Indirect and filtered light, explained.
Whether you’re a rookie plant parent or an experienced one, you’ve surely wondered at least once what bright indirect light really means. You may have also doubted whether a certain location in your home is providing indirect light to your favourite houseplant.
Unfortunately, bright indirect light is not the only confusing term used to describe the best location for a plant. Whether it’s on the plant tag itself or on the Internet, you may have encountered a myriad of other terms that have given you an even bigger headache: direct light, filtered light, dappled light, medium light, low light, and a thousand variations thereof.
In today’s blog post we’ll clarify these terms and help you understand where in the room you can find each type of light.
Direct vs indirect light
Direct light usually occurs in South facing windows from midday onwards. If you place your plant on the window ledger of a south-facing window, that plant will be receiving direct sunlight practically all day long. Depending on the country you live in (and yes, this includes Ireland) this type of light is probably too bright for most houseplants and may damage their leaves. This, of course, excludes most cacti and succulents, which are perfect houseplants for direct light.
If you place your plant in front of the window, but about 1 metre away from it, then you have accomplished a bright indirect light situation. YAY!
Now place the plant a bit further away from the window, and there’s your medium light.
What is filtered light?
Now this is a game changer. If you happen to have thin curtains or net curtains on your window, they will reduce
the amount of light coming through, creating a perfect filtered light level in which many of your plants will
live happily ever after.
We could say that filtered light and bright indirect light are two equivalent light conditions. Bear in mind though that if you have a curtain, medium light will occur closer to the window than if you don’t have a curtain.
Low light or light shade
Low light or light shade occurs in parts of the room where there is no direct, indirect, or medium light whatsoever. For example, in the corners to the left or right of a window or at the end of the room opposite a window (if the room is large). Low light or light shade doesn't mean darkness though! These are spots in a room where there is clarity but light doesn't shine on at any point of the day.
Now this is all very good and fine, but what happens when your windows are west, east or north-facing?
With a west-facing window, you’ll get medium light all day near the window and indirect light in the late afternoon and evening. No direct light.
With an east facing window, you’ll get bright indirect light in the morning, and medium to low light for the rest of the day near the window. No direct light.
With a north facing window, you’ll get low light all day. No direct light.
Lastly, and regardless of the orientation of your windows, you may also want to consider whether there are tall buildings or trees outside blocking some of the light, as this would affect the amount of light coming into the room.
If your windows are West, East, or North-facing, it would be wise to invest in some artificial lighting to help your plant friends grow. If your windows are oriented in any of these ways and you don’t have grow lights or artificial lights, the closer to the window you can place your plants, the better.
While all plants need light to grow, there are plants that take better to lower light conditions which mimic
their original habitat. Take a look at our
low light plant collection to find out good candidates for those pesky West,
East and North facing windows. And remember, there is no window orientation artificial lights can’t