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Houseplant Lighting 101

Lighting is an essential factor in plant growth, and it's particularly important for indoor plants. Indoor light is vastly different from the lighting conditions plants are exposed to when grown naturally outdoors. Each plant is sensitive to different types of lighting, and it is crucial to understand the basics of light exposure and plant positioning. The following guide will help you learn the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a spot for your plant!

Houseplant Lighting 101

About Indoor Lighting

Light Length

Light length refers to the amount of time that your indoor plant is exposed to light. It will depend on the location, as well as the weather conditions outside. For example, a plant placed in front of a South window receives direct sunlight for most of the day, way more light than a plant placed in a shady area.

Light Intensity

Light intensity refers to the amount of sunlight exposure received by the plant. For instance, direct sunlight is more intense than indirect sunlight; indirect sunlight is more intense than partial sunlight or shade.

Light Spectrum

Light spectrum refers to the coolness or warmth of the light. Direct sunlight is warm, while partial shade is considered cool.

Types of Lighting

There are four primary types of plant lighting. It is essential to learn the difference between them because plants are highly sensitive to light and could thriveor faildepending on what type of light they are exposed to indoors.

Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight refers to a location exposed to full sun, not hampered by blinds, curtains, or other objects. Plants that require direct sunlight will need direct exposure to the sun in order to thrive.

If your plant needs direct sunlight, you can place it in the following areas: within 2 feet of a Southern or South Western facing window; on a window sill that is filled with direct sunlight for at least a portion of the day; or, if possible, a sunroom.

Some plants may only require direct sunlight for a part of the day. If this is the case, you can consider placing the plant in a position that can be partially shaded when necessary; for instance, a window sill that receives direct sunlight but which can be blocked by blinds or shades once the plant has received enough sun for the day.

Indirect Sunlight

Indirect sunlight refers to a location which is not directly exposed to sunlight, but which still receives bright light. Most indoor plants prefer indirect sunlight.

If your plant needs indirect sunlight, place it within 4 to 5 feet of an eastern facing window, or in any room where the sun shines inside only for a few hours.

Partial shade

Partial shade refers to a location where a plant does not receive sunlight for most of the day.

If your plant needs partial shade, you should place it in locations such as directly near a Northern facing window or close to an Eastern facing window that only receives morning sun.


Shade refers to locations that do not receive any sunlight.

If your plant needs a shady location, place it in areas such as staircases, corners or hallways without windows; near windows with trees that provide shade; or in front of a Northern facing window.

Signs of Problems with Lighting

Not Enough Light

If your plant is not getting enough light, you may notice that the overall growth of the plant appears stunted.

New leaves may be too small, grow extremely slowly or not grow at all; there may be spindly branches and large spaces in between leaves; flowers may not blossom or blossom weakly, and you may notice new shoots growing directly towards light.

If your plant is not getting enough light, make sure to move it to a location where it will receive more.

Too Much Light

If your plant is receiving too much light, you will likely notice the plant becoming unhealthy and dry.

Signs that your plant is receiving too much light include scorched leaves, yellow or brown leaves, wilting leaves, as well as dry, crunchy leaves, which will likely fall off the plant completely.

You may also notice that the soil of the plant is excessively dry, even when you water it regularly. This is a sign that the plant is soaking up water quickly in order to compensate for the high temperatures caused by sunlight exposure.

If your plant is showing these symptoms, move it to an area where it will be exposed to less sunlight.

Research your plant needs in advance so that you can provide just the right amount of light.

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