Light plays a crucial role in the health and growth of a plant. Indooor plants can especially struggle if placed in a home with dim or poor lighting. So, it’s essential to understand precisely how you can give your houseplant the light they need.
Here are some of the best ways to give your houseplants enough light to grow:
- Place your plants near south-facing windows.
- Put your houseplants outside when the weather is good.
- Use reflective surfaces for additional sunlight.
- Paint your walls white to reflect more light.
- Utilize artificial lighting.
- Hang indoor plants when possible.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss the most effective methods for providing your indoor plants with adequate light. I will also be explaining a few essential lighting concepts about plants. So if you would like to learn more about creating enough light for your houseplant’s growth, read on.
Why Plants Need Light to Grow
When deciding on the placement of your indoor plants, it’s essential to understand why plants need sunlight to grow. It’s no secret that plants must have light to grow, but what is sunlight’s exact role in your houseplants’ growth?
Sunlight provides the plant with energy to convert the nutrients it pulls from the soil into plant food. This food is then used to produce healthy leaves, flowers, and fruit. This process is known as photosynthesis.
In general, most indoor plants require moderate to bright indirect light to thrive. Inadequate light can cause slow growth, weakened stems, yellowing leaves or dropping leaves. Insufficient light can also make plants susceptible to pests and diseases.
However, the amount of sunlight required for plant growth varies depending on the species. Some plants have high light requirements, while others will thrive with just enough sunlight. For example, a cactus will likely require more light than a Staghorn Fern.
1. Place Your Plants Near South-Facing Windows
First, the easiest way to provide your houseplants with plenty of light is to place them next to the windows in your home that receive the most natural light. Typically, these will be your south and west-facing windows.
These two window positionings provide more light. South-facing windows get the most sunlight during the day. This increased amount of sunlight is due to the sun being overhead from these windows.
West-facing windows generally get some sunlight as it sets. Though because of the sun’s angle as it moves across the sky, your plants should still get good light without too much heat.
However, you can also place plants close to east-facing windows for them to soak up the morning light. Plants with low-light requirements will even prefer an east-facing window, as the sun’s rays will be less harsh.
Carefully monitor your plants and change up their positioning as needed. For example, a plant thriving in a south-facing window during the winter may become sunburned from the summer heat and need to be moved to a less exposed window.
You should also consider regularly rotating your plant, as it needs to get sunlight across its entire surface area. If the light exposure is limited to one side of the plant, it must be rotated.
2. Put Your Houseplants Outside When the Weather Is Good
Next, if you live somewhere with little direct sunlight, a great way to supplement your indoor plants’ light is to place them outdoors on good weather days.
So long as the temperature outside is mild, your houseplant will likely enjoy a few hours outside to soak up some sun.
Keep an eye on your plants and bring them in if the temperature gets too warm or cold. Each plant will need to maintain a specific temperature to remain healthy.
So what temperature do indoor plants need to stay happy?
What Temperature Indoor Plants Prefer
Similar to light needs, plants’ temperature needs also tend to vary from species to species.
However, most houseplants will thrive if the home’s temperature is kept between 70-80 °F (21-27 °C) during the day and around 65-70 °F (18-21 °C) at night.
If you have plants with different temperature needs, try placing them in warm or cooler locations throughout your home.
Most plants will quickly die if the temperature drops below 50 °F (10 °C). Fortunately, this low temperature doesn’t usually occur in a house.
However, if you have a plant placed near an air conditioning vent during the summer or a window during the winter, your houseplant’s temperature will plummet. So it’s essential to pay attention to your plant’s location as the weather changes.
Many household variables can affect your plant’s temperature, such as:
- Air vents
3. Use Reflective Surfaces for Additional Sunlight
Another effective method to improve your plant’s health is to invite more sunlight into your home using mirrors.
A mirror is a great tool to capture and bounce light into the otherwise dim parts of your home. In addition, proper mirror placement can allow you to manipulate light where you need it, thus providing your plants with the much-needed energy from the sun.
Mirrors are ideal reflective devices, but the reflective surface can be made of anything. A reflective vinyl sticker will also do a great job bouncing light to your houseplants.
4. Paint Your Walls White to Reflect More Light
You should consider painting your walls white if you’re genuinely dedicated to giving your indoor plants plenty of light to grow.
The reason white paint is so effective is that it’s able to bounce light rather than absorb it. This bounced light can help increase the amount of light your plants receive, which can come in extra handy if your home is dim.
White paint on a wall functions similarly to how reflective photography screens operate. The light bounces off the light surface straight back to the object in front of it. A white wall will act similarly.
Also, technically the paint doesn’t have to be white. Any light, bright color can aid in reflecting light on your indoor plants. However, white will do the best job of accomplishing a more reflective surface.
5. Utilize Artificial Lighting
Another way to increase indoor plants’ light to stimulate growth is to use artificial grow lights. There are many different types of grow lights, but they all serve a primary function– stimulating plant growth.
These lights are especially effective if your home lacks natural light and you still want to keep healthy plants indoors.
What Is a Plant Grow Light?
Grow lights have become incredibly popular over the years, but what is their purpose, and how do they work?
A grow light is a light that aids in stimulating plant growth. The artificial light acts in place of the sun, providing light the plants can utilize and convert into energy. The trapped energy is then converted into chemical energy, which aids in food production for the plant.
Grow lights come with different settings and, of course, benefits. For example, industrial grow lights are designed for large warehouses full of produce. On the other hand, smaller grow lights are designed specifically to be used in small spaces in your home.
The most popular types of grow lights:
- LED lights
- Halogen lights
- Fluorescent lights
- Incandescent lights
Typically, LED grow lights are used to supplement light to indoor plants in dark or dim environments. LEDs are safer than other lights and are easier to manufacture for at-home use. Plus, LED grow lights are significantly cheaper than industrial-grade ones.
6. Hang Indoor Plants When Possible
Finally, another great way to give indoor plants extra light is to hang them near windows (if possible). Hanging your plants ensures they make the most of light coming from the window, which can be a great boost for ground-sitting plants.
When you hang plants, they can also get additional light as it’s easier to place them in locations with ideal light.
If you want to learn a little more about creating additional light for indoor plants, Summer Rayne Oakes has a fantastic video on increasing lighting for your plants, and she does a great job showcasing how each method works:
Matching Plants to Light Conditions
All plants require sunlight. And as I previously stated, the exact amount depends on the type of plant and its unique requirements.
So what are the different types of lighting, and what kinds of plants prefer them?
Plants that prefer low light do best out of direct sunlight. Full sun will be too harsh for these plants, meaning they’ll do better placed somewhere out of the sun’s direct path.
Indoor plants that prefer low light conditions do a great job of creating plant food without too much light and will struggle when exposed to direct or excessive sunlight.
Here are some plants that do best placed in low light:
- Snake Plants
- Spider Plants
- Golden Pothos
- English Ivy
- Wax Begonia
These are just a few houseplants that prefer (and do well in) indirect or filtered light. When placing a low-light plant in your home, it should be somewhere that doesn’t have a view of the sky, as the sun shouldn’t directly hit the plant at any time of the day.
A medium-light plant prefers a healthy mix of low light and high light. Generally, medium light plants need to be placed in areas where they will receive a little sun throughout the day but never too much direct light.
Houseplants that enjoy medium light:
- Aluminum Plant
- Christmas Cactus
These plants certainly need a good amount of light to grow. However, they prefer only a little direct sunlight as too much can result in droopy leaves. Therefore, if possible, you should place medium light plants in rooms that receive partial direct sunlight throughout the day.
Houseplants with high light requirements need to be placed somewhere that receives full sun for most of the day. South-facing windows are ideal for these kinds of plants. These plants also tend to do better with the warmer temperature and full sun from sunny windows.
Indoor plants that require high light to grow:
- African Milk Bush
- Jade Plant
- Sago Palm
- Aloe Vera
Each of these plants does well in high light conditions. However, it’s still best to monitor your plants for signs of overheating, dehydration or sun damage.
Some climates are harsher than others. Even heat-loving, high-light plants will sometimes struggle if the sunlight is too concentrated.
Signs of Insufficient Light in Plants
Growing plants indoors is an excellent way to bring a bit of nature into your home, and they are certainly addictive to have around.
However, as you well know, getting enough lighting for your plants can be tricky. So how can you tell if your house plants suffer from a lack of sunlight?
Signs your plants aren’t getting enough light include:
- Leggy growth
- Stunted growth
- Soil retains moisture far too long
- Pale and yellowish leaves
- Leaning toward the nearest light source
If you notice these signs in your plants, it’s crucial to act fast and provide adequate light. Sun-deprived plants will quickly use up their energy stores and can even die! Therefore, the sooner you provide adequate sunlight, the faster your houseplant can begin to recover.
How to Tell if an Indoor Plant Needs Less Light
Just like outdoor plants, indoor ones can get too much light. Lighting preferences play a huge part in each plant’s health. And when their lighting needs aren’t met, a plant will quickly become unwell. Therefore, you must recognize the signs of a plant receiving too much sun.
Signs your plants are getting too much light include:
- Burned leaves
- Crumbly or dry leaves
- Faded coloration
- Soil dries out quickly
- A plant that is hot to the touch
Each of these are signs your plant is getting too much sun. Luckily, this is easily remedied by repositioning the plants within your home.
How Many Hours of Light Do Houseplants Need?
Another essential thing to know is how much light your plants need to thrive for years to come. Now, many plants will have different lighting requirements, especially those that enjoy low light vs. high light. So, how many hours of light should you give your indoor plants?
Houseplants need 16-18 hours of light each day unless they are low-light plants. The amount of light houseplants need makes south-facing windows or artificial grow lights ideal, especially if you live somewhere dim. Indoor plants can easily get enough sunlight near windows or skylights.
Most plants will do best when receiving a full day’s sunshine. However, there are several exceptions, and plants that prefer low light need sun too, albeit indirectly. So, do your research and monitor your plants to determine whether they need more or less sunshine.
Several methods work well to increase the amount of light for plants in your home.
The most effective methods for adding light to your houseplants are:
- Place them near windows.
- Put plants outdoors briefly during good weather.
- Add mirrors in your home to bounce more light around.
- Paint some walls white to create more reflective light surfaces.
- Add some artificial light.
- Hang plants to allow for more plants to be near windows.
To learn more on keeping your houseplants healthy, you could check out my other article: How to Care for Houseplants (The Ultimate Guide)