For a plant light is a matter of life or death. Light is its direct food source. Light in all its forms – natural or artificial – emits energy particles called photons. Plants convert this energy into carbohydrate by means of photosynthesis. Sunlight is best; it contains more intense energy. Its quality is superior; it contains a better mix of energy in the red and blue regions of the light spectrum. Many plants can only survive with real light. Others can make do with the man-made variety. None can live without it.
Light. Life. The two are intertwined. We feel glum when the skies are gloomy, alive when the clouds clear. Light makes us feel healthier, it gives us vitamins, it regulates our body clocks. When the sun appears we rush outdoors to bathe in it. When it sets we settle down to sleep. We depend on light to go about our daily business. But plants depend on it even more.
And yet, like us, plants can have too much of a good thing. Overdo their exposure to light and they will burn. Or burn out. As long as there is light plants will continue to photosynthesise. In a room that is constantly lit a plant simply cannot stop working. Depriving an office plant of rest limits its life expectancy.
Plant lighting is a complicated business. Even when you buy plants that have been bred to live indoors. Most office plants will prefer that at least a ration of their daily light is natural. This throws up all kinds of issues about optimum locations.
Plants are usually denoted as full-sun, partial-sun or shade plants. Full-sun plants do best right next to a window with excellent sun exposure, partial-sun plants prefer to be further from a window or by a window with weak sun exposure, shade plants do well out of direct sunlight and can get by with exposure to artificial light only.
Bright Light Lovers
Flowering Plants, Succulents and Geraniums love lots of sunlight and do best in a south-facing window where they will receive at least four hours direct sunlight daily. On (rare in Ireland) days when the sun is really glaring it helps to protect them with a sheer window blind.
Partial Light Lovers
Chinese Evergreens, Bird’s Nest Ferns and even Cyclamen will do well in the less sunny areas of a building: An east-facing window that gets just a few hours of cooler morning sun. A spot that’s 1-2m from a window that faces south or southwest. Directly in front of a north-facing window.
Shady No Sun
Palms, ferns and some orchids are happy in low light conditions.
Light intensities vary according to season. A south window can be too intense in summer for many foliage plants but ideal in winter. Light from a north window can be too weak for flowering plants during the winter but perfect for most office plants in summer. Basically: Be ready to adapt to sun cycles by moving your plants around. And remember: The sun usually only washes one side of an indoor plant. Periodically rotate your plant so both halves get an even share.
How can you tell if your plants are getting adequate light?
Too little light will result in elongated, spindly growth as the plant stretches to find alternative light sources. New leaves can be smaller and paler than existing ones. Flowering will be weak or totally absent. The plant will lose its ability to absorb water and will become susceptible to root rot. Too much light will cause a plant’s leaves to wilt, fade, brown and scorch whilst its soil becomes bone dry.
So what do I do?
If an office plant shows telltale signs of deficient light try removing any obstacles (cabinets, blinds, overgrown outdoor plants) between it and the sun. A thorough cleaning of the nearest window will help. Even consider placing the plant next to pale walls and furniture that reflect natural light rather than absorb it. If the plant is burning up, find it a shadier home. If lights stay on 24/7 in your office for night shifts or security reasons make sure to give your plant extra water and fertilizer to cope with its non-stop workload.
Or you can avoid all this sun-chasing and constantly moving stuff around by investing in preserved plants. Mummie Plants are purpose-designed for business use. They are natural plants that have been harvested at peak freshness and sealed into a constant state of vitality. They need no light whatsoever to stay looking their best. Put them in the furthest recesses of a back-office and they will happily brighten up the place without ever seeing the light of day.
Interested? Call Mummie Plants on 01 2964540 and we will illuminate you further…