Indoor Plants Lighting Guide

The indoor plants lighting guide provides information about the light requirements needed for plants that's vital for them to survive and grow well.

Various conditions are essential factors which have to be provided for a house plants survival, including water, humidity, a suitable growing medium, correct temperatures and of course "light".

Main Types Of Natural Light Settings

Plants in a group sitting near windows
  • Full Sun: Most house plants do not like full sun and many of them will become very damaged or will not survive very long when they receive too much direct sunlight. The only plants that enjoy summer sun is desert cacti, and succulents can tolerate a lot of sun (succulents seem to prefer some sun and bright conditions) . Full sun is experienced from a south facing window.

  • Partial sunlight and shade: For a plant to receive sun during the day for a couple of hours or so it will need to be seated close to a west or east facing window. Placed near a west or east facing window will give a plant some morning or evening sun; avoiding the heat of the midday sun. Many plants, especially flowering types grow at their best close to a window in partial sun and shade.

  • Full shade or low light: Most plants do not grow at their best in shaded or low light conditions, especially flowering types. However, you'll find some species survive and are known for their ability to thrive in low light and they're easy to grow (good for beginner growers). A few plants come to mind that grow in low lighting well includes the cast iron plant, mother in laws tongue, dragon tree, zz plant and others which you can find in a collection here. A north facing window provides full shade, but low light can often depend on the size or amount of windows in a room.

  • Bright without direct sun: This is the lighting requirement for most foliage plants and many flowering types too. The best place for bright light without direct sun is a south facing window; with the plant set back a few feet from the window. East and west facing windows are also suitable if the window is large enough to allow plenty of daylight, with the plant sitting far enough back from the early midday sun arriving and early sunset.

Identifying Problems

If a plant is not receiving enough light or too much direct sunlight there are tell tale signs to look out for. Here are the common problems caused by incorrect lighting.

    Not Enough

  • Flowers not blooming
  • Weak, slow and spindly growth.
  • Yellowing leaves which eventually fall.
  • New leaves remain smaller than usual.

    Too Much

  • Flowers shrivel up and die quickly.
  • Leaves shrivelling up and drying.
  • Leaves fade in colour.
  • Drooping leaves.

Growing Towards Windows

Quite often plant leaves and stems can begin to grow on one side towards a window more than another side. This is normal when one side is getting more light. To solve this problem turn the plant around every couple of weeks to the other side, or you can move it to a spot where the lighting covers more of the plant.

Artificial Lighting

Flourecent light bulb

Some plants may need artificial lighting to be able to grow well indoors, but not that many. During the winter (in temperate climates) it can be pretty light-less all day and maybe only 7 hours daylight (never mind sunshine), so you may have to provide artificial lighting, especially for those that need up to 12 hours a day. Using artificial lighting is an ideal way to grow in a room without windows, and for propagating plants.

Using artificial lighting provides a grower with extra benefits of having certain flowering plants (like the African violet) in bloom during winter months. And, keeps foliage plants looking green and healthy.

Type of lighting: Household lights are not suitable artificial lighting and do not have the desired affect on indoor plants.

Florescent lights are best used which can be affordable to buy, and available in different styles with tubing or spot lamps. The tubing lights have to be hung from the ceiling or a frame and will have a reflective background. Terrariums with lighting are a great option.

The cheapest option which is also suitable "if your just supplementing natural daylight for a few hours a day" is a compact florescent lamp, which are bulbs that can be used in any lamp you have (with the correct fitting), although a lamp with reflective background is best used.

Different spectrum’s (light radiation) or a combination of them are available for the type of plant or situation they're growing in, which represents the changes from natural sunlight. Gro-lux florescent bulbs are specially designed for indoor growing and emit a mixture of blue and red light spectrum's.

See Choosing Grow Lights Guide Here »

Other Information And Tips

Photosynthesis: Plants receiving enough light is part of the process which gives us the oxygen we breath; called photosynthesis.

Diagram of plant photosynthesis

Conservatories: A conservatory is one of the best places for growing indoor plants because of the amount of light they receive. Most plants can be grown in here without direct sunlight unless they're cacti (cacti can have full sun). Even a north facing conservatory can receive enough light for foliage plants to grow well.

Moving plants: I've seen plant problems caused so many times when they've been moved to a new place. This can temporarily put a plant in to shock before they adjust to the new lighting arrangement - or it can kill some species.

You really need to look at each plant specifically to see if it's advisable to move the plant. Many foliage types are usually fine, but do check the specific plant. With some plants it can be the best thing to do, especially moving it closer to a window during the winter to receive more daylight.

Plant arrangement: Arranging plants to sit in groups is a way of offering a set of plants a varied amount of light each. A plant that needs more light than another can sit at the front and then plants that enjoy being in shade can be at the back or side. This is a great opportunity to improve the humidity levels as well, because of the water vapour from the damp soil.

Plants also need rest: While most plants thrive in 12 - 14 hours of daylight each day they also need their rest period which includes resting during the winter with other care instructions that have to be followed. I mention this in case a person may think providing a plant with more than the average 12 hours a day lighting will improve the plants growth, when in fact it will just tire it out and cause harm.

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