Plant Care 101: Light
Usually, a plant's happiness can be narrowed down to the right watering routine and the right amount of light. In my previous plant care post, I talked about watering. In this post, I'll cover light, so between the two posts you'll be well on your way to happy plants!
More than NSWE
The amount of light a plant receives depends on a number of factors. People often think about the direction that the window or windows in the room face, but it's a bit more complicated than that. For example, let's say you have a south-facing window, which would typically be considered a high light situation, but if there are obstructions outside of the window such as a tree or a building that block the light, then it could be a low light situation.
Another factor is how far the plant will be placed from the window. Also, items in the room blocking the natural light, such as curtains or furniture can turn an otherwise high light situation into a low light situation.
What the Heck is Bright, Indirect Light?
Most houseplants prefer bright, indirect light. But what the heck does that mean? And for that matter what is direct light?
You’ll see plants’ light requirements often referred to as 1) bright light, 2) bright, indirect light, or 3) low light. Let’s break that down.
1) Bright Light
Bright light for a houseplant means being in front of a large, unobstructed window that faces south or west, with the sun hitting the plant for five or six hours each day. Plants that like bright light include cact, jades, succulents, birds of paradise, and crotons.
2) Bright, indirect light
You’ll see this light requirement more frequently than any other. Bright, indirect light means a spot close to a window, but not where the sun is directly hitting the plant. So this could mean the spot is next to the window instead of right in front of it. Or it could be in a south or west window where a sheer curtain is always drawn, or it could be a few feet from the window, out of the path of the suns rays. A spot very near a north or east window can also provide bright, indirect light.
3) Low Light
Low light spots are those that are more than a few feet from a window. Depending on the size and orientation of the windows, that could be anywhere from 5 or more feet from the window. Low light tolerant plants include ZZ plants, snake plants, and pothos on the very low light tolerant end of the spectrum. Other low light tolerant plants include aglaonema, dracaena,
You'll notice I'm careful to use the word "tolerant" to describe low light tolerant plants. Most low light tolerant plants will put up with low light, but they'd prefer a bit more than low light. Most low light tolerant plants will limp along in low light, but need a bit more to grow and thrive.
So thinking about which way your windows face is a great starting point, but don’t forget about their size, obstructions, and the distance that your plant will be from the windows!