Welcome to our new series: The Top 10 Questions New Plant Parents Ask Answered! The first in our series is: What is Bright, Indirect Light?
Be sure to ask us your light questions in the comments! Enjoy!
What Does it Look Like:
When we recommend bright, indirect light for your plants, we’re basically telling you to give your plant as much light as possible without any direct rays hitting it. You know when you have direct light coming in through your window and it makes a square of light on your floor that your cat loves to cuddle up in (assuming you’re a crazy cat person AND a crazy plant person)? That’s direct light. While it is slightly filtered by your window and therefore weaker than the direct light you’d get outside, it’s generally still too harsh for tropical foliage and will usually burn the leaves (remember, tropical foliage evolved to survive on the low levels of light that make it thru the dense tropical canopy high above them). The space all around that square of light on the floor, that’s what indirect light looks like, and bright levels of that indirect light if what your houseplants love.
The Direction of Your Windows:
Unobstructed north facing windows will have indirect light all day, while unobstructed south facing windows will get direct light all day. East facing gets direct but soft morning light, and west facing windows get harsh direct afternoon light. Keep in mind that any obstruction such as a tree or building outside the window, a deck or overhang above it, curtains or blinds, energy saving tinting, etc can all cut the light down significantly. The intensity of light also diminishes more rapidly with each foot away from the window than our eyes really notice.
Measuring Light in Your Space:
Plants need blue and red light to grow, while our eyes register green light as “brightness”. For that and other reasons, our ability to gauge how much light our plants are getting is pretty lousy, though you will get better with practice! Light meters that measure the actual light a plant needs are expensive, but you can use a free photography light meter on your phone to measure lumens, lux, or foot candles. Those all sound fancy, but they’re just units of measurement for light. Because none of those units measure the light your plant needs, its tough to give you exact numbers that would be ideal for specific plants. But, they can help you understand the different levels of brightness in your house and how that brightness changes from spot to spot in a room. It’s useful to take readings right next to a window with direct light, and then at different points around the room to see how the amount of light changes in your space. Another great way to experiment with the lighting in your space is to place multiple plants in the same area, each with different light preferences, and see which ones thrive!