Today we are still working through the very basics of houseplant care. If you have a handle on these, the job of keeping a plant alive will not seem so daunting. Last week I covered watering and listed overwatering as the number one cause of houseplant death. Today we will talk about light - the most important factor in healthy, strong plants.
You can break light needs into high, medium, and low. This is pretty much self-explanatory and there are beautiful varieties for each category of light. South facing windows will be your brightest. East and west facing will be about half the amount of sun, while north facing windows provide the lowest amounts of lights. But you also need to take into consideration the landscaping outside each window, roof overhangs, and how often do you keep window coverings closed.
You may also see terms like direct light (within 2 feet of a window) and indirect/filtered light (bright conditions within 4-5 feet). My citrus trees need to kiss the windows. My Ming Fern, which likes bright conditions, will wither and burn in full high desert sun. In fact, most houseplants will not tolerate direct sun. By changing the proximity to a window, you can create appropriate indirect light conditions.If you need to experiment with placement, do so gradually as to not shock your plants.
Remember that as seasons change, so will the light in your house. I made the mistake of not accounting for a backyard tree filling out one summer. The seasonal leaves obliterated the sun in the corner my Fiddle Leaf Fig had quite nicely lived over the winter months. Oh the sadness! It barely survived my lack of attention to the change in "bright filtered light". Thankfully it bounced back and I learned an important lesson.
You won't be able to have just any plant wherever you think it will look nice. Yes, I want succulents in my dining room. But they would be bummed in all that dim shade. But there are shade tolerant plants that work. We currently keep a couple fun philodendron babes in there.
Know the needs of your green friends and they will thrive. Is the plant doing what is intended? Flowering? Setting out fruit and/or new leaves? You'll be able to tell the difference between a growing, content plant and a miserable one.
Signs of too much light: brown or burnt patches on leaves, wilting leaving, faded leaves, curling leaves or dried up and falling off leaves
Signs of too little light: spindly growth or angling towards windows, no or slow growth, lack of flowers or fruit, new leaves smaller than old growth, bottom leaves yellowing and falling off, variegated leaves losing their variegation
The above information is a brief introduction to houseplant light needs. We will dive into more specific details for individual plant families and plants in future posts. Happy growing!