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Houseplants and Indoor Lighting

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

If you've been following the Good Growing column, you know the rabbit hole that I went down when I jumped on the succulent bandwagon. That hasn't stopped, I've got 48 little Mother of Thousands plantlets in a tray rooting out. Still not sure what I'm going to do with them all, but guilt prevents me from throwing extras in the compost pile at the moment and the mother plant has started an entire new round of plantlet formation already.

I've since found another rabbit hole to go down and this time it's with a variety of other houseplants. For some reason, one day I decided to look into where I could find houseplants online and also started poking around on Instagram. That was a dangerous decision. I'm a plant lover, but I found a whole new world of plants that I just hadn't paid attention to before and let's just say my collection has grown a "bit."

I've shared pictures on both Facebook and Instagram and occasionally I get comments asking what is your secret, how are you keeping them alive, or statements such as I kill plants or I have a brown thumb. As with all plants, first thing is right plant, right place. Understanding what the light availability is inside your home will guide you to what plants will do well for you. Find a plant that fits what lighting you have available instead of forcing a plant into a lighting situation where it won't thrive.

For example, if you have space for a plant in a north facing window that won't receive a lot of sunlight, avoid bright light loving plants such as Fiddle Leaf Fig or Monstera – instead look towards plants such as Pothos or Philodendron.

When it comes to windows and lighting, keep in mind that overhangs, covered porches, other buildings, trees, etc. can interfere. That's why it's best to evaluate first then find plants. For simplicity, this is how windows are categorized for light availability assuming there are no obstructions:

  • Low Light – North facing windows
  • Medium Light – East or West facing windows
  • Bright Light – South facing window

Plants are great in that they can "tell" us when something is wrong or they aren't receiving what they need. Plants that stretch/elongate or appear spindly is one indicator of lack of adequate light. Defoliation or poor color are other indicators but can also indicate watering issues as well. Keep in mind that light intensity will be reduced in winter months, and you may need to provide supplemental lighting. Rotate your indoor plants on a regular basis so that all sides of the plant will benefit from the light coming in the window.

Below is a short list of plants and their preferred light requirements. I've included a variety of plants, some of which are more common and may be easier to find, whereas others might require online ordering to acquire.

Low Light

  • ZZ Plant
  • Pothos
  • Philodendron
  • Peace Lily
  • Snake Plant
  • Chinese Evergreen

Medium Light

  • Calathea
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Peperomia
  • Alocasia
  • Bird's Nest Fern
  • Maranta

Bright Light

  • Monstera deliciosa
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Pilea peperomioides (avoid direct sun which can scorch the plant)
  • Bird of Paradise


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