Have you ever looked at your plant instructions and it said ‘grows best in bright indirect light’ and you wonder, what exactly is bright indirect light?!

You are in luck because I’ve put together an easy to understand article on lighting positions for your plant.

Indoor plants can be largely classified into those that like Low, Medium or Bright light. To find out how much light your plant naturally needs just google for your specific plant type.

How bright is my house?

Do you know how much light your house is getting? If you bought a light meter as I described in my previous article you would have a good idea, but if you haven’t got a light meter here is a good guide how to determine bright, medium and low light.

Most people don’t realise how quickly light drops off from your nice sunny window to a few meters into your room.

Physics tell us the amount of light drops off at the square root of the distance from the light source. So, a nice bright light at your window is going to be about 8 times less bright in the middle of your living room.

Most indoor plants like medium to bright light.  ….But hang on, “The guy at the plant store told me my plant will grow in low light!” Ok let’s clarify, low light does not mean no-light, people underestimate how much light their plant is getting.

Let’s take a look at how the sun moves over your house and how the amount of light at each window changes:

Detailed breakdown

The following image shows the light intensity around the window for an East facing window. As you can see within 1 meter of the window is very bright light, but 4 meters in is low light.

Light scene Light map

Different windows of your house will get different amounts of light, this is simply due to the location of the sun to each window. Your east window will get the 5 hours of morning sun as the sun rises, whereas the south facing window will get sun most of the day, around 8-12 hours ((in the Northern Hemisphere). In the Southern hemisphere, the north window gets the most sun all day. The west facing windows also gets about 5 hours of afternoon sun, but this is harsher than the morning sun because the atmosphere has been heated during the day and afternoon sun is more intense than morning sun for the same duration.

You can either position your plants in different windows to satisfy their light requirements, or you can position them closer or further from specific windows. I know, it sounds simpler than it is.

Let’s have a look at an example house that has the living room facing east:

Light scene Light map 2
  • Plants placed right next to this east window will get bright light.
  • Plants placed about 1-2 meters back from the window will get some medium light.
  • Plants placed more than 2 meters away will be getting low light.

You will notice the south facing window is marked as very bright light, this window will continue to receive light for the rest of the day (8-14 hours). Note: if you are in the Southern hemisphere the orientation is reversed and the north facing window get the most sun.

Plants In living room

You might be wondering what ‘Indirect Light’ means, it just means that the plant never has a direct line of sight of the sun. You can place these plants slightly to the side of a window, or in front of a semi-transparent curtain or blind, or position it slightly away from the window such that it doesn’t actually get direct sunlight rays. The reason that a lot of indoor plant requirements say ‘Indirect light’ is that placing them directly in very bright light will cause the sun to burn their leaves.

Plants for different locations

  • Low light plant: ZZ Plant (Zanzibar gem), Snake Plant (Sansevieria), Pothos (Devils Ivy), Philodendron, Cast iron plant, Parlour Palm, Spider plant.
  • Medium light plants: Anthurium, Peace Lily, Monstera Deliciosa.
  • Bright indirect light plants: Bamboo Palm, Watermelon Peperomia, Pilea Peperomioides, Rubber plants, Dieffenbachia (Dumb cane), String of pearls, Coleus, Kalanchoe, Most herbs, Yucca, Bird of paradise.
  • Very Bright light plants: Cactus and succulents.

Some other notes on light

  • The glass of your windows filters out some of the intensity of the light, so plants can tolerate brighter conditions on the window sill than they would directly outdoors.
  • East facing windows generally have less harsh light than west facing windows. Even though they get roughly the same amount of light(5 hours), the temperature has heated up during the day which causes the western sun to be a bit harsher. It won’t be the amount of light that affects your plant but the temperature, most plants like around 15-24 degrees Celsius.
  • North Facing windows (in the Northern Hemisphere) don’t get a lot of sun. You will need to put low light plants in northern windows right on the window sill.

In conclusion

Finding the ideal position for your plants takes some experimentation, the position of the sun is always changing with the seasons, you may need to move your plant a few times before you find a good position. You can position plants either in different windows or different distances from the window to give them their ideal light. If you own a PlantMaid you can push the sensor button to tell you the average sunlight over the last 24 hours.

I hope this article helped and you keep your plants alive and growing!

Happy Growing.