Bright Indirect Light Demystified

light plant care

Ok, so raise your hands those, who heard from a seller in a garden shop, read in a plant care card or a “Top 10 tips how not to kill your plant” Buzzfeed article, that their plants need bright indirect light, nodded their head, but secretly didn’t have any idea what that meant? 

We’ve all been there, including myself and Alena - thinking we have a bright indirect light in our apartments (even in that dark corner - I mean, it looks right to my eye!!), but throwing yet another plant to a graveyard, and blaming it on pests, overwatering or even bad fen-shui! Truth is with inadequate light alone your plant baby is probably not gonna die, but she is much more susceptible to pests and overwatering (and I’m sure to bad fen-shui too!), and will not truly live to its full potential.

So why “bright indirect light” is not a good definition to use? The light you see and the actual light are almost always two very different things! And that’s because a human eye is light-adaptable - it adapts to new light conditions pretty fast, and considers it to be a new normal. Think about your phone going into a night mode at 10 PM - the screen looks very yellow for about a minute, and then you don’t notice it anymore - cause your eyes have adapted!

You will be able to evaluate light conditions in your apartment in relative terms but not absolute. That means you’ll be able to tell that the light at your brightest window is better, than the light in the middle of the room but is your north wall a good place to put a plant to?

If only there was an easy way to know your plant specific light requirements, and whether your place can provide it, right??!! Well, fret not - there is! It’s simple enough, so you as a plant parent simply don’t have any excuse not to do it, and trust us - once you start, you won’t go back!

Below I’m going to deep dive (not too deep though) into how the light is measured, how you can measure it, and how you can use this information in your plant care.

What. There are two light measurements of how bright the light is - lux and foot candles (FCs). Lux is metric (kg, metres, centimeters, etc) and FC is imperial (feet, pounds, etc). Personally I’m a huge fan of a metric system, and it takes me ages to convert stones and feet into something that actually makes sense, but in the plant world FCs are more or less a standard, so on our website we use FCs. They’re easily cross-converted in Google, if you have a preference for Lux (roughly add a 0 to FC), but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

How. There are two ways you can measure the light - getting a standalone light meter (supposed to be more precise), or downloading an app! I have both an app and the standalone device, and I can wholeheartedly tell you, that the difference between the two of them is not significant enough to worry too much about. An app will do just fine, and unlike a standalone light measure tool, your phone is always with you!

I personally use Lux on Android, and for iOS users Lux Light Meter Pro is a good one too. Once you have downloaded and opened the app - point your back phone lens towards the light as close to your plant (or potential plant position) as possible. 

The light might change significantly throughout the day or even if you move it 10 cm to the left or to the back - it can be 10 vs 300 on an overcast winter morning compared to a bright spring noon. 

That’s why it’s super important at least for the first several days to measure your light throughout the day - in the morning, noon and around 3 PM - averaging those numbers out will be the approximate light amount your plant is getting during that season!

So now when you know what your light conditions are, you can check your plant light requirements (either on our website, where every plant has a specific light FC measure) or simply by googling it.

Now what do you do with that knowledge? Depends!

The average light is more than two times lower than the minimum requirement

First of all, don’t panic, and check what applies below:

Is it a very gloomy day, and typically the light is much better?
Check again on a brighter day - your light will probably be significantly better. My window light on a gloomy day doesn’t get above 50, and it’s about 200 on a brighter, but still cloudy day.
Is it a low light requirement plant, such as Sansevieria?
They will be fine in that spot (unless the light is constantly below 25 FC), but they won’t grow much, or won’t grow at all. If you want it to thrive, consider moving it. If it’s been there for a while, and it’s been thriving - let it be!
Is it a medium or high light requirement plant? 
It probably won’t last there much longer - consider moving it to a brighter spot, or using a supplement light, such as LED grow light.

The average light is somewhat lower or at the minimum requirement

The majority of the plants will be completely happy within these ranges, especially if it’s winter - it’s only natural for your plant to receive a lower amount of light during winter, and go into a bit of a sleeping mode - in spring it will bounce back, and will bring you joy with tons of leaves!!

The average light is at a Good Growth requirement

You’re doing everything you can for your plant baby in terms of light requirement! As it’s winter time now, it will be worth re-measuring your light in spring, and see if it might be getting a direct sun exposure, that it might not need, and will need to be moved in a bit of a shadier spot, but otherwise - congrats! 

Many of us wish Santa brought them a south-facing window, so you must have been good! :)

If you wanna know more about light and plants or in general scientific approach to plant care, make sure to subscribe to our Instagram account and website mailing list!

Hope this was helpful, and if you have any questions - feel free to DM on Instagram, or drop us an email at info@nicelyplant.ie!


Marina


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