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The Importance of Sunlight for Plant Growth: Why Do Plants Need Sunlight?

How to Care for Plants Indoors

Variety of indoor flowers arranged on countertop.

Indoor plants offer a wonderful way to bring a touch of the outdoors into your home. Understanding why plants need light is essential, even in full or partial exposure. Sunlight enables photosynthesis, a vital process where plants convert light energy into glucose, crucial for their growth and survival. Chlorophyll, found in plant cells, absorbs sunlight to drive photosynthesis. Without adequate light, plants may struggle to produce enough glucose, leading to stunted growth or death.

It's crucial to note that indoor plants have specific lighting needs. When in doubt, check the plant tag for exposure guidance, search online by plant name, or utilize apps like PlantSnap for details.

Consider the following tips for indoor plant care:

Working with Windows

Where your plant is located will affect how much light it receives, and it’s important to note the direction nearby windows face.

  • South-facing windows offer direct sunlight, but intense light may cause scorching. Keep sensitive plants a couple of feet away.

  • West-facing windows receive direct sun in the late afternoon, potentially raising temperatures. Monitor plants for scorching.

  • East-facing windows provide morning sun and indirect light later in the day, suitable for plants needing bright, indirect light.

  • North-facing windows receive the least light and are ideal for low-light plants.

Seasonal Lighting Changes

As the seasons change, so does the strength of the sun’s rays. In the summer, the light coming through will be brighter and more intense for a longer period of time. By contrast, hours of sunlight go down and the light is less intense during winter. You may need to adjust your plants’ locations seasonally.

Artificial Lighting

In some cases, you may not be able to meet your plants’ lighting requirements with natural light. In these situations, you can use artificial light such as LED or fluorescent grow lights. These lights come in a variety of sizes, form factors, and power outputs to allow you to get the right lighting that you require.

Identifying Lighting Problems

As you watch your plants, there are certain signs you can look for that may mean you have an issue with lighting. Low lighting causes a process called etiolation, sometimes called legginess. This results in plants appearing tall and spindly and long spaces may develop between the leaves as they try to stretch out to more light. The leaves of some plants may begin to turn a darker green, then yellow and drop. Certain plants may not bloom or have minimal blooming. Plants that are normally multi-colored may lose their striping and turn a solid green color or start to pale.

Excessive light may cause brown patches to appear on the leaves. Leaves may look faded, washed out, scorched or pale. The soil will start to dry out quicker, and leaves will begin to dry and fall off. The fallen leaves will appear crunchy and crispy, as opposed to when a plant doesn’t receive enough light and they appear yellow and soft.

For assistance with indoor plant care, feel free to contact us. We're here to help you with all your gardening questions!


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