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How Much Light Does a Houseplant Need?

Sunlight is essential to a plant's photosynthesis process. Without enough sunlight, your houseplants could wither and even die. So how do you determine how much sunlight your houseplants need?

Houseplants have been around since ancient history, yet many of us still struggle to keep our greenery alive!
Even if you regularly water and fertilize your houseplants, you could still be missing something: plant lighting. Sunlight is essential to a plant’s photosynthesis process. Without enough sunlight, your houseplants could wither and even die.
So how do you determine how much sunlight your houseplants need? What are the best spots in your home to keep your plants? And how do you measure the light your plants are receiving?
Well, keep reading, because our guide will help you understand all this and more!

Why Your Houseplants Need Sunlight

Plants of all kinds, from cacti to evergreens, require sunlight to survive. Plants use photosynthesis, a process that transforms sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars, to create food.
Although you might not see an immediate decline, if your houseplants don’t receive enough sunlight they can’t make enough food. Many houseplants are resilient and can bounce back from short stints of insufficient sunlight. But long periods without proper light can result in cosmetic damage or death for your plants.

Determining Your Plant Lighting Needs

Most common houseplants prefer low-to-moderate lighting, which is why they make such great choices for your home! These plants will survive and grow in a wide range of lighting conditions. Some houseplants will even survive for short periods with no light at all.
Other plant species, like succulents, cacti, and tropicals, require higher levels of sunlight. But just because these plants like the sun, watch out for signs of sunburn or overheating.
In some cases, you might find that your home doesn’t provide the right conditions for your chosen plants. While there are artificial lighting options, the best strategy is to choose a houseplant more suited to your home.

The Perfect Spots to Keep Your Houseplants

When placing your houseplants throughout your home, you can’t just consider the best design choices. Each plant’s individual light needs and the natural light sources available in your home must be given precedence.

Natural Lighting

Most of your home’s natural lighting will come directly from windows and porches. The amount of sunlight that passes through your home’s windows will depend on the direction they face and the distance from the window.
Windows facing north are the best source of sunlight. Place plants that thrive in bright sunlight close to these windows.
Windows facing east or west provide moderate sunlight. Most plants will be happy near these windows, without the risk of too much or too little light.
South-facing windows should generally be avoided. These windows just don’t offer enough sunlight for most plants.
While visible sunlight might fill a room, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your plants will get enough. The wavelengths that your plants absorb dissipate very quickly. Light levels can become insufficient just a metre or two away from a bright window.

Supplemental Lighting

Some areas in your home — commonly the bathroom, kitchen, or inner hallways — might lack sufficient sunlight to keep your plants happy and healthy. Plants in these spaces will need to be supplemented with artificial light.
While it is not hard to add full spectrum grow lights to your home, keep in mind that these artificial light sources are nowhere near as strong as natural sunlight. You will need to place your plants fairly close to these bulbs for them to be effective. And plants that require bright light probably won’t survive under these lights at all.
Because of these factors, natural sunlight should be utilized whenever possible. Artificial grow lights should be a last resort or temporary solution.

How to Measure Your Home’s Light Levels

Even if you follow these placement rules perfectly, finding the right spot for your houseplant is still just a guessing game. But there is a way to accurately measure how much light your plant is receiving.
If you’re interested in the science behind your plants’ health or are struggling to diagnose a seemingly ill plant, a light meter might be your best option. These tools measure the light in a specific location — some even include built-in moisture and soil pH meters.
You can use a light meter to check on your plants’ current light sources or to map out the best spot for your next houseplant addition!

Symptoms of Insufficient Light

Even if your plant should be getting enough sunlight, in some cases the plant’s needs just aren’t met. There are several easy-to-spot symptoms of insufficient light levels. Here are some of the most common:

Lightening Leaves

If your houseplant typically has medium-to-dark green leaves, one of the most obvious signs of low light levels is the lightening of leaves. Your plant’s leaves will begin to turn a lighter shade of green, but can eventually turn yellow if the plant’s health continues to decline.

Stunted Growth

Since sunlight is one of the main ingredients of photosynthesis, plants that are not receiving enough light will struggle to grow. If you notice slowed or ceased growth, consider checking your plant’s light levels. But keep in mind that many houseplants go through natural growing cycles, so this isn’t always a sign that something is wrong.


It’s normal for plants to lean toward a strong light source, but extreme leaning is both unattractive and a sign of insufficient light. The best solution is to move your plant closer to the light source, but you might also find periodically rotating the plant is enough to keep it happy in its current location.

Choosing the Right Plants for Your Home

Once you identify the available plant lighting, you can select the perfect houseplants for your home.
All of our plants arrive lush, green, and fully-grown. Our best-selling houseplants offer species suited to a wide variety of conditions, no matter what type of lighting you have to work with.

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