Know your light conditions for indoor plants

We often are asked what is the best plant for my office?

The truth is there isn’t a right answer. Sure there are a variety of plants that are sold as indoor, and a quick google search will show you an array of images with beautiful planting giving the perception that anything will work but in reality maintaining a interior live plant environment is quite complex.

If you are looking to add plants to your office or interior environment our best advice is to understand the light conditions you are dealing with.

Light is a critical factor for growing indoor plants with all plants requiring light for photosynthesis, the process within a plant that converts light, oxygen and water into carbohydrates (energy).

Indoor plants are generally grouped into three distinct categories when it comes to light conditions:

  1. High Light Plants
  2. Medium Light Plants
  3. Low Light Plants
Green wall under spot lights

This is where it's easy to get confused. High, Medium and Low are such generic phrases that it is almost impossible to understand if you aren’t an expert.

But there is a simply test that you can do to classify the light conditions of the area in which you want to plant:

  1. Find a blank white piece of A4 paper
  2. At midday place the paper in the proposed plant position with the normal amount of daily artificial lighting turned on
  3. Hold your hand 30cms above the paper
  4. Look at the shadow cast by your hand on the paper

The results: 

  1. Fully defined shadow with clear edges = High light
  2. Partially designed shadow where shape of hand is identifiable but edges are blurry = Medium Light
  3. Shadow has no definable hand shape and is difficult to see = Low Light

How to understand if your plants are affected by low light?

  • Your plants are turning pale green to yellow to white.
  • The plant stems are long and thin and appear to be reaching toward the source of light.
  • Long spaces on stems between the leaf nodes (the point where a leaf grows out from the stem) are appearing
  • You’ve noticed your plant is dropping leaves, especially older leaves.
  • You may find that a variegated plant (leaves that are white and green) may revert to being solid green.
  • Your flowering plants have failed to produce buds.

How to understand if your plants are affected by excess light?

  • Plants exposed to too much light may become scorched, bleached and limp.
Pots and Plants by Window

Understanding light conditions for your indoor plants.

Low Light

  • Low-light plants require little or no direct light. They are understory plants and grow underneath the branches of larger plants in nature.
  • A low light plant would typically be good for shaded windows where no direct sun reaches the plant and darker corners
  • Low light plants are prone to over watering and it is essential that you check the soil moisture level to ascertain is water is required, if it is cool and damp do not water.

Medium Light

  • Medium light areas are well lit areas in your work space. Windows that face east are considered medium light.
  • You can locate a medium light plant next to a west facing window however you must make sure these are out of even indirect sunlight.
  • Like low light plants these will not dry quickly so it is best to always quick the soil before watering.

High Light

  • High light plants need bright light and should be placed next to south or south west facing windows with access to plenty of sunlight throughout the majority of the day.
  • Given these locations in offices tend also to be the warmest areas these plants will dry faster than lower light plants
  • High light plants require much more regular checks to ensure their watering needs are met.

Plants create a great interior environment for your customers, employees and stakeholders and by looking after them you enable them to look after you.

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