Best Windows For Plants: How to Select The Best Window For Your Plant
Understanding the light requirements for a plant is critical for houseplants. In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about window placement for houseplants.
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Understanding the light requirements for a plant is critical for houseplants. Correct lighting can produce a houseplant that grows beautifully while incorrect lighting can lead to sun-scorched leaves or unsightly leggy growth.
It's not only about the amount of light the plant needs but the intensity of the light that you have to consider. For beginners, it can be difficult to understand the difference the direction a window faces can make on the amount and intensity of sunlight provided. The light conditions found on a north-facing windowsill will not be the same as those found on a south-facing windowsill.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know to pick the best window for your plant's optimal growth and health.
Determine the Amount of Light Your Plant Needs
When it comes to indoor gardening, water and light are generally the two most important factors needed for healthy plant growth. When you purchase a new plant, it will likely come with a little card in the soil or a sticker on the side of the pot that lists the light requirements. You’ll typically see a description like shade, partial shade, partial sun, or full sun which leaves you to figure out what those terms mean on your own.
- Shade usually means less than two hours of sunlight per day.
- Partial shade means the plant requires 2 to 4 hours of sunlight per day.
- Partial sun refers to plants needing 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day.
- Full sun means a plant requires at least 6 hours of direct sun.
While these terms give you a general idea of how much light a plant should get, it usually doesn’t help you determine the intensity of light a plant requires.
For instance, many low-maintenance succulents and tropical plants require full sun. However, if you allow them to get direct afternoon sunlight, which is high intensity, some will develop leaf scorch. Bright indirect sunlight is key for these types of plants to thrive indoors.
Herbs, such as rosemary, lavender, and basil, love full sun and can handle high-intensity light well. That’s what makes them great window plants! Philodendrons and peace lilies are the opposite and prefer shady areas in your home and only need a few hours of indirect sunlight to be happy.
Some plants can survive with less light but will become leggy as they reach out in search of light. Succulents will become leggy without enough sunlight.
Calatheas have an interesting relationship with light which causes nastic movement. Nastic movement is the non-directional movement of plants in response to a stimulus such as light or touch. Calathea leaves move downward when light is present, making the leaf surface parallel to the ground to absorb more light. In the evening, the leaves move upwards in vertical positions when light isn’t present.
How to Measure Light Intensity
Light intensity can be measured in a variety of ways. The most common light measurements used are foot candles and lumens. One foot-candle is equal to the amount of light produced by 1 candela at a 1-foot distance.
Lumens are a measure of brightness often used by electricians who use a light meter to determine the number of lumens a lightbulb produces. For comparison, one foot-candle is equal to 10.57 lumens.
If you don’t want to purchase a light meter to determine the number of lumens your plant receives, there is another option. You can use shadows to determine how intense light is in a particular room.
Shortcut to determine light intensity of one of your windows.
Place an object where your plant will go and look at the shadow it creates. If the shadow is dark and has well-defined edges, the light is high intensity. If the shadow is lighter and has soft edges, the light intensity is low.
If you don’t have enough light in a room where you want to keep your plant, you can always use artificial light to supplement the natural light. Grow lights work great for this, and many can be adjusted to provide the exact amount of light you need for your plants.
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South-facing Window: The bright light source
South-facing windows will provide more light and higher intensity light than any other window in your home. During summer, in the northern hemisphere, rooms with south-facing windows will easily get 6 to 8 hours of bright light. Plants that can handle direct sunlight can be placed in front of these windows, while plants that require bright indirect light should be placed at least 5 feet away from the window.
Direct sunlight can burn indoor plants like string of pearls, certain succulents, and ficus plants which should be placed several feet away from south windows. Variegated varieties of some plants, such as variegated pothos varieties, require a lot of light that’s indirect in order to keep their variegation.
The best plants to put in south-facing windows that can handle the direct light are mature jade plants, croton, aloe vera, and most herbs. Full sun is also required for many indoor flowering plants, such as kalanchoe and lemon trees, for them to produce blooms.
East-facing Window: Morning sun, Afternoon shade
East-facing windows will get low to medium intensity direct sunlight from the morning sun and shade later in the day. In summer, they will get 2 to 4 hours of bright light and 4 to 6 hours of low light. Overall these windows provide medium light and will provide enough light for most plants that require partial shade.
The natural light provided by east-facing windows is great for plants like pothos and string of pearls which can be placed either in front of the window or anywhere in the room and be happy. Both monstera and fiddle leaf fig can handle the direct morning sunlight and be placed in front of east-facing windows. African violets and peperomia should be kept out of direct sunlight but do well when placed at least 5 feet away from these windows. Many orchids can also thrive with a few hours of the direct morning sun.
West-facing Window: Afternoon sun, morning shade
West-facing windows get higher intensity light in the afternoon and low-intensity light in the mornings. Plants prone to leaf scorch shouldn’t be placed too close to these windows or they may get too much light. Rooms with west windows are typically great for plants that require partial sun and will get 4 to 6 hours of low to medium-intensity light in the morning and 4 to 6 hours of high-intensity light in the afternoon during summer.
Plants that do well in rooms with west-facing windows include begonias such as angel wing begonia, rex begonia, and polka dot plants. They can typically handle a few hours of higher-intensity sunlight but should still be placed a few feet away from the window. Philodendrons and pothos also do well with bright light in the afternoon. Peace lilies can be placed in rooms with west windows but shouldn’t get any direct sunlight to avoid burning their leaves.
North-facing window: The shadiest window
North-facing windows get the least amount of sunlight and are great for shade-loving houseplants. They typically won’t get more than an hour or two of direct sunlight in the middle of summer. For the most part, they get low-intensity, indirect sunlight. While there aren’t a lot of plants that will tolerate lower light year round, there are still a few which can do really well in rooms with north windows.
Pothos, philodendrons, and peace lilies can tolerate low light levels which is why they are often used in offices with little natural light. Snake plants and zz plants can be placed on the ground or on a side table in front of north-facing windows.
Providing the right amount and intensity of light can make all the difference when it comes to indoor plant care. It can seem overwhelming trying to decide on the perfect place to put your new plant to ensure it gets the right amount of light.
Here at Neverland, we’ve taken out the guesswork when it comes to figuring out which plants will work well in your home based on lighting. You can search our entire plant inventory based on the amount of sunlight you have available!
You can also visit Neverland Blog to find all sorts of plant-growing tips and tricks to help you be the best plant parent possible!
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