How to Pick the Perfect Spot for Your Houseplants

Because They Might Not Need as Much Natural Light as You May Think

With a fervor that rivals the heyday of houseplants decades ago, new generations are accenting living rooms, bedrooms, home offices and even baths with greenery. Think of it as “interiorscaping,” says best-selling author Barbara Pleasant in The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. “Plants are moving indoors as living art—and more.”

“Lush plants bring interiors to life,” says Samantha Owens who’s helped a growing number of customers select in-home greenery and sleek containers at her Encinitas nursery, Barrels & Branches. “Houseplants help purify the air. They make us feel good. People are hungry for that.” If you’re adding houseplants to help create a beautiful interior for your home, you’ll need to know what growing conditions are perfect for the particular plants you like—and the key to success with houseplants is placing them in locations that provide them with their needed amount of light.

Both east- and west-facing windows receive some direct light, depending on the time of day. North-facing windows receive the least direct light, while south-facing windows receive the most. But even the sunniest interior rooms often provide less light than shady locations outside, notes The California Master Gardener Handbook in its detailed chapter on houseplant selection and care. Natural sunlight through a window is not as strong as sunlight outside. So, how can you determine the amount of light a room contains?

Here’s a simple test to help gauge available light: Hold your hand about a foot above a white sheet of paper at the spot the plant will call home. A bold shadow indicates high light; a fuzzy shadow is low light; anything less is the equivalent of deep shade and houseplant hell. Match your light test results to plant needs when houseplant shopping and share your gardening know-how with nursery staff  too. They’ll help you find your favorite plants. When you get home, your light tests will help you determine where your plant will be happiest. Light needs for plants vary greatly. In general, most plants with blooms need to be within three feet of a sunny, south-facing window and plants with brightly colored foliage need more light than others.

Here are a handful of houseplant suggestions for numerous locations in your home. Since every home condition is different, be sure to try various settings. When your plant is giving you its best performance, you’ve found its perfect placement.

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