Plants have different light requirements – this article is a general look at plants that like low levels of light.
All photosynthetic plants need light in order to produce the food they need to grow. Photosynthesis is the process of converting CO2 and Water into Food using the energy plants absorb from the sun. Leaves have adapted over millions of years into specialised structures that can harness the sun’s energy and use light to create food. I will be adding an article on Photosynthesis soon.
Whilst all photosynthetic plants need at least a low level of light to survive, actual required light levels vary between plants, with some flourishing in bright direct light, and others enjoying low light levels, and of course millions in between coping well with moderate light levels.
Adaptation to High and Low Light Levels
It is important to consider the light level in the natural environment of your plant in order to ensure that you are providing optimum growing conditions. I always try to replicate the light levels found in nature.
We have a relatively short summer in the UK, and therefore relatively low light levels for most of the year. If you grow plants with high light requirements, this will mean that you will have to tactically position your plants to maximise the seasons, or artificially enhance the light they receive. I find it much more rewarding, and beneficial to the plants, to grow plants that naturally cope well with low light levels.
Cacti struggle in low light
Many Cacti have adapted to flourish in the intense light and heat found in desert regions. They are specialists in their habitat and can cope with the tough conditions that accompany high light levels and high temperatures. Many cacti will not cope well with low light levels, becoming thin and sickly. Plants with high light needs that are grown in too low light tend to lean towards the light source, so if your plants are leaning, maybe your light levels are too low?
Epiphytes thrive in relatively low light
On the other hand, many other tropical plants are adapted to grow in areas where they are not subjected to direct light. My favourite plants find their home in or around other plants, and therefore survive in dappled or even low light. Most Hoyas and other epiphytic plants flourish best in these conditions – in low, or lower light levels. In fact, many will suffer if light levels are too intense with leaves being bleached by direct light and ultimately dropping, reducing the plant’s ability to feed itself.
Rainforest floors have low light levels
Plants that inhabit rainforests tend to flourish in low light levels. It is surprising how little light actually penetrates the rainforest canopy and reaches the forest floor. Up to 75% of the world’s plants inhabitat rainforest regions, which means that the majority of the plants you find on this planet actually thrive in indirect light.
The rainforest canopy acts like a huge parasol, excluding light below it and trapping moisture, creating a relatively cool, dark and damp emvironment. When a tree falls in a rainforest, the window of light it allows through to the floor quickly promotes growth from rambling plants, trees, shrubs and vines, kick-starting them into action and filling in the gap created by the fallen tree.
Some Hoyas Can Cope with Relatively Low Light
Many Hoyas inhabit such areas and are well adapted to cope with low light levels found in them. Most will suffer if placed in direct sunlight, which you can see for yourself. If you grow a Hoya in too bright light, you will see it’s vines grow away from the light, seeking shadier conditions. I have noticed this with most of my Hoyas – I believe they are telling me where to put them!
Incorrect light levels can harm your plant
Different intensities of light can actually alter a plants’ behaviour. Different light intensities can promote foliage to grow or flowers to form. For example, Hoya carnosa will produce fleshy, lush leaves in lower light levels, whereas flower production takes over in brighter light and longer days, to the detriment of the leaves.
Hoya australis ‘Lisa’ also becomes a bit sparce, but flowers more readily when in bright light. The leaves of Hoya australis ‘Lisa’ as with many other Hoyas, emerge with a strong red tinge to them in high light levels.
Perfect House Plants
Plants like Sansevieria do well in low light, as do many other plants. Most Hoyas grow excellently in low light and are easy indoor plants that suit the home or office. They thrive with very little care, so are versatile and can be placed where you want to have them, not where they need to go!