plants under lights
Proper Light

Light is essential for plant growth and can be one of the most limiting factors for success with houseplants. Both the amount and the quality of light are important.

Light intensity refers to brightness and is measured in foot-candles, which is defined as the amount of light that one candle produces, measured one foot away. Outdoors, the amount of sunlight that is cast may be 10,000 to 12,000 foot-candles. Indoors, the amount of light that enters the room is only a small amount. While most plants will perform best with bright light conditions, some plants can tolerate moderate to low light conditions.

seat and plant by window light

While light intensity is measured in foot-candles and can be evaluated by using a light meter or photographic exposure meter, you can also follow these general guidelines.

  • Low Light (75 foot candles)
    • North window: a few feet away
    • East/West window: 3-10 feet away
    • South window:15-20 feet away
  • Medium (average) Light (150 foot candles)
    • North window: directly in front
    • East/west window: a few feet away
    • South window: 3-10 feet away
  • High or Bright Light (300 foot candles)
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​East/west window: directly in front
    • South window: up to 5 feet away
  • Direct (1500 foot candles)
    South window: directly in front
Light Duration

Keep in mind that light conditions change throughout the seasons. Several factors can influence your light intensity and duration. For example, the sun is higher on the horizon in the winter (increasing the brightness indoors) and lower on the horizon in the summer (decreasing the brightness indoors); surrounding trees and shrubs may block sunlight with their leaves in summer, but allow for more light during the winter after their leaves have fallen off.

Light duration refers to the number of hours of light that falls on a plant in 24 hours.

In low light conditions, plants can benefit from increasing the duration of light. Duration of 14 - 16 hours is sufficient. Do not expose plants to more than 16 hours of light since they need a rest period too. Also, be aware that flowering response in some plants is influenced by day-length and should be considered when supplementing the available light.


light bult
Plants need blue and red wavelengths for photosynthesis.
Choosing Lights

Light quality refers to the wavelengths of light. Plants need blue and red wavelengths for photosynthesis. For flowering, they also need infrared light.

Incandescent lights: mostly red, some infrared, low blue

Fluorescent lights: vary according to manufacturer

Cool white: mostly blue, low in red

For foliage plants, using cool white fluorescent bulbs works well. For blooming plants, use incandescent or special "grow light" bulbs.

Lighting Needs for Common Houseplants

  • Anthurium, Anthurium sp., Medium
  • Asparagus Fern, Asparagus densiflora 'Sprengeri', Medium
  • Baby Tears, Helxine soleirolii, High or Bright
  • Begonia, Begonia sp., Medium
  • Bird's Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus, Medium
  • Boston Fern, Nephrolepsis exaltata, Low
  • Chinese Evergreen, Aglaonema, Low
  • Coralberry, Ardesia crispa, Medium
  • Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia millii splendens, High or Bright
  • Dracaena, Dracaena, Medium
  • Dumb Cane, Dieffenbachia amoena, Medium
  • English Ivy, Hedera helix, High or Bright
  • False Aralia, Dizygotheca elegantissima, High or Bright
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig, Ficus lyrata, Medium
  • Gardenia, Gardenia augusta, Direct
  • Grape Ivy, Cissus rhombifolia, Medium
  • Hawaiian Schefflera, Schefflera arboricola, Medium
  • Heart Leaf Philodrendron, Philodendron scandens var. oxycardium, Low
  • Inch Plant, Tradescantia zebrine, Medium
  • Jade Plant, Crassula argentea, High or Bright
  • Mother-In-Law's Tongue, Sansevieria trifasciata, Low
  • Neanthe Bella Palm, Chamaedorea elegans, Low
  • Nephthytis, Syngonium podophyllum, Medium
  • Norfolk Island Pine, Araucaria heterophylla, High or Bright
  • Orange, Lemon, Etc., Citrus spp., Direct
  • Peperomia, Peperomia obtusifolia, Medium
  • Piggyback Plant, Tolmiea menziesii, Medium
  • Pittosporum, Pittosporum tobira, High or Bright
  • Pleomele, Pleomele reflexa, Medium
  • Podocarpus, Podocarpus macrophyllus, High or Bright
  • Pony Tail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata, High or Bright
  • Pothos, Scindapsus aureus (Epipremnum aureum), Medium
  • Prayer Plant, Maranta sp., Medium
  • Purple Passion Plant, Gynura aurantiaca, High or Bright
  • Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica ‘Decora’, Medium
  • Sago Palm, Cycas revolute, Medium
  • Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum, Medium
  • Staghorn Fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, Medium
  • Ti Plant, Cordyline terminalis, Medium
  • Umbrella Tree, Schefflera actinophylla (Brassaia actinophylla), Medium
  • Wax Plant, Hoya carnosa, High or Bright
  • Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina, High or Bright
  • White Flag, Spathiphyllum sp., Low
  • Zebra Plant, Aphelandra squarrosa, High or Bright


Sort through the houseplants by how much light they need.

Houseplants for High or Bright Light (Minimum)

  • Aphelandra squarrosa, Zebra Plant
  • Araucaria heterophylla, Norfolk Island Pine
  • Beaucarnea recurvata, Pony Tail Palm
  • Crassula argentea, Jade Plant
  • Dizygotheca elegantissima, False Aralia
  • Euphorbia millii splendens, Crown of Thorns
  • Ficus benjamina, Weeping Fig
  • Gynura aurantiaca, Purple Passion Plant
  • Hedera helix, English Ivy
  • Helxine soleirolii, Baby Tears
  • Hoya carnosa, Wax Plant
  • Pittosporum tobira, Pittosporum
  • Podocarpus macrophyllus, Podocarpus

Houseplants for Medium Light (Minimum)

  • Anthurium sp., Anthurium
  • Ardesia crispa, Coralberry
  • Asparagus densiflora 'Sprengeri', Asparagus Fern
  • Asplenium nidus, Bird's Nest Fern
  • Begonia sp., Begonia
  • Chlorophytum comosum, Spider Plant
  • Cissus rhombifolia, Grape Ivy
  • Cordyline terminalis, Ti Plant
  • Cycas revolute, Sago Palm
  • Dieffenbachia amoena, Dumb Cane
  • Dracaena, Dracaena
  • Ficus elastica 'Decora', Rubber Plant
  • Ficus lyrata, Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Maranta sp., Prayer Plant
  • Peperomia obtusifolia, Peperomia
  • Platycerium bifurcatum, Staghorn Fern
  • Pleomele reflexa, Pleomele
  • Schefflera actinophylla (Brassaia actinophylla), Umbrella Tree
  • Schefflera arboricola, Hawaiian Schefflera
  • Scindapsus aureus (Epipremnum aureum), Pothos
  • Syngonium podophyllum (Nephthytis triphylla), Nephthytis
  • Tolmiea menziesii, Piggyback Plant
  • Tradescantia zebrine, Inch Plant

Houseplants for Low Light (Minimum)

  • Aglaonema, Chinese Evergreen
  • Chamaedorea elegans, Neanthe Bella Palm, Parlor Palm
  • Nephrolepsis exaltata, Boston Fern
  • Philodendron scandens var. oxycardium, Heart Leaf Philodrendron
  • Sansevieria trifasciata, Mother-In-Law's Tongue, Snake Plant
  • Spathiphyllum sp., White Flag