Lighting Needs for Your Indoor Plants

Knowing your plant's light requirement is essential. When selecting your indoor plants, you should have a good idea of where that plant will live before you bring it into your home. Visit our plant care guide to learn about your individual plant's light requirements.

What the heck is low light, medium light, and bright light?

There is no simple answer to this question as every home is different. The best way to determine how much light a given space provides is to get a light meter and measure the foot candles. If this feels too much like a project, then there are a few ways to help you decide if you are giving adequate light to your houseplants.

Try the Shadow Method to gauge how much light your space receives.

On a sunny day, walk about 5-10 feet away from your window, and hold your hand up to the wall, table surface, or your body to create a shadow.

  • It is low light if you see a hazy, light gray, 10-20% shadow.
  • If your shadow is more distinct, around 50% gray, then it's medium light.
  • If the shadow is 80% gray or higher, this is a bright light area.

Depending on its light requirements, you should conduct this test at different distances from your light source to determine the best placement for your indoor plants!

Can you read a book with the lights turned off where you place your plant?

If you can read a book without the lights turned on, then it's safe to say that you can successfully grow a low-light tolerant indoor plant in that area.

Lighting Needs for Indoor Plants

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What is Direct Light?

If the rays of the sun are hitting the plant, then that plant is in direct sunlight.

Some houseplants require very bright light, even direct light, like flowering indoor plants, ficus, and strelitzia, so read all the care information for these plants. You will want to keep an eye out for leaf burn or scorching. If this happens, move the houseplant farther away from the window and out of the direct sun.

Some houseplants can tolerate and even enjoy gentle early morning sun rays, but the afternoon sun can cause damage, especially if you have your plants close to a south or west facing window.


What is Indirect Light?

Indirect sun light is a bit more complicated to describe, but we are here to make this simple! If your plant can see a window and the room is bright enough to read in, then most of your indoor plants will be happy in that space. If you use the Shadow Method, and aim for 50% gray! Your houseplants should be receiving at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight each day, or more if you can provide it!

What is Low Light?

Low light implies that your space gets less than 4 hours of daily sunlight. A great example is a room with one north or east-facing window that would most likely have low light conditions. If the window is blocked by trees, shrubs, or nearby buildings, then this will further decrease the amount of light entering your space. If you have these conditions, move your indoor plants as close to the window(s) as possible because even low-light tolerant plants need access to light!

Your plant isn't growing or is getting thin and leggy!

This could be an indication that your plant isn't getting enough light. Low-light tolerant plants will grow much faster and remain full and lush if they are allowed to have access to at least 4 hours a sunlight a day. try moving your houseplants closer to a window or supply them with artificial lights if you feel that they are thinning out or are not generating any new growth. 

Tips for determining where to place your plants:

1. Low light plants are indoor plants that will tolerate low light. This does not mean that they want to live in less than ideal conditions. Try giving your low light tolerant houseplants at least 4 hours of indirect light a day.

2. North and west-facing unobstructed windows provide more light than north and east facing windows.

3. We find fleshy, succulent type plants respond to higher light levels, where as  leafy plants can handle lower light spots.

4. Flowering plants like higher light levels.

5. Make sure your windows are clean!

6. Don’t be afraid to move your plants around experience different areas of the house or office, so if you feel that your plant needs a different view, then you are right.

7. If you have no windows then we recommend adding led grow lights to help keep your houseplants happy and healthy. The grow lights should be on during daylight hours and be placed according to the manufactures instructions.

8. Some houseplants like sansevieria and zz plants will do very well in bright indirect light, even direct light but will also live in less-than-ideal lighting conditions and are considered low-light tolerant. Always read the light requirement labels on your new indoor plants.

9. For the most part, plants are grown in greenhouses that provide varying degrees of shade while growing, and this helps your houseplants acclimate easily to your home or office.

10. As a general rule, avoid placing low light tolerant plants in direct sunlight. There are some plants like sansevieria and dracaena that can easily acclimate to live in direct sunlight, but you should only do this gradually allowing the plant to adjust to the increased intensity of sunlight.

11. The rays are of the sun are much stronger during the summer and some plants will need to be protected or moved away from south and west facing windows. During the winter months, you might consider moving high light loving plants directly in front of the windows to better help them undergo photosynthesis.

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