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A Guide To Sunlight Exposure

We love to use houseplants as indoor decor, and I’m assuming you do too as you are here reading this blog. It is important to keep in mind that as the weather is changing from season to season, so should your plant care routines. One of the most important factors in caring for a healthy plant is the sunlight it needs in its environment to thrive. So much so that lack of adequate light is the most common factor limiting the growth of plants in many areas of the home.

As we move into the colder, dryer season of winter it is important to adjust our plants' environment to suit what they need best to continue to be healthy and happy plants. Below is a basic guide to help you gauge the types of sun requirements plants need, what to expect from 3 different groups of plants in terms of the sun they need and what to look for when plants are getting too much or too little sun.

Sun Exposure Groups

Full Sun: A plant requiring full sun needs all the sunlight it can get, meaning at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sun exposure per day. Most house plants do not like full sun and many of them will become very damaged or will not survive very long. The only plants that enjoy full sun conditions are cacti, and succulents. Even then some succulents seem to prefer bright indirect light. 

What does this look like in your home? Full sun is experienced from a south facing window

Bright Indirect Light/Part Shade: Indirect light is sunlight that either passes through a medium, meaning a window shade or the leaves of a tree, or reflects off another surface before reaching a plant. This means try to shield your plants from the harsh midday rays by placing your plants a few inches to a few feet away from a window. Plants that thrive in these spaces will need protection from the intense midday sun (typically from 10 am to 3 pm). 

What does this look like in your home? Placing your plants near a west or east facing window will give a plant some morning or evening sun while also avoiding the heat of the midday sun

Shade: A shade-loving plant still needs some sunlight, just not a lot of it! You’ll find some plants survive and are known for their ability to thrive in low light and are easy to grow, which makes them great for beginners. These plants prefer less than 3 hours of direct sunlight, but not total darkness.

What does this look like in your home? A north facing window provides full shade, but low light can often depend on the size or amount of windows in a room.

How much light does each plant need?

With each type of plant, the amount of sunlight it will need will vary. That is why doing your research ahead of time to find the best location for your plant will greatly help you out in the long run! Making sure to change your plants location around if necessary during the seasonal changes to a better suited spot will also help your healthy plants you’ve had this summer to stay healthy all year round.


Succulents & Cacti: Will want to be placed in a full sun location where they can soak up all the rays they can get. It’s no wonder that these guys thrive in the desert! Place succulents in a south- or west-facing window.

Tropicals: Tropicals are slightly more delicate than succulents & cacti, therefore for the most of them, they require partial shade or indirect lighting. Placing them in front of a window that faces east or west is your best bet here.

Herbs: After the acclimation period, herbs will want and will thrive in a partial sun exposure environment. This means placing them in an east or west-facing window will help them thrive so you can get the most out of your herbs.

Even with all of this in mind, there are still plant varieties out there that don’t fit the common mold of these groups. For example, while a Snake Plant or ZZ plant are considered tropicals, they can survive well in so many different environments and sun light exposures. 

Signs Your Plant Needs More Sun

One of the hardest learning curve experiences for new plant parents is not knowing why your plant is looking “sick.” If you’re watering your plant regularly and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of bugs, it might be an issue with sun exposure. A plant that isn’t getting the sunlight it needs will start to turn dull green or yellow, drop leaves, with few, if any, new leaves. 

With that being said, most plants are amazingly resilient which allows this learning curve to be very forgiving! If you catch the symptoms in time to relocate your plant, there’s a good chance it can bounce back, so don’t lose hope! You’ll know your plant is happy with its light exposure when the leaves take on a healthy, rich green colour, the plant starts growing bushier, and the stems appear strong and firm.

Signs Your Plant is Getting Too Much Sun

Overexposure to sunlight can also be harmful to your plants. If your plant needs more shade, you’ll notice signs of burning on the leaves because yes, just like yourself, your plants can get sunburn as well. Often, this looks like singed leaf tips or patches of brown. Again, most plants can recover if moved to a more suitable location.

Comments (1)

  • Carmen Britton on Mar 30, 2023

    I’ve worked with plants a long time. But never really paid attention to the importance of sunlight…. This Christmas my husband bought me a 3 Way water/Light/pH meter. It has me learning how important it all is! Thank you for your articles!

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