Houseplant Tips Series. Part 2 – Follow the Light!

Check back in this series for tips on successfully jumping in on the houseplant craze.

If you’re at the garden center looking for a new little green friend to take home, you might see care instructions with words like this: Direct, Indirect, Bright, Moderate, Low… If you’re not used to buying plants for indoors, you may wonder what exactly is the difference? Is it even that important? The answer to the latter question is Yes, and No. “Yes” because the most crucial part for long term success is putting a plant in the correct light conditions. “No” because some times plants will adapt to changes in light conditions (within reason). For starters, lets shed some light on these categories mentioned above. See what I did there?

Light Categories – What Do They Mean?

  1. Direct vs. Indirect – Basically this is the strength of the sunlight your plants are getting. Direct light would be light from the sun directly hitting the plant. Indirect would be light rays that bounce around a few times before they hit your plant
  2. Bright, Moderate, Low 
    1. Bright Light – Plants that like Bright Light are usually needing about 6 hours of sunlight inside your home. The best way to get this is to put them very close to a Southern exposure window because south facing windows get the most sunlight throughout the day. Your second best option would be near a west window. These areas are usually close to a window or a room with great southern exposure. 
    2. Moderate Light – Most plants either require moderate light or will adapt to it. I like to think of moderate light as any room in your home that you can comfortably read a book in without turning on the lights. This could be an area near southern windows or a room with many windows that get good indirect light throughout the day. In my house, I have a room with a large bay window facing the East, and four large windows facing the west. This is my main ‘plant room’ and has decent light throughout the entire day. Kitchens, Foyers, Sitting rooms, and some bedrooms may fit into this category. 
    3. Low Light – Think of this as an East or North facing window, or a room with only one or two windows. Bathrooms and Bedrooms usually fit into this category. 

What Else Should You Know?

  1. What’s outside of the window? – Just because a window faces south does not mean you’ll get Bright Light. What if there’s a large tree or structure blocking your view? Think about the outside of the home.
  2. Plants will adapt – Plants may adapt to new light conditions and move up or down between the categories. During this time, the plant may drop leaves as it’s getting used to lower light levels.
  3. Plants will lose color and become dull if they require more light than they are getting. You may also see the bending and stretching towards the window. In this case, you should probably move it towards the window and continually rotate it so that it keeps its shape. 
  4. Don’t try to adapt a plant to direct light. If you put a plant that needs indirect light into direct light, you’ll see some damage. Most often the leaves will burn and turn brown, or white.
  5. There’s less sunlight in winter. You’ll notice plants slowing down, losing leaves, or changing a bit during the winter months. This is probably because the lower light levels in winter and your plant is going through a dormant period. Just be calm and slow down on your watering as you wait for the spring growing season. 
  6. Light bulbs inside your home don’t count. Plants need full spectrum light produced by the sun or special growing bulbs. 
Our Favorite Plants for Each Light Category
Indirect Light (unless otherwise mentioned)


Get in touch!

Low Light

Air Plants
Benjamin Ficus
Rubber Plant
String of Pearls (Direct)
Aloe (Direct)
Norfolk Island Pine (Direct)
Cactus (Direct)


Moderate Light

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
ZZ Plant
Spider Plant
Ponytail Palm
Pothos Vine

Bright Light

Birds Nest Fern
ZZ Plant
Snake Plant


Rubber Plant


ZZ Plant

Fiddle Leaf Fig


Snake Plant

Bird’s Nest Fern