Monday, May 29, 2017

How to know what light level you have for plants in your home

How do you know what type of light you have in a room? It's important you think about this before choosing a plant. Too low or too high a light level can result in poor growth at best, a dead plant at worst. But how do you know what light level you have? Well, here's an easy way to figure it out.

Think of each room as a rectangle. The front third or so closest to the window is going to get the most light. If you can sit in this area of the room for a good few hours of the day and read easily without turning on any overhead lights, if you almost want to draw the curtains a bit sometimes because it's just too bright, then this is your zone of high, good quality light.

Plants that will do well here are succulents and cacti, and anything blooming such as orchids and azaleas. Keep in mind that some plants don't like to get scorched by direct sun, so  don't want to be right up against the window in this space.

The next zone is the middle third or so. In this space you can read pretty well if the sun is coming directly in the room, and in general you can sit here without feeling you need the overhead lights or a lamp on in the middle of the day. You don't ever feel the sun is too strong or too bright here though. This is your zone of medium light. Plants that do well here are ones that are used to growing in filtered light, such as under the canopy of trees. Ferns, ivy and airplants are three types that need this good light that isn't too overpowering. They tend to be plants that like to be kept moderately moist and not dry out so be careful to monitor the soil moisture well.

The back third of the room, furthest from the window, is the section with the lowest light. If you sit here in the daytime you can't really read a book without turning on a lamp. It feels too dark during the day to be here without some supplemental light. This is the low light zone. There aren't many plants that do well here, ZZ plants, Sansiveras and pothos are three that can handle lower light well. In general plants that live in low light don't use up water as quickly so be careful not to let them get too wet, wait a little between waterings.

And, if you are in a room that has no window at all, so you have to turn on overhead light just to be in there, then  that's a no-light zone. Plants aren't going to live well there, lamps and overhead lights just don't give off the right spectrum of light. Your best bet is to either buy a special grow light or do as I do and have a low light tolerant plant there for a while, but replace it after a few months once it starts to do poorly.

But wait, most importantly you need to consider each room carefully to determine if your highest light there is actually high light or not. Just because you have a window at one end, that doesn't make the area by it automatically a high light zone. If you can't sit and read easily without turning on a lamp during most of the day, then you aren't in high light no matter how close you are to the window. My house is a good example of this- my main living space is a long thin rectangle with a big double glass sliding door at one end- you'd think that means high light, right? But it faces into a garden with a large maple tree that throws down full shade, and has an awning overhanging a small patio that shields the light even more. I can't comfortably sit and read in this space without a light on, it always feels a little too dark. So at best I have LOW light towards the window, and no light from the middle to the back. The only plants that do well here are the ZZ, pothos and Sansievera, and they need to be in the end nearest the window.

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