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What is indirect light?

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2002
by Will Creed on October 01, 2002 11:28 AM
It is often reported that many indoor plants require "indirect light." I think there may be a lot of confusion about just what that means.

I would like to find out what you think "indirect light" means. Be as specific as possible.


by stormystargazer on October 02, 2002 06:28 PM
I always thought that "indirect light" was
sunlight coming through the North window, as
opposed to directly outside in the sunlight
during the summer.
I really am not sure and if I am wrong than
maybe that is the problem I have been having
with my Jade plant. Not enough light during
the winter months.
by Will Creed on October 04, 2002 09:38 AM
StormySG - Jades do best in your sunniest window. They love direct sunlight and will tolerate bright indirect light.
by Plant Doctor on October 05, 2002 02:44 AM
Good question, and one that has bothered quite a few people, as I am asked this every couple of weeks on my show.

1 Indirect Light:
A better discription would be "second hand" light. A brightly lit area where light that has come into the room, but not directly in a path from the sun. Bounced of a wall for instance.

2. Low Light:
Light from a southern facing window, or a ways away from any reflected light.

3.Diffused Light:
Light that has been filtered by some source. Blinds or tree branches for example
Low light or shade:
A area where you would want to turn on a light to read.

4. No light, (as in what Christmas Cactus needs to flower):
Means absolutly total darkness for what ever specified amount of time. Light from a street light down the block could be enough light to keep certain plants from blooming. Perhaps tucked away in a closet, or under a black painted box.

5. Full or direct Light:
An area that can cast a shadow for more the 3 hours a day, the rest of the day being in at least indirect light.

6.Partial shade:
An area that recieves less then 3 hours of morning or evening light (No noon day direct sun) Most plants the require partial shade will do well in difused or filtered light as well.

Hope this helps


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by Plant Doctor on October 05, 2002 02:49 AM
Please pardon the misspellings in the above, as it is 5:45 am, and I have not had my 1st cup of coffee yet.

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by mapache on October 29, 2002 09:53 PM
I always thought indirect light was a spot where the plant gets direct light. I guess I was wrong. I have an alfalfa fern that says it needs indirect light and it seems to be doing better when it gets a little bit of bright sunlight. So do you think I should move it?
by Will Creed on November 05, 2002 12:40 PM
Thanks for your interesting replies. As I suspected there are lots of different ideas about what "indirect light" means. I think that it is this confusion that leads many people to place their plants in the wrong location, in terms of light. That, in turn, leads to other plant problems.

For those of you who are interested, I have written a short article on light for indoor plants. It includes comprehensive descriptions of direct light, indirect light, low light, et. al. that I hope takes some of the confusion out of these terms.

Contact me at if you would like me to email you a copy.

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