Common Care Questions

Understanding Lighting in Your Home and How It Affects Your Plants

If you’re looking to add new plants to your space, one significant factor you must keep in mind is the kind of lighting you have at home. Not sure? Here’s how to guess your light level.

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How can I figure out what kind of light I have at home?

To better understand light within your home, it’s important to know where your windows point, especially if you rely on natural lighting to help your houseplants grow. Not sure which direction your windows face? Use a compass or a compass app on your phone!

Once you know what direction your windows face, you can better determine how much light they're letting into your space:

North-Facing Windows: Generally low to moderate indirect light. These spaces are best suited for low-light tolerant plants like snake plants, ZZ plants, and pothos plants. Bright direct sun is hard to come by with north-facing windows.

South-Facing Windows: Generally bright indirect light to full sun in the afternoon. These spaces are best suited for sun-loving plants like succulents, cacti, varieties of Ficus, and the infamous Monstera deliciosa.

East-Facing Windows: Generally medium to bright, indirect light. These spaces are best suited for plants that can tolerate a wide spectrum of light, from low-light tolerant picks like the snake plant and pothos to plants that need brighter (but still mostly indirect) light like the Monstera deliciosa or Fiddle Leaf Fig.

West-Facing Windows: Generally medium to bright indirect light, similar to east-facing windows, with some direct sun moving across at the end of the day. Ideal for most houseplants.

Now that you know what direction your windows face, and what levels of light your space generally receives, here are a few other factors to keep in mind:

1. Consider obstructions outside your windows: Look out for anything that will block sunlight in your home. Even if you have a south-facing window, if it faces a building or is obstructed by trees, it will diffuse the amount of light coming in. Be mindful of indoor obstructions as well, like furniture and other plants blocking a window.

2. Consider the size of your windows: The size of your windows will help indicate how much light will be dispersed coming inwards. If you have larger windows, you can place plants farther away and they will still receive plenty of light, while the smaller windows will only provide a limited range of sunlight. If you can, it’s best to place plants near the window, especially if there are obstructions, or no more than 2-3 feet away. Plants that are more low-light tolerant can be placed farther away from the window as long as they can still see outside.

3. Get more specific with a light meter: You can invest in a light meter to measure light, especially if sunlight is dispersed farther from the window, to ensure there is enough in your home for your dream plant. Generally, anywhere between 100-200+ foot candles is where plants want to be. Low-light tolerant plants can withstand as low as 50-75 foot candles.

4. Add supplemental lighting: If you don’t have ideal lighting for the plants you’d like (for example, if you have a northern exposure but want more bright light plants, or have dead zones of natural light in general), you can consider adding artificial light to your home. Plants cannot survive without some form of sunlight (natural or artificial), so if you want to add plants to a basement office or a bathroom without a window, add a grow light to help your plant thrive.

Words By The Sill

Empowering all people to be plant people—a collection of articles from The Sill’s team of plant experts across a variety of plant care topics to inspire confidence in the next generation of plant parents. Welcome to Plant Parenthood™.

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