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What Is Direct Sunlight?
When it comes to the type of light plants need, the term “direct sunlight” almost always refers to unfiltered outdoor sunlight. Some indoor settings can provide direct light conditions—most notably floor-to-ceiling glass windows (ideally facing south in the northern hemisphere, or north in the southern hemisphere). Typically, however, plants that require hours of direct light grow best outdoors, either on an uncovered patio or planted in the soil.
What Is Partial Direct Sunlight?
Some plants call for "partial sunlight" or "partial direct light." These species do best outdoors in a location that is only sunny for part of the day—for instance, along the east wall of a house. This allows direct morning light to nourish the plants, while the more intense types of direct sunlight that come from the west and south will be blocked by the house. If outdoor planting isn't an option, you can also place these plants in a sunny window, where they will, by and large, receive the light levels required to survive.
22 Plants That Require Direct Sunlight
Some plants thrive when they receive direct sunlight for all or most of the day. Others grow best when they receive some direct sunlight for part of the day—on covered patios or in east-facing windows or west-facing windows. Plants that need direct sunlight include:
- Citrus trees and other fruit trees
- Most herbs, including rosemary, mint, and sage
- Most vegetables (other than greens)
- Orange bird of paradise
- Madagascar palms
- Desert roses
- String of beads
- Aloe vera
- Most ficus species (including fiddle leaf figs)
- Norfolk Island pine
- Certain palms like date, ponytail, and areca palms
- Wax plant
- Spider plants
- Jade plants
What Is Indirect Sunlight?
Indirect light is sunlight that either passes through a medium—a window shade or the leaves of a tree—or reflects off another surface before reaching a plant. Most indoor settings only provide indirect light. Indirect sunlight ranges from the bright indirect light of east-facing windows to the fainter, indirect light of north-facing windows. If you purchase a plant marked "partial shade," "full shade," or "low light," it will likely do well in indirect light indoors.
Shield plants that require indirect light from the harshest of the sun's rays by placing them a few inches to a few feet away from a window. Hanging a sheer curtain in a window enables you to filter out more light. Be aware, however, that all plant species, even those labeled "low-light plants," must receive at least some sunlight. You can supplement sunlight with special indoor lights designed to provide heat and ultraviolet rays. Whenever possible, though, allow natural sunlight into your space to give houseplants the nourishment they need.
19 Plants That Require Indirect Light
Outdoor and indoor plants that do best under indirect light include:
- Palms like kentia, sago, and bamboo palms
- White bird of paradise
- Most ferns
- African violets
- Many ficus varietals (including rubber plants)
- Dragon trees
- Most orchids
- Prayer plants
- English ivy
- Snake plants (Sansevieria)
- Parlor palms
- Chinese evergreen
- Peace lilies
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