There is so much confusion surrounding how much light house plants need indoors, and this uncertainty is a major cause of unhealthy plants. Just because we think a room looks bright doesn’t necessarily mean that it is providing your plant with the light it needs to photosynthesise.
A plant beside a north-facing window is considered low light, whereas one sitting on a west or east-facing windowsill receives moderate or medium light. An east- or west-facing window receives a few hours of bright direct sunlight, but the light is indirect for most of the day, which is less intense. Moderate light indoors can also be described as partial shade, determined not only by the direction the window faces but by the plant’s distance from the window.
The majority of houseplants will grow well in moderate light, but here are a few of my favourites.
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Phalaenopsis orchids need to be on or very close to a window. A south-facing window in summer isn’t advisable as the leaves can get scorched by the sun; opt instead for an east, west, or north-facing window, which for most of the day receives only a few hours of direct sunlight. Many people throw orchids away after they flower, but with some simple care, they will bloom year after year and sometimes twice a year. To give your orchid the best chance of re-flowering, make sure it’s positioned on a windowsill and soak the pot in water for 30mins when the roots are a silvery colour and feed it at least once every few months.
Caladiums can be grown indoors or planted outside in the warmer months. Their spectacular leaves come in a variety of colours, some with speckles or veins in contrasting colours, and each leaf can grow as large as 50cm. The foliage will die back in autumn as the plant goes into dormancy. Leave the tubers in the pot; it should grow again in spring or summer.
Adiantum raddianum, also known as the maidenhair fern. We have been led to believe that ferns, because many of them thrive on the forest floor, should be placed in an area of low light. Few ferns will survive in areas that are too far from a window. A few hours of direct sunlight are appreciated by most ferns as long as the soil isn’t allowed to dry out completely. A self-watering planter is a good idea as this ensures constant access to water.