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Understanding Natural Light Levels for Thriving Houseplants // Do You Have Bright Light, Bright Indirect Light or Low Light for Houseplants?, Ep 245



You are likely overestimating how much light you have in your home for your houseplants, plant friends! Yes, it's a tough truth to swallow. In fact, the largest cause of houseplant death is a misunderstanding of light. That’s because our houseplants perceive light differently from us. Don’t worry, because I have your back. I've spent seven years learning about light and distilling everything I've learned into this one short episode to break down how you can confidently assess the natural light in your home and buy the correct plant that will do well in that environment.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [04:50] Why it’s important to know your light level before you go plant shopping!
  • [06:06] How plants use light for photosynthesis to produce their food
  • [07:22] Why chlorophyll is important
  • [14:58] Why low light plants = low light tolerant
  • [16:43] #1 Understanding your window orientation + light exposure
  • [18:12] Look for obstructions outside your window
  • [20:57] #2 Defining direct, indirect, and low light situations!
  • [24:27] Supplement with grow lights
  • [25:34] Troubleshooting common light issues


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Light 101: Why It Matters

If you go back and remember science class when you were 11 or 12 years old, you learned about photosynthesis. It is how plants use light to make their food. They essentially make carbs and sugars via the chemical energy of sunlight. So if there's no sunlight, plants can't make their own food.

Chlorophyll, the green pigment that gives plants their green appearance, is found in the cells that make up plants. They absorb photons of light. Fun fact: most plants appear to the human eye as green because chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light and kind of bounces green light back.


Light Myths Busted

Most plants that are marketed as low light are not low light “loving” plants; they are low light “tolerant” plants. Most plants would be happier with more light if they could get it.

The light we have indoors is so much less than the light that plants are getting in nature. There are plants like the snake plant that will tolerate low light. Meaning they won't grow that much, but they won't die.


How to Figure Out Your Home’s Light Level

So how do you investigate the light situation in your home? Here’s how:

  1. Get out your phone's compass app (or a real compass if you're old school)
  2. Figure out which direction your windows face
  3. Look for any light blockers like trees or buildings outside

Remember, this is in the Northern Hemisphere:

  • South-facing windows: highest light
  • West-facing: second-highest
  • East-facing: gentle morning light
  • North-facing: lowest light

Note: your home is unique, so you've got to consider things like trees that lose their leaves in winter, or tall buildings that might block your sun.


Types of Light

Direct sunlight –  the sun is beaming straight onto your plant's leaves. Do the hand test—if you see a clear shadow, that's direct light.

Indirect light – within about a foot of a sunny window, or direct light filtered through a curtain/dust.

Low light – it's dim and more than a few feet from a window.

If your plant starts getting leggy (long spaces between leaves), it's probably stretching for more light. Basically, plants will angle their leaves towards the light source. That's called phototropism, and it's your plant's way of saying “I need more light over here!” Just rotate your plants every now and then to keep them growing straight.


Picking the Perfect Plant for Your Light Situation

Now that you're a light expert, you can choose plants that'll grow best in your space:

If you want a personalized plant list, take my Plant Parent Personality test! It'll give you a tailored list of plants that match your lifestyle and light situation.


Wrapping It Up

Understanding your light is the first step to becoming a successful plant parent. Understand your window orientation, understand if you have obstructions, and then pick the right plants for what you've got going on. And remember, when you're shopping for new plant babies, look for those Proven Winners Leaf Joy tags—they've got some of the highest-quality plants out there.


Mentioned in our conversation:




Thank you to our episode sponsor:

Proven Winners

If you want to have success with houseplants, you’ve got to have two things: the knowledge to care for them successfully and healthy plants. Meet my new favorite houseplant grower: Proven Winner’s leafjoy™. With only the best plant genetics grown in a state-of-the-art, European greenhouse, you will not be disappointed in the variety and quality of your favorite plants from Proven Winner’s leafjoy™. This company has taken the guesswork out of plant shopping with plant tags that include scientific names and care guides, as well as color-coded collections for the different areas of your home that you want plants in!

Find plant joy in leafjoy™. Head to to find your local leafjoy™ dealer and let me know which plant you take home on socials!



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