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Light Requirements for Plants

Most plants have their requirements expressed by symbols, which you will find on the care tag of most plants. The trick is figuring out what those symbols actually mean.

Most light needs are divided into 3 specific categories: full sun, semi-shade and shade. However, these classifications are not standardized, so variations do exist. In addition, the number of daylight hours also has an effect on the growth of plants. In winter, there is less sunlight and a plant that received more than adequate light during the summer months may be light deprived in the winter. Be flexible. The number of daylight hours also influences the flowering period and the growth of the plant.


In general, the three light requirements are:

Full Sun – the plant tolerates unshaded sunlight for an unlimited number of hours each day. It can be placed in or near a south facing window.

Semi-shade – this plant needs a lot of sunlight, but it has to be protected from the strongest rays of the sun. In a south-facing window, blinds should be shading it form direct light. An east facing window, where the sun disappears after about 10 AM, is a good choice as is a west facing window where the plant will receive afternoon sun. This classification is also often called “bright, indirect light”.

Shade – this plant should not be exposed to any direct sunlight, particularly in the summer. A northern exposure is best. This is tricky as you do need some sun, or the plant will not grow.

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