• Savannah

Understanding Natural Light and How It Affects Your Houseplants

One of the most important parts of taking care of houseplants is light. When bringing new plants home, it's important to know the amount of light you have. Understanding the natural light you already have will set you up for a successful plant journey.

Determining How Much Light Your Home Has

One of the first steps is finding out how much natural light your home gets. To do this you need to see where your windows point. The amount of light that enters a window depends on which point on the compass it faces.

Take a compass or a compass app on your phone. Then walk around to your windows to see where they face. This is an important piece to the puzzle. You also need to take into consideration the time of year and what direction the sun rises and sets where you are located.

Here is a breakdown of the type of light your plants will get in the northern hemisphere depending on the window you place them by. If you live in the southern hemisphere these directions will be reversed (crazy right?).

  • North Facing Window - Medium to bright indirect light. I keep a lot of my "low light" plants near this window in my home (I also have a building that blocks this light).

  • Northeast Facing Window - Medium to bright indirect light. During the year I sometimes get direct sunlight in the mornings.

  • Northwest Facing Window - Bright indirect light.

  • East Facing Window - Medium bright and indirect light. This window will have direct sunlight in the morning or evening only. This light would be good for a pothos or philodendron.

  • South Facing Window - Bright indirect light to direct sunlight in the afternoon. This window receives several hours of direct sunlight with the rays moving around the room as it sets. This is perfect for light-loving plants like cacti, succulents, and the fiddle leaf fig.

  • Southeast Facing Window - Bright indirect light with morning sun!

  • Southwest Facing Window - Bright indirect light to direct sunlight in the afternoon. Important to note that afternoon light is stronger and more intense than morning sunlight. This is also a good place for succulents and cacti.

  • West Facing Window - Medium bright and indirect light. This window will have direct sunlight in the morning or evening only. The evening sun is usually stronger and hotter in western windows. This window is suitable for most houseplants.

Hot Tip: It's important to note that not everyone receives the same light. Take note of how the sun moves around your home or apartment. Then experiment with your plant's placement.

Plant Lighting Requirements Terminology

It's important to note that light conditions will vary depending on the time of year and where you are located in the world. Don't be afraid to reposition plants when they need it (but note that some plants like the Aloe Vera need to gradually be acclimated to new light conditions).

  • Direct Sunlight: This light enters through an unobstructed window throughout most of the day. This is what it sounds like...100% sunlight! Remember that direct sunlight is not always bad. Morning sunlight is less harsh than afternoon sun. I like having my fiddle leaf fig in my Southeast facing window because it receives a wonderful dusting of the morning sun, but does not get the harsh afternoon sun. My cacti and succulents, however, love the afternoon sun and want to bask in it all day.

  • Bright Indirect Light: This is direct sunlight that is filtered or diffused either through a translucent blind or a sheer curtain. Think of this light as being outside on a cloudy day...there is still light, but it's not harsh. Basically, every plant will thrive in this light. If you can't remember what kind of light your plant needs..opt for bright and indirect!

  • Medium Light: Basically the middle between low light and bright light. This light is when your plant is exposed to light that isn't coming from a direct source. So light that comes through the leaves of another plant or even light that's reflected off of a building or mirror.

  • Low Light: This is the lowest amount of light a plant can have before it decides it's not happy. Most of the time plants that are placed in low light can survive there. You will see faster growth if placed in medium light. Plants like the ZZ plant and snake plant can survive in this light.

Art by: @Kali_Bales from leonandgeorge.com

Other Factors To Consider

So now that you have figured out what kind of light your windows have, let's get into some other things you should take into consideration.

Obstructions: If you are like me and live in an apartment building you are most likely going to have some obstructions like other apartment buildings or even trees! I have even noticed that my patio roof blocks some of my light in the mornings. Obstructions are anything that blocks the light you could be receiving. These aren't necessarily bad things, but it's important to take note of them so you can provide your plants the light they need to thrive.

Window Size: The size of your window determines how much light can get in. If you have a small window you won't be receiving as much light as say a floor-length window. It's kind of self-explanatory, but it's an important factor when placing your plants. If you have a smaller window, when the sun moves around throughout the day your plants will get "cut off" from the light.

Grow Lights: If you aren't receiving the light you need, then invest in some grow lights! I've been on my plant journey for about 6 years now and I just dove into grow lights. So don't think that you have to have grow lights in order to be successful with the plant life. These lights have helped a lot especially on cloudy days, but aren't necessary if you are getting enough light!

Below are the grow lights I recently ordered from Amazon. One I use for my fiddle leaf fig (And surrounding plants) and the other is helping me fulfill my dream of having a greenhouse cabinet.

Here is the EZORKAS Grow Light! It has an auto turn on and off function as well as 9 dimmable light modes.

I really like that this grow light has a clamp so I can attach it to basically anything. The lights also have tubing that you can manipulate to shine wherever you want!

This was one of the more affordable options for me as I was not about to spend $100 on my first grow light. Check it out if you are interested in dabbling in artificial lighting!

This is my second grow light I got for my greenhouse cabinet (work in progress lol). It's called the Aceple LED Grow Light. This is a paneled grow light and was so easy to put together. It came with these chains and hooks that you could use to hang it up. I decided to use command strips instead. I also like that you can connect the two panels together horizontally or vertically depending on how much space you need to cover.

This light is super bright - which is good I love that, but I was surprised because they are so cheap. If you are looking for a paneled option for your first grow light I would go with these. You won't be spending a lot of money and the end result is actually very nice.

I really hope this guide helps you out with lighting requirements and terminology. If you have any questions or are unsure of a specific plant please don't hesitate to reach out to me on social media or fill out my contact form on my site.

As always y'all happy planting,


Plant Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to help Plant Savvy continue doing what she does!

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