Assess your natural light like a pro


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The most important element for having success with houseplants is making sure you get the right plant for the right light environment, right down to the exact spot you plan to place it. Accurately communicating your home’s varying light levels to your plant sales person can make a world of difference in your growing. However, with the numerous different ways and phrases people can use to describe their light environment, and the different spots and angles one can place their plant within that environment, mutual understanding between client and plant specialist can be a great challenge.

light analysis additions
For years the plant industry has honed down a lingo that works for us all across the yard and home. It’s not that the way we describe things is more correct, but by limiting the vocabulary to the basics, we can all understand one another whether or not we are discussing an urban apartment or a countryside farmhouse. It’s only occurred to me now how easy it is to share that terminology with the rest of the world seeking indoor plants but struggle with how to simply and accurately convey their lighting details. Knowing just a couple key words can make a whole shopping and design experience easier, quicker and ulitimately result in more success for you and your plants.light levels revised

The following words and phrases are troublesome choices  for indoor light description and here’s why:

SHADE: We really only use the word shade when we are talking about the outdoors. Inside, you are under shelter, so shade is a given. What plant professionals want to know when assisting you in indoor plant selection is what kind of light levels are penetrating your home’s interior (Do any sun beams trickle through windows or skylights the way it can through barren branches in trees outside). There are so many variances in you indoor shade-so avoid that word when talking about the indoors, it’s far too broad and outdoor specific.

SUN: many people use this isolated word synonymously with light (which could be direct OR indirect). To us ‘sun’ sounds like ‘direct sun’, but far too often when people say things like “this corner gets sun all day” what they often mean is it’s bright most the day which is very different. It might sound like splitting hairs but whether or not your plant will receive direct sun or indirect sun can make all the difference in your success. lt only takes one afternoon of direct sun rays to burn a plant that prefers only indirect. Similarly, a cactus will approach a slow, drawn out death if it’s only bright but not receiving any direct sun. So know the spot you plan to put your plant and whether or not it’s receiving any direct sun rays (these yellow hot spots in the photos) and know what time of day they occur. Time of day makes a big difference in sun strength with the most intense period occurring between noon and 3 pm. So only use the word ‘sun’ when it’s linked with ‘direct sun’ if that’s what you mean. If not, you are talking about ‘indirect light’.ROOM WITH SUN copybig room light study

Also, things get darker in corners, and that applies to both on the ground and suspended from ceilings. So often times, even in a bright room, a hanging plant can be too far away or too far above light sources. In the following photo, a plant on the little shelf would get far  less light than if it were a few feet lower near the sill. Light has a harder time bending around shelves and other opaque objects like furniture.kitchen do over study

Lastly, avoid relying on ROOM TYPE like bedroom/bathroom/kitchen/living room/office as a way to describe your light environment or plant environment. While it’s easy to assume all offices have low light, or that everyone’s living room gets average light like your own, we live in a world of dramatically varying homes and buildings with skylights, bay windows, frosted glass, shady trees or buildings facing every which way possible, so room type won’t help your plant professional assist you with plants. In addition, showering humidity or cooking won’t have that much effect on your plants unless you’re putting a plant a directly over your oven or stove.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Flora Grubb Gardens

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