I have worked in interior Horticulture for 37 years, working in tropical greenhouses throughout the US. I have learned that the same plant will grow and maintain differently in different locations. Move a thriving plant and it may begin to die right away, or move a struggling plant and it may begin to thrive right away. Why? Plants use light, from the sun or from artificial sources, and water to photosenthize. They make all their own food in the form of carbohydrates, sugars and starches, that feed the cells.
If the plant has the best amount of light to meet its requirements, then it will thrive without much intervention from people. After all, plants were here longer that us people. So how to find out what a particular plant needs is not difficult. Hundreds of houseplant books on the market today are filled with the requirements of most common houseplant–those tropical plants that grow and thrive indoors.
But even with that knowledge, how does one know if the amout of light in the place where the plant is going is enough for it to maintain? That is where the years of experience have allowed me to devise general guide lines that help to understand the level of light in an area as it pertains to a particular plant. Light for houseplants is measured in High, Medium, or Low light. But what is hight light? Is it direct sunlight streaming in from a south-facing window in mid July? What is the amount of light, according to these standards, in front of a norh-facing window in mid December? the manual “How to be Successful with Houseplants From the Plant’s Perspcetive”, shows how light is measured in the forms of footcandles; the amount of light given off by one beeswax candle at the distance of one foot. A foot candle meter is the best instrument to use to determine the amount of light that is available at any given time. The manual gives the definitions of how to judge the amount of light in relation to the distance from the window, what direction the window faces, and how the amount of light changes throughout the year.
Once the amount of light is determined, even if low light is the norm, it is important to choose the right plants for those light levels. There are hundrese of species and varieties of plants that will grow and maintain in low-light levels. Most plant books list these.
This a series of atricles written to give the best information on growing and maintaining plants in any interior environment. I hope to instruct readers how to work with the plants’ needs, and how to understand how to give them to their plants.