Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How much light do indoor plants need?

Light is one of the most important factors to consider in the care of indoor plants. All plants require light to grow and manufacture food. Without adequate light, plants often become spindly reaching toward a source of light and may shed leaves, especially older leaves. Variegated plants may revert to solid green. Flowering plants may fail to flower. Ultimately, a lack of light will result in the death of the plant. On the other hand, plants exposed to too much light may become scorched, bleached and limp. In order to grow indoor plants 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. The first is light duration. This refers to the number of hours of light a plant receives in a twenty-four hour period. Second is light quality. This refers to the color of the light. Plants use basically two colors; red and blue. Sunlight supplies both of these. The third factor is light intensity. This refers to the brightness of the light. These three factors combine to form endless combinations but of most practical usage are three basic groups; low, medium, and high 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. For example, those windows facing east or west which receive some direct light in the morning or afternoon. High light areas are brightly lit locations. Generally they face south or southwest and receive full sun.

In choosing indoor plants, evaluate the light level where the plant will be placed. Then, select a plant whose light requirements match that of the location. Plants that do well in low light are Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen), Aspidistra (Cast-iron plant), Dracaena, Philodendron, Sansevieria (Snake plant/Mother-in-laws tongue) and Pothos. Plants that do well in medium light are ferns, begonias, Shefflera, Ficus, Peperomia and African Violet. Plants that do well in high light areas are Cacti and the succulents, Geraniums, and herbs. Generally speaking, flowering plants need more light than foliage plants.