Understanding Your Plant's Lighting Needs
One of the easiest mistakes to make is choosing a house plant solely based on where it will look best!
Whilst this is (obviously) super important, you’ll also need to consider what sort of natural light it will need to thrive. ALL plants need light to survive but depending on the species, the amount and type of light they need to thrive will vary. Remember these key four facts:
- Lots of plants will be burnt by too much direct light
- NO plants will survive in a windowless room
- Some plants will tolerate shadier spots, whilst others will need more light
- There will be less light in winter and more in summer. You may have to move your plants according to season. Have a look at our Autumn and Winter care guide for keeping your plants happy during shorter days.
Your plant's natural habitat
One of the easiest ways to understand your plants lighting needs is to picture them in their natural habitat. For example, most cacti are found in deserts with little or no shade, in very hot and sunny places. Plants like these thrive in bright direct light.
Lots of other plants that are commonly kept as house plants, like Calathea and Maranta are native to tropical America. They are often found in the jungles at the bottom of the canopy and in these spaces there is very little direct sunlight. Lighting in areas like this is often referred to as indirect light.
So what sort of lighting does my home have?
Have a look at the windows in your home/room and figure out whether they face North, East, South or West.
A south facing window will get direct light all day. Position plants right by this window that thrive in lots of direct light, such as cacti. You'll want to avoid putting plants like Monstera and Ficus directly in front of a south facing window as their leaves will likely burn in the hotter months. Plants that are very sensitive to direct light, such as Ferns and Marantas can be positioned even further away.
An east facing window will get direct sun in the morning, whereas a west facing window will get direct light in the evening. Lots of species like Monstera and Ficus will often do well relatively close to these windows. During the summer on particularly hot, sunny days you may still need to pop these types of plants away from East or West facing windows to avoid them burning.
A North facing window won’t get any direct light. If it’s a fairly large unobstructed window, species like Monstera and Ficus will generally still do well here but this will be a perfect spot for plants sensitive to direct light, such as Calathea or Maranta.
You may need to move your house plants according to season. For example, you may just get away with positioning your succulents in a large unobstructed North facing window during the summer but they will suffer in the same position in winter from lack of vitamin-D.
Likewise, your Calathea will likely appreciate being positioned close to an east facing window in the depths of winter to absorb as much of the scarce sunlight as possible. However, in the height of summer the same position would cause their leaves to burn and shrivel up.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to lighting and there are many other factors that you may need to consider. For example, that large tree on the other side of your South facing window may create the perfect spot for your Monstera that would otherwise be too bright. Here are a few other things to consider:
Size of windows
Things that may obstruct light, such as trees, buildings, cars etc
How often the blinds are closed
Is the window tinted or frosted
Colour of your walls - lighter colours will reflect light and create more abundant natural light than darker rooms.
Shade Tolerant Plants
This eye-catching prayer plant has distinctive leaves with red veins running from the centre to the edges of its leaves with pink/red undersides.
If there was an award for the most easy-going house plant, Zamioculas Zamiifolia or ZZ Plant would be a top contender. Not only are they super easy to care for, their luscious green angular leaves along tall stems give them a sculptural look.
We love this plant's textured leaves with splashes of grey! Unfussy and easy to care for, the Satin Pothos would look great on your bookshelf, thriving in indirect light.
These gorgeous plants earn their nickname from their dark green heart-shaped leaves. Perfect if you're looking for a trailing plant - perhaps to put on a bookshelf or high up in your home.
Catci are no strangers to the sun - why not treat yourself or a loved one to the stunning pillar cactus with it's column-like branches and shimmery blue foliage?
This variegated cactus with it's chunky trunk and pale ghost-like complexion can handle a variety of lighting conditions and is fairly drought intolerant, making it a great for placing in direct light and sharing with the world outside your window!