July 30, 2022

Light Requirements of Indoor Plants

By Andrea Davine
Light Requirements of Indoor Plants

Confused by your plants’ light requirements and what they mean exactly? “Diffused”, “indirect”, “shade”, “medium”, “sunny”? If your indoor garden needs stretch across an entire spectrum, then let us shed some light on what they’re talking about on those plant care tags.

These lighting levels can be split into four broad categories, but may use various descriptions as follows:

Direct Light/Full Sun

This is unadulterated sunlight directly hitting your plant. As an obviously intense amount of light and heat, this situation generally won’t agree with most indoor plants. To green up spaces that experience direct sun for a good chunk of the day, source your plants from the outdoor section of your local nursery. For any outdoor plants that have been living inside, slowly introduce them to the space so they can get acclimated and not go into shock from the sudden change in light and temperature.

Direct sunlight lovers include cacti, succulents, geraniums, and strelitzias

Bright/Well Lit/Filtered/Indirect/Diffused

The sweet spot in which most indoor plants will thrive, this is generous ambient light that is not harsh and hot from sunrays landing directly in the space. “Filtered” light will sit on the outskirts of a spot that has direct sun or is also the light that comes through a well tinted window or a sheer curtain.

Diffused light lovers include pretty much everything, but if we had to narrow it down, this is a necessary setup for calatheas, alocasias, philodendrons, and ficuses.

Part Shade/Medium Light

These are generally areas where the light is slightly dimmer from being located further away from a window or light source. The area might be obstructed by other objects or be located on elevated shelving just out of reach of the angle of light that is directed at the ground and lower shelves. Or some diffused light might come in but only for a short time during certain parts of the day, i.e. soft morning light from an east facing window.

For these spaces, consider ferns, sansevierias, dracaenas, and spathiphyllums

Full Shade/Low Light

The darkest corners of a room, these spots are usually furthest away or are not in direct line of a window. Shade is consistently maintained, regardless of the time of the day. Hallways, bathrooms, rooms with only a south-facing window (in the southern hemisphere), or apartments on lower levels where surrounding buildings obstruct the sun, are good examples of consistently shaded spaces. Plants will be lot more slow-growing and will require a lot less watering.

Greening up a dark space can be tricky, but we recommend good ol’ zanzibars and pothos due to their low light tolerance and not needing to be watered frequently.

The direction that your windows face will play a huge role in how much light at different times of the day enters your room. Assuming nothing is blocking the light from entering, this can also be a good guide for which areas will suit the lighting requirements on a plant’s care tag. Keep in mind, this is based on the southern hemisphere – north and south facing windows in the northern hemisphere will be the opposite in lighting.

North-facing windows

Rooms with north-facing windows will be your brightest rooms as the sun’s position keeps them lit all day long. These spaces can offer a combination of ‘direct sun’ or ‘bright indirect light’, making them the perfect rooms for a lot of different plants. Just be mindful of how warm it gets, how much of the area is in direct sun, and whether the windows have curtains or are tinted.

Also keep in mind that the sun sits lower during winter, which means more light could potentially be entering during this time, though for fewer daylight hours. Obviously, this applies vice versa in summer, when the angle of the sun light comes from higher up and may not be reaching as far back into the room as during winter.

South-facing windows

As the sun sits in the north, no direct sunlight will come through a south-facing window. As previously mentioned, this usually results in ‘medium’ to ‘low’ light levels, depending on how much light is reflecting in from outside. Keep in mind, your plants will likely require less watering due to the ongoing low light levels.

East-facing windows

As we all know the sun rises in the east so a room with a window that faces this direction will enjoy gentle morning light. As it will be shady for the rest of the day, consider if your plants will get enough light time for the day. Because the light is a lot softer coming from the east, your plants receiving direct sun might not be a huge issue. Plus the light does not last as long thus also reducing the intensity.

West-facing windows

On the other hand, a room with windows that face west will enjoy the bright warmth of the afternoon sun. Sunlight is much stronger at this time of the day with direct sun potentially entering in for a good chunk of the afternoon. Even if the area might be shady for half the day, a ‘direct light’/’bright’ lover could still benefit in this situation.

Even with all the lighting recommendations in the world, some plants will just do what they want to do. If you have a plant that appears to be thriving in a situation that it normally wouldn’t, then simply leave it. There is obviously something about the spot that it loves, and it will do well to just stay there then risk being moved.

If you have questions about your plant’s light requirements, or if you’re trying to find the perfect plant to fill a certain space, then feel free to get in touch with us online or in-store.