Even if you weren't born with a green thumb, you can keep houseplants alive. The secrets to success are as simple as proper light, water, and soil. We will go through a new basic each week for your new journey.
The Right Light
Light is vital to all living things including plants, but ideal light levels vary by plant species. If a plant gets more or less light than it needs for optimum growth, it will be stressed and prone to problems, such as weak growth, minimal flowering, disease, and pests. Symptoms of insufficient light include stretching or leaning toward a light source, growing sparsely, becoming spindly, losing foliage color or variegation, and producing smaller leaves. Symptoms of too much light include whitish scorch marks on foliage, wilted and shriveled leaves, or bleached leaves. Bright indirect light suitable for most houseplants can often be found within 3 feet of a sunny window. Sunlight is the best source of full-spectrum light for plants. Supplement natural light with artificial light to provide plants with the amount and quality of light they need to thrive, especially during the winter. To give the light they need, choose full-spectrum florescent or LRD lights and keep them shining 12-16 hours per day. Connecting lights to automatic timers make them fuss-free.
The BiologyPlants absorb light energy and turn it into energy through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is performed in special cells called chloroplasts. Plants that can handle higher light levels have higher levels of chloroplasts. Chloroplasts also help plants respond to changing light levels by altering their concentrations. When plants are exposed to reduced light, they line up more chloroplasts to catch the lesser amount of light. This process is called acclimatization and helps explain why your shade-loving plants can sometimes be "trained" to accept higher light conditions.
Plants' unique ability to convert sunlight to energy is a fundamental aspect of life on this planet. It is thought that plants use sunlight to convert to usable energy, which is then consumed by animals.
Plant PositionsWhen it comes to growing plants indoors, gardeners are typically fighting for enough light or more consistent light. It's important to know that natural sunlight coming through a window is not as strong as sunlight outside, and the intensity of the light drops rapidly the further the plant is moved from the window. A simple move of 2 or 3 feet away from a window can reduce the light intensity by more than 50%.
It's also important to pay attention to the direction a window is facing to gauge the intensity of light coming in. In North America and Europe and much of Asia, the light intensity relative to window orientation is as follows:
North Facing Windows
These windows tend to have the weakest light intensity and are often in relatively deep shade throughout the window. It may be possible to grow shade-loving plants in a north-facing window during the summer months, but in the winter, these windows are usually not conducive to plant growth.
South Facing Windows
Because the sun follows a slightly southern east-to-west arc across the sky, southern windows usually have strong light intensity. Plants placed in unblocked southern windows will typically receive the most light.
East Facing Windows
East windows benefit from the morning sun when the rays are not quite as strong. East windows are often good for plants that need moderate sunlight or morning sunlight only.
West Facing Windows
West windows ar the full afternoon and evening sun, which can be surprisingly strong in the summer. Although they don't get the same intensity of light as a southern exposure, a west-facing window is a good place for your sun-loving plants.
It's still entirely possible to burn plants that are placed close to windows because the window glass can act as a magnifying glass and the plant may not be well acclimated to direct sun on its leaves. The best guide for your plants is the plant itself.
Too much or too little light can quickly stress a plant, which makes them more prone to disease, pests, and premature death. Finding optimal lighting for your plant can take some trial and error, so you'll have to monitor it closely.
Bright light means a sunny southern or western facing window that receives direct light all day long. It should get a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of sunlight each day, preferably more. This can be hard to accomplish during the winter but resist the temptation to move your plant closer to the window. Most plants that need bright light will not be able to handle the cold draft that increases the closer you move toward a window.
Many rooms qualify as low light, especially in winter. Rooms with north-facing or partially shaded windows would qualify as low light situations. If you can't easily read a book, it's probably low light.
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