a variety of indoor plants

Understanding Sunlight and Indoor Plants

As homeowners, many of us love adding greenery and growing foliage to spruce up our indoor and outdoor spaces. However, some plants do not love living indoors. Plants are native to the outdoors; therefore, adequate sunlight for plants is a huge factor.

Wooden pots hanging from wall filled with ferns and other plants

Having plants in our lives lifts our spirits and improves our health. When plants are in our homes, they help reduce stress and improve our overall mood and emotions. They also offer natural air purification. We don’t all live in areas with ideal sunlight, though, which is why it is essential to know which plants can tolerate low sunlight levels.

For those of us without a green thumb, it can seem daunting to choose a house plant and keep it alive. Fear not! Some plants require minimal care and can thrive in low or artificial light.

The light levels needed to survive and grow vary from plant to plant. The ones in our homes need sunlight for a longer portion of the day because it is usually not direct. If your houseplants are showing signs of distress, it may mean they need more sunlight. Along with water, soil, and nutrients, sunlight for plants is very important to their vitality. 

The Right Amount of Sunlight for Indoor Plants

Sunlight shining through top of green fern

Plants need sunlight to thrive. Since they need sunlight for photosynthesis (food production), it is essential to know how much they require.

The level of sun for plants is identified on their label with the following information:

  • Full sun – Need at least 6 hours or more of direct sun per day
  • Part sun – Need between 3 - 6 hours of direct sun per day
  • Part-shade – Need between 3 - 6 hours of sun per day and protection from the mid-day sun
  • Full shade – Need less than 3 hours of direct sun per day

Successfully growing plants indoors depends largely on the plants' placements and how much sunlight the plant needs to grow. Natural sunlight coming in through the windows of your home will not be as intense as the sunlight outdoors, so the further the plant is from a window, the more problems you may have.

Indoor plants on a staircase

Signs Your Indoor Plants Get Too Much Sunlight

While sunlight for plants is needed to thrive, they can also get too much sunlight and look unhealthy. The summer months cause damage to the leaves of your plants. Too much heat and sunlight can dry out and even burn your plants.

Your plants get too much sunlight if they show any of the following signs:

  • Wilting
  • Curling downwards
  • Translucent or brown “burning” spots
  • Falling leaves

If you notice signs that the sunlight for plants is too strong, close your curtains or blinds during the mid-day sun and try moving the plants around to new spaces. Tip: place a few plants together on bookcases or walls, or use décor items like vases to create shade for your plants.

Signs Your Indoor Plants Need More Sunlight

It can be a struggle to figure out the right amount of sunlight for plants.

Your plants may need more sunlight if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Sparse or no new growth
  • Leans towards light sources
  • Produces small leaves
  • Browning leaves and tips
  • Soil not drying out 
Living room in house with indoor plants scattered

When you have plants that need sunlight in your home, placing them next to a window is often an excellent spot for them. A south-facing window with ample sunlight is the best location for plants. Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, these windows are perfect for your plants that need sunlight for part of the day. If your window faces north, it will get the least amount of sun, so this position would be best for plants that do not need much sunlight.

If your home doesn’t allow for sufficient sunlight for plants, or during the winter months when the sunlight doesn’t shine quite as much or as bright, a grow light is a good option. While sunlight is best, grow lights provide the light your plant needs for every stage of its growth.

Indoor Plants That Do Not Need Sunlight

If you are a beginner house plant raiser, have a busy work schedule, or are a frequent traveler, a plant that does not need much sunlight is an excellent place to start. They are resilient and are easy to grow. Whether you live in an area that doesn’t have as much sunlight, or your home or office doesn’t let enough light in, there are plenty of plants that do not need sunlight, require low light, or can flourish under artificial light

House plants near a window
  • Dracaena –low light
  • Parlor Palm – does not need sunlight or needs low light
  • Snake Plant – plant that does not need sunlight
  • Bromeliads – plants that do not need sunlight or need artificial light
  • Spider Plant –low light
  • Peace Lily – does not need sunlight
  • Lucky Bamboo – does not need sunlight 

While all plants need at least some light, it is worth noting many plants thrive with indirect light or fluorescent lighting. These plants are the perfect plants for decorating your home.   

Other Factors for Successful Indoor Plants


Growing plants in your home requires knowing what factors are needed for success. Plants add color, warmth, and décor to your home. Some plants do not need sunlight and are easy to grow, but other factors contribute to the plant surviving.

In addition to lighting, proper watering is the main factor in successful plant care. Too much water can drown your plants. The temperature and humidity in and out of your home affect your plant's growth. Some plants will benefit from being moved outside for regulated temperatures, humidity, or extra light. Just as your lawn needs fertilizer to grow thick and luscious, your plants will need fertilizer, too. As they grow, they may need to be repotted. Choosing a big enough pot (but not too big) and repotting it with fresh soil will allow your plant to continue to thrive.

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