Indoor Plant Lighting Breakdown

Indoor Plant Lighting Breakdown

Feb 23, 2022

Most houseplants thrive in bright indirect light. This is a fact that you will likely hear over and over again when looking into various plant care regimens. But what exactly is bright indirect light? And where can you place your indoor plants so that they receive the perfect amount of sunshine?

These are the tough questions, and while the Garden Goods Direct Team can’t make the trip to your house and show you where your plants will thrive, we can most definitely provide you with some houseplant lighting guidelines to help you properly place your plants.

In this blog, we will go over the difference between indirect lighting and direct lighting, the different directions of light and their strengths, and the optimal house plant placement for your plants based on their specific lighting needs. Before you know it, your plants will be living their best lives soaking up the perfect amount of sunlight.

The Difference Between Indirect Light and Direct Light

Indirect vs. Direct Light Graphic

If you’ve ever researched your houseplants’ ideal lighting conditions, odds are a good majority of resources will tell you that your plant wants indirect lighting. When it comes to designating what spots in your home receive indirect light, versus direct light, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two.

To better understand the ideal lighting levels for your plants, you must first learn the difference between indirect versus direct light.

Indirect lighting is anywhere that the sun’s rays are partially blocked by obstacles. If you live in a city, odds are the majority of your home only receives indirect sunlight because the rays are intercepted by the tall city buildings that surround your home. Other obstacles like outdoor trees, furniture, curtains and walls can work to block the sun’s direct rays.

Direct sunlight covers a space with no interruption. Most often plants will only receive direct rays if placed outside. However, if you have windows with no obstructions in the way of light, then it's possible for your home to receive some direct light. Direct light almost always leads to foliage burn and stressed plants. Unless your regime calls for direct sunlight, we recommend you avoid placing your houseplants in it.

Houseplant Light Levels

Plants are highly adaptive, and for many plants, you won’t have to find the most perfect placement, because it’s likely they will adapt. For your plants optimal growth though, it's best to give each houseplant the approximate amount of sunlight that they are used to.

When breaking down your plant care regimens, lighting needs can be divided into three categories: low light, medium light and high light.

Low light plants require little to no sunlight whatsoever, plants in this category are likely low maintenance plants like Sansevieria and ZZ plants. Medium light plants thrive in early morning sun or mild evening sun. Plants in this category would include Pothos and Philodendron. High light plants thrive in a bright indirect or direct sun depending upon the plant. Most commonly the high light thriving plants are cacti and succulents.

Window Light Directions

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of indirect versus direct light, you can now work to analyze the different lighting levels of your home based on light direction.

By determining your home’s north, east, west and south facing windows and the levels of light they produce, you can better place your houseplants in their optimal position for growth.

North Facing Window Light Levels

North Facing Window Graphic

First on our list of window light levels is north-facing windows. Provided there are little obstructions to the light’s range, north-facing windows will provide the lowest light levels out of all window directions. Northern windows never make contact with the sun's direct rays, however this does not mean plants won’t thrive here.

Northern Exposure still provides a decent amount of sun, it is just not quite as strong. Ideal plants for Northern exposure windows are low light plants. This includes not only the popular Snake Plants and ZZ Plants, but also your tropical plants that originate from the shady floors of tropical forests like Philodendron.

For some great low light plant options that will thrive in your north facing window, check out our low light houseplant collection!

East Facing Window Light Levels

East Facing Window Graphic

Next on our list of light directions is the east facing window. East-facing windows provide bright indirect sunlight in the mornings, and then decline to a medium indirect light throughout the day.

Because east facing windows are constantly receiving a decent amount of light throughout the day, but not necessarily strong levels, this is the perfect spot for medium to lower light loving plants. You can also use this spot for plants that are readily adaptable and tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions like Pothos and Aglaonema.

If placed in close proximity to your east facing window, your plants will thrive in the medium levels of indirect light it provides.

West Facing Window Light Levels

West Facing Window Graphic

West-facing windows are a plant owner’s heaven. Ideal for a good majority of houseplants, your west-facing window will provide medium light that is strongest in the late afternoon to evening. Place your plants throughout the room and they will benefit from the afternoon’s mild but bright indirect rays.

South Facing Window Light Levels

South Facing Window Graphic

Last but not least on our list of window light levels, is the south-facing window. This is where the strongest and brightest light will enter your home. For many plants, the window sill of a south-facing window will be too strong–especially if the light is direct. However, sun-loving loving plants like cacti and succulents will love the heavy sunshine this angle provides.

Placing your plants a bit further away from the window would be ideal for houseplants that want a bright indirect light.

Indoor Plant Placement Based on Lighting

It’s important to note that most homes are not shaped like perfect squares, therefore these lighting level breakdowns are not full proof in placing your plants. However, we hope that this blog helped you gain a better understanding of the different lighting directions and levels in your home and what that means for your houseplant placement.

For more tips and tricks to becoming the best plant parent possible, be sure to check out our wide collection of houseplant blogs!