too little light?
As we mentioned, plants are delicate creatures and they need just the right balance of conditions in order to survive. This means that too little light can also be a big problem for our green friends.
To recap, plants require sunlight as an essential component for photosynthesis, which allows them to make the food to survive. So, long story short, when plants don’t get enough light, they can’t perform photosynthesis and they can’t eat! Without this, plants don’t have enough energy to grow and can die.
So, how can you tell if your indoor plant does not have enough light?
- Your plant is showing leggy growth (it is growing long and thin)
- Your plant is growing lopsided
- The plant is producing abnormally small leaves
- There is no new growth
- Your plant isn’t flowering
- Your plant’s leaves are going yellow or white
Without energy from photosynthesis, your plant won’t be able to grow properly, or at all, and may not flower. Without sunlight, it also won’t be able to produce the chlorophyll that makes its leaves green. Without sufficient levels of light, your plant may also grow in abnormal ways, either lopsidedly or with leggy growth as it tries to reach out to light.
Symptoms caused by lack of sunlight can be really common problems in the winter when the hours of daylight are shorter and the sun is often hidden behind the clouds. However, they can also happen at any time if your plant is not in the right spot.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to try and move your indoor plant to a lighter spot as soon as possible. This way, your indoor plant should be thriving once again. If you don’t have anywhere sunnier to pop your plant, it may be worth investing in some low-light indoor plants in the future that are better suited to your house. But, remember, even low-light indoor plants need a certain amount of light to keep them happy!
How to make the light less intense
As we have mentioned, direct bright light can sometimes be too much for your plant. This may be tricky if you have a south-facing home with lots of direct sunlight.
You may not always have all of the perfect conditions for your plant in one singular spot, but there are some simple things you can do to create an environment that is as close to perfect as possible…
- Position a sheer fabric between the window and the plant: if a plant is suffering from the rays of direct sunlight a simple sheer curtain may be enough to filter out some of the rays and create a more tolerable environment for your plant.
- Try using window film: in the same ways as a sheer curtain, window film can be stuck to your window and make the sunlight less intense as it shines through.
- Move your plant: even if your house has a lot of light, there are likely to be many spots which are more shaded. Even moving your plant a few meters away from the window will make it less intense and might be all it needs to thrive!
Any one of these simple steps is likely to do wonders to your indoor plant if it is struggling with too much light!
To sum things up:
So - that’s pretty much everything you need to know about lighting your indoor plants. It can be confusing trying to work out how to allow your indoor plants to survive, but this guide unlocks some of the key mysteries.
What are the most
Pay attention to how much light is in your house
Ask yourself the questions ‘Which direction do my windows face?’, ‘When does my house get sun?’, ‘Does this spot have bright, medium or low light?’ and ‘Is there anything blocking the sun in this area?’. This will help you understand the light conditions in your house.
Find out what your plant needs
Understanding the light conditions of your house will allow you to choose plants which are suited to them. When you buy a plant, always match it with a spot that meets the needs of that variety (whether it needs bright, medium, or low light), and if you can’t cater for these needs in your house, pick a different indoor plant!
Keep an eye on it
The amount of light coming through your windows changes depending on both the time of day and the season, so, it is always important to make sure your plant is happy and healthy - all year round. If you notice any of the symptoms of too much or too little light - move it! If not, leave it be and let it grow.
Following these simple steps will ensure you grow big and healthy indoor plants. And, happy plants means happy owners!