Houseplant Lighting Guide

There are many factors that affect houseplant’s wellbeing. These involve everything from water (both the quality of water and the amount of watering), feeding, air circulation and, of course, the amount of light that reaches the plant. In this guide we’ll talk specifically about the lighting factor. Understanding this issue is important for helping your houseplants thrive, as different plants have different lighting requirements and can suffer when placed somewhere with the wrong amount of light. Getting this right is therefore the first step to making sure your houseplants are happy in your home.

Understanding natural lighting placements

Full Sun

The brightest of all placements for your plants. This would normally involve placing the plants in front of a south-facing window so that they can have as much sunlight as possible during daylight hours. This is actually too much sun for the majority of houseplants, with the exception of cacti, some succulents and other desert plants. Other plants can tolerate full sun if sufficiently watered. If your house is very bright and south-facing, make sure you select plants that can handle the brightness.

Partial Sun

This placement offers plants some direct sunlight throughout the day, but shelters them from the hottest parts of the day. It’s achieved by placing the plant in front of an east or west facing window. This is a perfect position for a whole range of houseplants and is particularly favoured by many flowering plants.

No direct sun (but bright)

This is the perfect placement for most houseplants. You can test whether a location offers the right amount of light by trying to read a book or a newspaper without resorting to switching on the lights. If you can read OK, your plant will get enough light. For this placement, set the plant back from a south-facing window (several feet) or a large east or west facing window.

Low light

Most plants will not thrive in a low-lighting environment, but there are some houseplants specifically suited to such conditions. If you have north-facing windows or live in a basement flat, you can still grow a wide selection of such plants. Ironically, many of these are actually tropical plants. The floor of the rainforest is quite dark, so these plants are accustomed to shade.

How to tell if something is wrong

Plants will let you know if they are getting too much or too little light. If you watch for the signs, you should be able to tell whether you need to increase or decrease the amount of light your plant is getting. It’s worth noting that some plants don’t respond well to being moved (they are stationary creatures, after all), so the best thing to do is to plan ahead and make sure you put the plant somewhere suitable to begin with. If, however, you have to move a plant, expect a short period of “shock”, where the plant may not thrive in its new location. If the new placement is right, though, the plant will regain its strength.

Signs that a plant is not getting enough light

Signs that a plant needs more light include small leaves, being weak and failing to thrive (weak growth that appears spindly or yellow) and lack of flowers.

Signs that a plant is getting too much light

Signs that conditions are too bright for your plant include faded, dry or drooping leaves, flowers that are quick to shrivel up and die.

Making corrections

In a perfect world, you would have access to ample natural lighting types and could simply place each plant in its perfect location. In reality, though, we are often limited by the circumstances present in our environment. Luckily, there are things you can do to make your house friendlier to plants, even if lighting conditions are wrong. For example, if you only have south-facing windows and can only put plants relatively close to them, you could put up curtains to block or soften some of the light. Alternatively, if your place is too dark for the plants you want to grow, you could supplement natural lighting with specialist artificial lighting. Standard house lights are not suitable for this. To find out more about the right type of lighting, go to this page here. The good news is that using the above methods, you can easily fix unsuitable growing conditions and help your houseplants grow big and strong. Make sure you read up about individual plants to find out what their lighting preferences are.