Lighting Needs of Houseplants

To follow up on last weeks blog, knowing how much light your plant needs can seem as difficult to determine as knowing how much water to give your plant. Today, we are going to simplify this.


When you purchase a new houseplant, there is often a little tag with care instructions, and if there isn’t, most people turn to the internet. Either way, what people often find is that their plant needs “medium to bright indirect light,” “can tolerate low indirect light,” needs “bright, filtered light,” or some other obscure description of light requirements. This may sound straight forward at the time, so you stick your plant in a corner next a to window and assume that it will be fine. However, these “straight forward” directions on how much sun exposure your plant needs are often misunderstood.


How much sun exposure your plant needs are often misunderstood

Lighting Needs of Houseplants Full/Direct Sun

Full/Direct Sun: This kind of light exposure is hot and intense. Some plants love it and need it, while others will shrivel up and die in such conditions. If you have a plant that needs lots of sun or direct light, this means that the rays of the sun need to be coming into direct contact with the leaves. South-facing windows are best for this, as they will receive direct sun for the longest amount of time throughout the day. If your plant care instructions say that your plant requires direct light, it likely means that it needs this direct exposure to sun for six or more hours of the day. If you do not have a south-facing window, and west-facing window will likely suffice. It will not get as many hours of direct sun, but at least it will still be getting the warmth it needs.


Indirect Light: This counts as any natural light where the rays of the sun are not coming into direct contact with the plant. For example, an east-facing window will receive lots of lovely, indirect light. In a room with a south or west-facing window, you can find indirect light in the interior of the room a little way away from the window. This light is perfect for many different kinds of houseplants, as most houseplants require light, but direct exposure to the sun is too much for their tender leaves to handle. To take it even further, many houseplant care guides and garden centers categorize indirect light further..

Lighting Needs of Houseplants - indoor plant

  • Bright: Bright indirect light is the highest level of sun exposure a plant can receive without actually coming into direct contact with the sun. Placing your plant right up against an east-facing window will get it this bright, indirect light. South-facing windows will also produce a lot of bright, indirect light. Just make sure that your plant is positioned far enough away from the window so that the rays of the sun will not hit the plant as the sun moves throughout the day.


Lighting Needs of Houseplants - green leaves
  • Medium/Filtered: Medium/moderate indirect light, or filtered light, is what you might expect if you have some sort of awning above your window, trees outside your window that do not allow all the light through, or some other circumstance that slightly blocks light from coming through your window. Perhaps you have a very small window that does not allow a lot of light through, an exterior wall of your house casts a shadow on a particular window, or a sheer curtain in front of your window that helps disperse the light. While there may be several terms to describe this kind of lighting, any of these conditions or similar situations would be considered medium/moderate/filtered indirect light.


  • Low: Low indirect light is the dimmest natural lighting you can get without your plant receiving no light at all. North-facing windows receive a minimal amount of natural indirect light. You may also find low indirect light in a far corner of a room that has a window which receives indirect light. To help you visualize this further, a low level of indirect light is usually not sufficient for reading a book without adding some sort of artificial light source. While there are not many plants that can tolerate this restricted amount of light, there are some that don’t mind.