This blog post is contributed by Sarah Gerrard Jones, an expert on houseplants.

All plants need light to survive. In simple terms light is essential for your plants to create food. As humans, we can survive only for some time without food and the same applies to plants. The amount of light plants need varies from species to species but ALL plants require some light during the day. If you live in a cave you shouldn’t buy house plants because they will starve, but if you live in a home with sources of natural light you can be a parent to a variety of plants.

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My advice for prospective plant parents is to do your research about where your plant originates from and try and place it accordingly in your home. For example a cactus that originates from the desert will need plenty of sunlight so don’t place it in a dark spot. A ferns natural habitat is a damp, shady spot so don’t sit it in the brightest area of your home. Do your homework to avoid a plantastrophy.

How to define the light source?

Work out the directions your windows are facing. In the northern hemisphere South facing windows will get the most amount of light, North facing windows the least. East and West windows will get a moderate amount of daylight. There are different plants that will be happy in each of these locations, but there aren’t plants that will survive with no light and few which will live in very dark areas of your home.

Types of light

Understanding the different types of light will help you decide where to place your plant in your home.

  • “Bright, indirect light” or “full sun” – will be found within 2 foot of a south or southwest facing window. Don’t place your plants too close to this type of window where they can be scorched by the sun.
  • Medium light“– an east or west facing window, where the sun only shines for part of the day.
  • “Low light” or “shade loving” – means no direct sun will reach your plant. These will be areas set at least 3 feet back from windows. Or windows that are shaded for the majority of the day by buildings or trees outside. North facing or northeast windows are generally considered ideal for plants with lower light requirements.

How to find out what type of light do I have at home?

If you’re unsure about the type of light you have why not do this simple shadow test. On a sunny day, place a sheet of white paper on the spot where you intend to place your plant. Hold your hand about 1ft (12”) above the paper. If you can see a clearly defined shadow, this spot receives bright light. If the shadow is fuzzy, but still recognizable as a hand, the spot receives medium light. If you only see a very faint shadow and you can’t make out the different fingers, this area only receives low light. Finally, if you can’t make out a shadow at all, you know that spot is deep shade, and isn’t a good place to keep most houseplants.

How does artificial light work with houseplants?

Normal artificial lighting in our homes and offices does not provide a plant with the right type of light it needs to survive but you can invest in grow lamps and lights that simulate the correct type of light for indoor plants to grow and thrive. These can be a good option if you’d like to have plants in a dark spot in your house or to maintain consistent levels of light through all seasons.

Winter season and light

The amount of light we get in our homes drops dramatically in winter. A plant that has been happy throughout spring and summer may start to show signs of lack of light. Stems may become weaker and more elongated than normal, leaves may be smaller and paler than usual. It’s time to move your house plants to a brighter spot in your home, or move them closer to the window to give them the best chance of surviving the lack of light during the winter months.


Just like surfaces plants also collect dust. A layer of dust on the leaves of houseplants will block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Give them a regular clean to make sure they are able to absorb the maximum amount of light.

My top 10 plants for shade

Bright light/full sun

  • Jade Plant
  • Euphorbia Trigona
  • String of Pearls
  • Aeonium –the darker variety
  • Aloes
  • Desert cacti
  • Haworthias
  • Crotons
  • Opuntia
  • Madagascar Palm

Medium light/semi shade

  • Spider Plant
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Snake Plant
  • Zamioculcas Zamifolia or ‘ZZ’
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Pothos
  • Monstera Deliciosa
  • Burmese Fishtail Palm Philodendrons
  • Alocasias

Low light/shade

  • Aspidistra – Cast Iron Plant
  • Ferns
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Arrowhead Vine
  • Maranta – Prayer Plant
  • Corn Plant
  • Ficus Pumila
  • Peace Lily
  • Parlor Palm
  • Dracaena Surculosa


Did you like it? Do you have experience with growing houseplants at home? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Last update: August 2, 2019

Posted in Garden Advice, Plants in the UK

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