What Is Indirect Light for Plants?

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Many people love to use plants and flowers to decorate their homes. In most areas of the country, we have a variety of plants to choose from, for indoor and outdoor use. To select a plant for your decorating needs, you will need some knowledge of its watering, light and soil requirements. Many decorative indoor and outdoor plants thrive in bright sunlight. Quite a few plants will perish quickly unless you place them in locations that only have indirect light. Before you select a plant to add to your décor, study the windows in the room where you plan to put the plant.



Indirect light sources in a room are locations that are not in a direct stream of sunlight, usually at least three from sunny windows. Depending on the direction that the window is facing, your plants may have indirect light during most of the day. North and east facing windows usually have indirect sunlight throughout the day. Most windows facing south or west will have strong direct sunlight in the morning or the afternoon. The amount of sunlight entering each window depends on the height and thickness of trees and shrubbery on the property. Nearby buildings can also change the amount of direct light that enters the windows and the room.


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When plants that need indirect light are placed in direct sunlight, they often wilt quickly. Some plant varieties will also turn brown and shed their leaves. Usually the plant owner will then overwater the plant, thinking that it needs more moisture.



Some common houseplants that grow better when placed in indirect light include ferns, palms, vines like pothos, and philodendrons. The most common and widely known plant that thrives in indirect light is the mother-in-law's tongue or snake plant. Many people even have success with African violets (a flowering houseplant), when they have suitable humidity levels in the room.



You can place plants that do not thrive in direct sunlight up to six feet from a window to reduce their exposure to sunlight. Some plants actually thrive in low light. Place them on tables and bookshelves, where no bright sunlight falls directly on them. If your available indirect light space is limited, you can use plant lights or full spectrum fluorescent bulbs to imitate the indirect lighting condition that your plant requires. For best results, position the plant light at least ten inches away from your plant, or consult the instructions from the bulb's manufacturer. Experiment with the distance until your plant is happy.



Turn plants frequently to prevent spindly or lopsided growth. Check the soil for moisture. Many plants only require watering once a week, unless they are exposed to direct sunlight or kept in extremely hot climates. If the soil is moist, but the plant's leaves seem dry, move it farther away from sources of direct sunlight.