Inside: The lighting in your home pretty much sucks. You want to own plants but struggle to figure out which ones will survive in the dark corners of your home. Learn how to find the best lighting for indoor plants.
Unfortunately, homes aren’t built to accommodate our plants with perfect light. If only life were that easy. Some walls of newer homes are painted in smokers-tooth yellow. Some walls in other homes may be painted any color other than white. As beautiful as other shades are, only walls painted in light colors will reflect an adequate amount of light that’ll benefit your plants.
Lighting exposure plays a huge part in the amount of light our homes receive. Aside from water, sufficient lighting is one of the most important things you can give to your plants.
For those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have good lighting, we must struggle with finding plants that are more suited for our poor lighting conditions.
This is why you need to find the best lighting for indoor plants
When plants lack the correct amount of light, they stop producing chlorophyll. Chlorophyll keeps the plant’s leaves green. By not receiving enough chlorophyll the leaves of the plant will turn yellow. Insufficient lighting is not the only cause of yellow leaves.
Your plant may become leggy. Succulents will stretch out and lose their compact form; whereas other plants will leave long spaces on the stems between the leaf nodes.
Variegated plants can revert to all green.
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Difference between low light and bright indirect light
The term low light means no direct sunlight will touch your plant.
The term bright indirect light means the sun’s rays don’t directly hit your plant. The rays from the sun will bounce off of an object, such as a wall before reaching your plant.
If you can see a clear, well-defined shadow on the wall, that area is getting bright indirect light.
How to determine the light level in your home
The best way to determine the light level in your home is to use a light meter. Since this isn’t something most households have, you can do the following “non-scientific”, way to determine how much light your home is receiving.
At the brightest time of the day (typically early afternoon) pick a spot in your house you’re thinking about making your plants forever home. Hold up your hand and take a good look at the shadow it casts.
If the shadow is well defined, and you can see the outline of your hand clearly, that part of your home is considered “high light” or “bright light”.
If the shadow isn’t well-defined and it’s either faint or you can’t see the outline, that would be considered “low light”.
North-facing windows tend not to have a lot of direct sunlight. Although you’ll receive light coming through a North-facing window in the mid-morning to afternoon, the light isn’t that bright.
With a North-facing window, you should be able to read a book comfortably without putting on any additional lighting. The room is getting light, but not that much.
A North-facing window would be considered a low-light environment.
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South-facing windows provide the most light. If nothing blocks the light, a South-facing window will produce direct sunlight within 2 to 3 feet from the window.
The sun coming from a South-facing window is the strongest in the morning.
This type of exposure would be considered high and/or bright light, and bright-indirect light if the light is around 5 to 6 feet away from the window, or in a shady spot next to a sunny spot.
East-facing windows receive sun in the morning. The sun’s rays aren’t as strong in the morning.
The sun coming from an East-facing window is the most ideal light you can receive.
This type of exposure would be considered medium and/or bright indirect light.
West-facing windows are the most intense light your home can receive. West-facing windows typically receive full afternoon and evening sun. The rays from the afternoon sun are usually the strongest.
This type of exposure would be considered high and/or bright direct light.
Houseplants that do well in low-light situations
The majority of houseplants will do excellent in medium to bright indirect light; however, most new plant parents struggle with finding plants that will do well in a low-light environment.
Low light doesn’t mean NO LIGHT. Everything needs light to grow (except if you’re an angler fish or some other deep-sea dweller that’s never seen light in their life).
A low light plant requires little to or no direct light. These are the types of plants that typically grow on the ground under trees and other brush.
Although the list below is not inclusive, you’ll find 20 of the most readily available plants that will do well in low light.
- Arrowhead (Syngonium)
- Cast Iron (Aspidistra)
- Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
- Dumb Cane (Diffenbachia)
- Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
- Parlor Palm (Chaemadora)
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
- Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
- Pothos (Epipremnum)
- Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata – formerly known as Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)
- ZZ Plant ( Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
Like human beings, although plants do require the same nutrients such as light, water, and a good feeding every once in a while, please remember, that all plants are different. Just because a plant that’s supposed to do well in a bright area doesn’t mean it won’t flourish in a low-light setting.
As a plant parent, you’ll start to learn about your plants. They become your kids where you’ll know in an instant if they need to be watered, or if they need to be moved to a new location due to light issues.
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Some of the plants in my collection do much better in the dark abyss of my living room with supplemental lighting than they do in the bright light they’re technically supposed to thrive in.
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My Aloe Vera plant thrives in low-light conditions
A good example of this would be my aloe plant. Aloe plants are deemed to grow best in full sun if they’re outside; however, they’re prone to getting sunburned. I had an aloe plant in a planter on my front porch, so I decided to move it indoors into the area of my home I call the “dark abyss”.
As you can see from the image above, this Aloe plant is doing phenomenally in a very low light area that gets light supplemental lighting that’s approximately 3 feet away from the surface of the light. If you’re interested in the same supplemental lighting I use throughout my home, you can find the grow light system here.
What’s your lighting situation?
Do you struggle with trying to figure out the best lighting for indoor plants due to your home environment? Share in a comment.