Brighten Up Your Plant’s Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Plant Light Requirements

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Houseplants are a great way to add greenery and life to your indoor space. There has been a recent surge in the number of people growing houseplants, especially since the pandemic. People have wanted to be among nature and the happiness that plants can provide.

Not only do houseplants look great, but they also have many benefits for you and your home. They help purify the air by absorbing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene from the air, reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, and can even improve concentration and alertness by increasing productivity. 

However, keeping houseplants alive isn’t always easy. They can be finicky things. Take it from someone that has, over the years, killed many plants!

To get the best results from your plants, you need to give them the right amount of light. This can be tricky because everyone has different lighting conditions in their home — some a bit dim, some a bit bright, some with lots of natural sunlight coming in through windows, etcetera.

That’s why I created this ultimate guide to plant lighting. So, let’s take a closer look at the role of light on indoor plants and why it matters so much!

What is Light, and Why Does it Matter for Growing Houseplants?

Here is the sciency bit! Light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye. It is a form of energy that travels through the air and is used to power many modern technologies, such as solar panels and LED lights.

But light is more than just a source of energy; it also plays an important role in plant growth.

Plants use light for photosynthesis, the process by which they convert sunlight into food. In order for photosynthesis to occur, plants need a pigment called chlorophyll, which absorbs light and gives plants their green colour.

Chlorophyll helps plants produce glucose, a type of sugar they use for energy. While all plants need light for photosynthesis, different types of plants require different amounts of light to grow correctly.

For example, most houseplants prefer bright, indirect sunlight and will not grow as well, if they are a flowering plant such as an Anthurium, having not enough light will cause them to stop blooming and plants can get “leggy” if they do not receive enough light.

As such, it is vital to know a plant's light requirements before choosing where to place it in your home.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy in the form of sugar.

National Geographic

Plant Light Requirements for Your Houseplants

For most of us, houseplants are a welcome addition to our homes. They add colour and life to our living spaces, and they can boost our mood and purify the air we breathe.

But did you know that plants also need light to survive?

As previously mentioned, plants need sunlight (or artificial light) to photosynthesise and create the food they need to grow.

Without adequate light, plants will become weak, leggy, and sickly. In extreme cases, they may even die.

How to Find Out Exactly How Much Light You Have?

One of the most critical factors in gardening is light. Without enough light, your plants will not grow.

But how much light is enough?

The answer to this question depends on the type of plant you are growing.

Some plants need full sun, while others prefer partial shade. Most houseplants generally need at least six hours of sunlight per day.

If you are unsure how much light your plants are getting, there are a few simple ways to find out.

First, you can use a light meter to measure the amount of light in your room you can buy a handheld meter for £25 or you can try an app such as Light Meter lite (Android App) or Lux Light Meter Pro (Apple App).

By knowing how much light your room gets, you can choose the right plants for your space.

Window Direction

Windows are the most common source of light for indoor plants, so it's important to consider their direction when choosing the best spot for your plant.

So if you are in the northern hemisphere like I am, you will get the following light from each of these directions; for the southern hemisphere, it will be the opposite:

North-facing windows

If you have a north-facing window, likely, your room won't get any or very little direct sunlight.

However, north-facing windows are great for plants that prefer indirect light, such as ferns, spider plants, and African Violets.

If you have a north-facing window, simply place your plant about two feet from the window to get the indirect sunlight it needs.

East-facing windows

East-facing windows provide moderate, indirect sunlight throughout the day with a bit of direct morning sun, making them ideal for various plants.

If you have an east-facing window, virtually any type of plant will do well. Just place your plant close enough to the window so that it can get adequate sunlight—usually, about two feet away is sufficient.

South-facing windows

South-facing windows are ideal for plants that need bright, direct sunlight in order to thrive. If you have a south-facing window, succulents, cacti, and other desert plants will do well. Just be sure to place your plants closer to the window—about one foot away—so that they can get the light they need.

Word of Caution: Too much sun can be just as harmful as too little. Unobstructed south-facing windows will receive a fair amount of direct sunlight during the day, and most plants don’t love to sit in harsh direct rays of sun.

If the leaves of a plant start to turn brown or yellow, it’s a sign that it’s getting too much sun. Move the plant to a different location or further away from the window where it will receive indirect or filtered light, you could have a sheer curtain or voile to help diffuse the sun's rays.

West-facing windows

A west-facing window provides strong, direct afternoon sun. As a result, it's a good idea to choose plants that can tolerate both direct and indirect sunlight.

Plants that do well in west-facing windows include aloe vera, cactus plants and snake plants.

So to recap:

  • If you want your plant to receive a lot of sunlight, place it in an east or south facing window
  • If you want your plant to receive moderate sunlight, place it in an east facing window
  • If you have low light plants and want your plant to receive indirect or filtered sunlight, place it in a north or west facing window

This great blog post from Léon & George really shows how the sun enters the room from each of the directions.

What is Bright Direct Light?

Bright, direct light is intense and can cause leaves to scorch, so it is important to make sure that plants are not placed in an area where they will be exposed to the sun for too long if they are sensitive to too much sun/light.

However, a plant that does not receive enough direct sunlight will often become pale and leggy as it stretches towards the light. In general, bright, direct light is essential for a plant's health, but it is important to make sure that the plant is not exposed to too much of it.

What is Bright Indirect Light?

Bright indirect light means the plant gets bright light, but not direct sunlight.

This can be achieved by putting the plant near a window where it will get plenty of natural light, but not so close that the sunlight directly hits the leaves, which can damage them the same as our skin if we are in the sun too long, they can be scorched and burnt.

Types of Houseplant Lighting

Of course, not all homes get enough natural light to meet the needs of all plants. In these cases, artificial lighting can be used to supplement the available light.

Natural light

Natural light, or sunlight, is the most intense and powerful type of light available to plants. It contains all the wavelengths of visible light, as well as ultraviolet and infrared radiation.

This full spectrum of light helps plants to grow strong and healthy.

Artificial lighting

Artificial lighting, such as grow lights, can provide the specific wavelengths of light that plants need to thrive. This is especially important for indoor plants, which may not have access to natural sunlight.

But artificial lighting can also be used to supplement the sunlight available to indoor plants. By using grow lights, gardeners can extend the growing season and get their plants off to a healthy start.

Incandescent lighting

These are the traditional lightbulbs that most people are familiar with. They produce a warm, yellow light and are not very energy-efficient. However, they are relatively inexpensive and widely available.

Fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent lights are a type of light bulb that uses less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Fluorescent bulbs also emit a higher proportion of blue and ultraviolet light, which can be beneficial for plants. These lights are often used in indoor gardens, as they can help to promote growth.

However, fluorescent bulbs must be used cautiously, as too much blue and ultraviolet light can damage leaves. When using fluorescent bulbs for plants, it is important to choose a bulb with a lower wattage and to position the light source so that it is not directly shining on the leaves.

They also contain mercury so they need to be disposed of properly, plus they have been superseded by the new guy in the lighting world – LED.

LED lighting

For years, growers have used fluorescent lighting to help their plants grow. But now there's a new kid on the block: LED lighting.

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are increasingly being used in all sorts of applications, from car headlights to smartphone displays. And now, they're being used to help plants grow.

LED lighting has a number of advantages over traditional fluorescent lighting. First of all, it's more energy-efficient, so it can save you money on your electric bill.

Additionally, it produces less heat, so it's less likely to damage delicate plant leaves. And finally, it produces a full spectrum of light, which is ideal for plant growth.

If you're looking for a way to give your plants a boost, LED lighting is definitely worth considering. It's more efficient, more effective, and more durable than traditional fluorescent lighting, making it the perfect choice for today's growers.

Grow Lights

For anyone who has ever tried to grow plants indoors, the challenge of providing adequate light can be a frustrating one.

Traditional incandescent bulbs just don't put out enough light, and sunlight streaming in through a window isn't always enough either.

This is where grow lights come in. Grow lights are designed to emit the right kind of light spectrum that plants need in order to photosynthesise and grow.

They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and can be used for everything from starting seedlings to keeping houseplants healthy.

While they may not be necessary for every plant, grow lights can be a helpful tool for anyone who wants to give their plants the best chance to thrive.

I asked in a houseplant Facebook group what they used for grow lights, and this was what they had and recommended:


How Can I Tell if My Plant Is Getting Enough Light?

There are a few things you can look for to tell if your plant is getting enough light

• The leaves should be a deep green colour
• The stems should be sturdy
• The plant should be growing new leaves

If you notice any of these things happening with your plant, then it's getting enough light. However, if the leaves are yellowing or wilting, then it's not getting enough light and you'll need to move it closer to the window

How to get natural light into your home

One of the best ways to brighten up your home is to let in natural light. Not only is it free, but it also has a number of benefits for your health and wellbeing. Here are a few tips on how to get more natural light into your home:

1. Start by surveying your home and taking note of any areas that could benefit from more light. This might include dark corners, small rooms, or hallways.

2. Once you've identified the areas that need more light, take a look at the windows and see if there are any ways to increase the amount of light that comes in. This might involve removing obstructions like heavy curtains or furniture, or installing larger windows.

3. If there are still areas that need more light, consider using mirrors to reflect natural light around the room. Mirrors can help to brighten up even the darkest of spaces.

4. Finally, don't forget about lighting fixtures! strategically placed lamps and lights can help to add an extra boost of light when needed.

By following these tips, you can let natural light into your home and enjoy all the benefits that come with it!

What are foot candles

A foot-candle is a unit of measurement that describes the intensity of light hitting a surface. It is equal to the amount of light cast by one candle onto one square foot of surface area from a distance of one foot.

The term “foot-candle” is commonly used in lighting calculations, and it is an important tool for determining the appropriate level of illumination for a given space.

For example, a workspace that requires high levels of precision may need to be illuminated with a higher number of foot-candles than a space that simply needs to be well-lit.

And finally…

In order for your houseplants to thrive, it is important to provide them with the right type and amount of light. Just like with other plants, houseplants use light to photosynthesise and grow healthy.

This is why it is so important to choose the right type of plant for where you will be placing it. While natural sunlight is best, you can also choose artificial lighting. 

There are different types of artificial lighting, including fluorescent lighting and grow lights. Each type produces a different spectrum of light and can help your plants grow strongest. 

And remember, when choosing a place for your plants, make sure to place them in a sunny window or area where they can receive some sun. You can also try a grow light or lamp to provide additional light.

If you're interested in learning more about plants that like direct light, be sure to check out our Houseplant for Direct Light where I share my top 10 favourite plants for direct light.

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