Why do plants need light?
Indoor plant lighting may be confusing here in Singapore, most of us live in flatted homes such as HDBs and Condominiums. As these homes are built close to one another due to land scarcity, we might not be able to get the ideal lighting conditions for our plants to get optimal growth.
Just like us, plants need food to live and grow. Photosynthesis is the process in which plants take in light from available sources to convert to energy. With sufficient light, our plants have the energy to grow stronger roots and healthier foliage. Conversely, without light, our plants will suffer and eventually perish. The first step to being a successful plant parent is in understanding the importance of light to our plants, and understanding our environment enough to provide sufficient light for their growth.
Outdoor vs. indoor lighting
Outdoor plants typically require a lot more light than indoor lights. Getting almost all of their light requirement from sunlight, outdoor plants fare poorly when brought into homes because there is insufficient light in an indoor environment – Quickly leading to their deterioration or death. However, indoor plant lighting requirements are lower and as a result, you can supplement their requirement for light through sunlight, and artificial lighting such as fluorescent light or grow lights.
Determining light availability
The amount of light available in and around our homes can be determined and adjusted through:
- Distance to light source
- Orientation of windows
- Availability of artificial light supplementation
1. Orientation of windows
Windows around our house allow for light to enter our rooms. Due to the sun’s position, and depending on the direction which your windows face, your plants may actually receive more light than others. Discovering this information could allow for you to ensure that the right plants are placed at locations around the home that provide them with the required amount of light for them to thrive indoors.
- North-facing window: Receives the least amount of sunlight compared to other orientations
- South-facing window: Receives bright sun all-day
- East-facing window: Receives direct sun in the morning. Light tends to be gentler and less harsh
- West-facing window: Receives direct sun in the evening
2. Distance to light source
The closer your plant is to a light source, the more light it receives. The further it is from a light source, the less light it receives.
Assuming you place a plant by the window, but the light it receives is too harsh, you can dial back the intensity and amount of light your plant receives by simply pulling it back from the window by a meter or two. Conversely, if your plant prefers more light, you can provide it with more by moving it closer to a light source.
So you’ve figured out that you own south-facing windows (yippee!) and proceeded to shift all of your plants right up against the window panes. You realize soon enough, though, that the light isn’t as strong as you hoped, because the building opposite of yours is obstructing the sun’s rays. Obstructions such as these can greatly decrease the amount of light available to your plant. In general, the wider the view of the sky your plant has, the more light it is receiving.
4. Availability of artificial light supplementation
Finally, we can provide more light for our plants through artificially increasing the sources of light throughout our home. A common solution to lack of light indoors is to install plant grow lights. These are great alternatives for plant owners with less than ideal lighting conditions, north-facing windows, or for plants in rooms without windows. They also come in a variety of designs and prices.
As a general rule of thumb, plants should not be placed further than 3m from the nearest light source. The best way to measure intensity of light for your plant is to invest in a professional light meter. Alternatively, there are also substitutes in the form of light-measuring apps for mobile devices, and although these may not be the most accurate, they will allow you to compare the amount of light in lumens available from spot to spot in and around the house.
Did you find these tips helpful? We hope this post will inspire you to take a moment to better understand your surroundings, and develop a better sense of where to place your indoor houseplants.