House layout with white backgroundHave you ever looked at your plant instructions and it said ‘Likes bright indirect light’ and you wonder, what the hell does that mean?!

You are in luck because I’ve put together an easy to understand article on a topic which confuses a lot of people, “Where is the best position in my house for my indoor plants?”

Indoor plants can be largely classified into those that like Low, Medium or Bright light. You can google how much light your specific plant likes.

Indoor lighting

But how do you know how bright your actual house or apartment is? 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 on what classified as 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.

If you know physics, 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 nursery guy told me my plant will grow in low light!” Ok let’s clarify, all plants are different, even low light plants like Sansevieria, ZZ or Devils ivy will survive in low light, but they do even better in medium light. Anyway, that’s a side note sometimes you want a nice plant in that low light position. But remember low light does not mean no-light. There are no indoor plants that will survive in no-light.

Look at this video to give you an idea of the light changes over time:

Let’s get to the explanation. Different windows of your house will get different amounts of light, this is simply because of 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 (in the northern Hemisphere), about 8-12 hours. In the Southern hemisphere, the north window gets the most sun all day.

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:

Stages of sunlight

8am: The sun is just starting to rise (season dependent of course). The plants get the first rays of sun.

House light effects at 8am

10am: The sun is shining directly into the windows of the living room, the plants are receiving maximum direct light:

House light effects at 10am

12pm: By midday the sun is now directly overhead and sunlight in the living room starts to decrease rapidly.

House light effects at 12pm

At the end of the day, the plants in this east facing living room have received about 5 hours of bright sunlight and a number of hours of ambient afternoon sun.

Let’s take a look at the light intensity during peak lighting for each position in the living room. Locations closest to the window will get the most sun and the least shade.

Plant light map over living room
Light positions in the living room
  • 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.

Here is an image showing some plants types for each position in the living room:

Lighting positions of plants in a 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.

I hope this article helped and you can keep your plants alive and growing! An ideal way to determine how much light your plants are getting is to use the light sensor on the PlantMaid, it will show you the average light over the last 24 hours as well as the current light.

Happy Growing.

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