Houseplants add a lot to a home. They're beautiful and decorative; some can even help purify the air. But not every plant needs the same things, and they thrive in different environments.
Light is one of the most important things you must consider when bringing a new plant into your home. Without the proper lighting, your plant may not flourish. Knowing what types of light you have throughout your home can help you figure out where to place your plants.
Direct light is when the sun reaches your plant without being blocked by any obstacles. Technically, the only way to get direct sunlight is to keep your plants outside, which makes giving direct light to indoor plants a little confusing.
The light that comes in through glass is filtered a bit, so you must be careful what window you place your plants near if they require direct sunlight, though most houseplants that call for direct light are assuming it's coming through a window.
Indirect sunlight passes through something, like a curtain or window sheer, before reaching the plant. You can also place your plants outside the box of light coming in the window.
Many plants prefer bright indirect light. They still get a lot of light, but none directly touches the plant. It's easy to confuse this with low light, but there is quite a difference. Just because the light isn't directly touching the plant doesn't mean it isn't getting a good amount of light. Plants that like indirect light should be about three feet from a window.
One good way to tell indoor direct light from indirect is to look at the shadow. If the edges of the shadow are well-defined, the light is pretty direct. If the shadow is fuzzy and indistinct, it's probably indirect light!
Due to the angle and direction of the sun in the northern hemisphere, it is very hard to give plants direct light in a north-facing window.
A north-facing window provides low to moderate light and is an acceptable place for golden pothos, snake plants, ZZ plants, and prayer plants.
South-facing windows provide the brightest light for indoor plants, with the most light coming through in the afternoon. Many factors can affect this, though, and if the window is blocked by trees, buildings, or overhangs, it may not let in enough light.
Unblocked south-facing windows are a good place for succulents, cacti, crotons, ponytail palms, and gardenias.
East-facing windows provide a few hours of direct light in the morning. Morning light is not as intense as afternoon light, and instructions for some plants that require less intense light might indicate this location.
You can place various plants in east-facing windows, including those that need a little more light, like a fiddle leaf fig, or those that can tolerate low light, like snakes plants and pothos.
West-facing windows are similar to east-facing windows, except that the light comes in most directly in the afternoon instead of in the morning.
This type of window is suitable for most houseplants, except for those that need direct light.
If you want to use supplemental lighting because the windows in your home are not suitable for the plants you want, LED lights are a good option.
Most grow lights use LED bulbs, which are very bright, but it's important to keep in mind that LED lights have to be close to the plant to be effective. Try to keep them within one foot of the top of the plant, and remember you'll need to adjust this as the plant grows.
You can use regular fluorescent lights to grow some plants, but they are not as efficient as other options. You have to choose the right plants, and the lights should be about four inches from the leaves.
Some plants that can tolerate fluorescent light are ZZ plants, bromeliads, peace lilies, peperomia, pothos, and snake plants.
Incandescent light bulbs used to be pretty standard "ordinary light bulbs" until LEDs became so commonplace. This type does not emit the full-color spectrum of light, so they are not the best choice for plants.
Incandescent bulbs are not very efficient, either. They burn out quickly, and you need to use a lot of them to give your plants the amount of light they need to grow.
UV or ultraviolet light is present in natural sunlight, and although it helps plants grow in different ways, it's not the best choice on its own. Plants do not technically need UV light to grow, and some are very sensitive to it.
Some studies show that UV light can benefit plants by increasing leaf size and making plants stronger and more resilient, but too much UV light can decrease a plant's ability to photosynthesize and cause bleaching of the flowers and leaves.