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light article 2


This series will help you have happy, healthy plants to enjoy all year round in your home.  Series #1 began with providing the proper growing medium and we’ll talk about water later in Series #3.  This, Series #2, will focus on the most important thing you can provide for your plant, light.

by Mary Sue

Time to talk light… pg 1

     First some basics

All plants need a good medium, water and light to grow.  Light is the one most important thing we can provide for our houseplants through the winter for their healthy survival.  Light provides the energy plants need to make the food to grow both foliage and flowers.

Almost all of my houseplants take a vacation outdoors as soon as spring weather permits and thrive with all the lighting options available throughout my patios and yard.  From deep shade under deck roofing or evergreens, to lighter shade under a small deciduous tree, and to the brilliant sunshine in the middle of the yard, they each can be placed in the location best suited to their needs.  When they come back indoors, as the days and nights cool for fall, there is often a need to supplement the light available from the windows.  Winter light is less intense and the days are shorter.  When you put a plant indoors the light is a fraction of the light outdoors.

Whether you just want to keep your plants healthy or flowering, grow greens from seed for stir-fry or salads, keep herbs in the kitchen, or start vegie seeds for the summer, lights will keep things growing.  Bonus – Your healthily growing plants release oxygen into the air and remove toxins adding to the health of your home and you.

Know your plant

The first thing you must know is where your plants native habitat is and what the light conditions are so you can duplicate this in your home.  Sunlight includes all the colors of the spectrum, from red to yellow through to blue and violet. Your plants will process the light you give them (along with water and CO2) to make carbohydrates which the plants use to grow and flower – photosynthesis.

Know your natural light

Daylight is the best type of light for your houseplants but not everyone has a greenhouse or a south facing sun room with proper filters and temperature control so this natural light is not always available.  Depending upon the placement of your windows, and things like overhangs, trees, or curtains, you will have more or less natural light.

Give your plant too little light and it may use all of its stored food and perish or too little light may result in small leaves and be weak and spindly.

Give your plant too much light and it may be pale and weak or even get a sunburn.

Window direction pros and cons



Always shade with no need to filter light.

No high heat to burn leaves.


May be too much shade from overhangs or trees to supply sufficient light to any plant.

Placing a plant too close may be too cold.

Many tropical foliage plants would love this location with some added artificial light.  The clivia pictured on page 2 is a low light plant but still needs a supplement off to the side of its north facing window.  Flowering plants that like it cool (60-65°), gardenia jasminoides or’ Veitchii’, would do fine and may flower with good supplemental light.



Suitable for plants requiring both bright light and heat.  May need filtering late in the day though.


May overheat during the day and be too cool at night as wind often comes from the west.

Clivias, cacti, succulents will thrive if placed off to the north side.  Most ferns, cyclamens, zebra plants (aphelanrea) and gold fish plants (columnea) will need a filter.



Lots of light for the longest period.


Placing any plant directly in front of this window will probably burn leaves without filtering, even for cacti and succulents.

Soil will dry quickly in warm summer months and less so when winter nights cool so a careful eye must be kept on the moisture.

A location a bit west of south must be filtered or will be dangerous.

High light plants such as jasmine, geranium, hibiscus, and gardenia would enjoy a place off to the side of this window.



The bright morning sun is cool and will encourage the growing process.  Good for plants that need only a few hours of direct sunlight.

Plants that prefer light shade will do well, off to the side – north-east or south-east – with little danger of leaf burn or drying out.


If deciduous growth is outside and leaves have fallen, added filtering during winter months may be necessary.

African Violets, fatsia, and tradescantias would do well on the windowsill.  Sansevieria would do well off to the side of the window on the floor.  A Philodendron would be nice placed in a wall mounted pot up close to the window.

On to page 2 for more specifics.



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