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Light requirements for houseplants

David Whiting

Light is one of the most important factors to consider in the care of houseplants. All plants require light for photosynthesis. This is the way plants manufacture food. Without adequate light, food supplies dwindle and plants die.

Often plants become spindly and appear to reach toward the source of light. They may shed leaves, especially older ones. Variegated plants may revert to solid green. Flowering plants may fail to produce buds. On the other hand, plants exposed to too much light may become scorched, bleached and limp.

In order to grow houseplants successfully, you need to know the light requirements of specific plants, and how to evaluate light levels. There are three factors to consider when you evaluate light.

Generally, a LOW LIGHT area receives no direct light; for example, a north window exposure in the winter. MEDIUM LIGHT areas are well-lit areas in the home; for example, areas facing east windows, or several feet from a west window. HIGH LIGHT areas are brightly lit locations, generally facing south or southwest. In choosing an indoor plant, evaluate the light level in the place the plant will live; then select a plant whose light requirements match what you have to offer. Some plants that do well in LOW LIGHT are Aglaonema (Ag-lay-oh-née-ma), Aspidistra (As-pih-dís-tra), Dracaena (dra-SAY-na), Pothos, Philodendron, and Sansevieria (san-se-vi-ee'-ri-ah). Some plants that do well in MEDIUM LIGHT are ferns, begonias, Schefflera, ficus, peperomia, and African Violets. Some plants that do well in HIGH LIGHT are cacti and succulents, citrus, hibiscus, ficus trees, and velvet plants.

Reviewed 2009

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