How Much Light Does Your Houseplant Need?

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.


First of all, let’s talk about different kinds of light exposure…

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..


  • 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.


  • 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. For more information on houseplants that do well in minimal light conditions, read this blog!

Shade: As you can imagine, a “shaded” spot in your house is one that receives little to no natural light at all. Lighting conditions such as these can often be found in corners of rooms with north-facing windows, closets, rooms without windows, or any other area of your house where natural light does not reach. Since there are not many plants that are capable of surviving independent from the sun, we suggest avoiding these spots. If there is a dark corner of your house that is just dying for a plant to bring some life, consider purchasing a grow light of some sort to make sure that your plant is receiving the light/nutrients it needs!


Now, let’s talk about plant preference/tolerance…


I have seen many care guides and plant instructions say things along the lines of “prefers this kind of light, but can tolerate a different amount of light.” Plants are not quite as black and white as they may seem. While some plants are more picky than others, they are very versatile and adaptable life forms, and often will make do with what they have. Now, this does not mean that you can give a plant no light at all and expect it to adapt. It also does not mean that if a plant does not receive the perfect amount of light, it is going to die. Many plants “prefer” a specific amount of light and warmth to achieve optimal growth. However, if you have been a plant parent for even a short amount of time, you will know that the perfect conditions don’t always exist for every single plant you own. If you choose to put your plant in a less lit area than it “prefers,” it will likely be fine. Your plant will “tolerate” the decreased light, however it will slow its growth dramatically. This is fine, if you don’t mind your plant staying relatively the same size. Just know, with less growth, your plant will also need much less water. A very common mistake people often make is to move their plant to a less lit area, but keep watering it the same amount. This just ends up killing the plant, as it can’t use up the water quickly enough and ends up drowning/rotting. (If you want to learn more about healthy watering habits, read this blog!)
















We hope this helps!!


If you are still unclear about different light requirements and how to interpret the care guide you looked up on the internet, let us know! We are always happy to help and want to do everything we can to help you grow in your knowledge of plant care, so that your plants stay healthy, strong and beautiful! Leave a comment, fill out a contact form, give us a call, or reach out through social media and we will be in touch with you as soon as we can!