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The Right Light for Houseplants

Martha Stewart Living Television

The right place for a houseplant is one where it will receive neither too much nor too little light. Use one of these easy techniques to determine the best place for your houseplants to grow:

For an exact reading of light levels, use a light-intensity meter, available at garden-supply centers. Set the meter to read natural light or artificial light (for fluorescent or grow lights). Then, place the sensor in the spot you'd like to set the plant, and point it toward the light source. You'll get a reading in foot-candles, the amount of light cast by one candle at a distance of 1 foot. A reading of 350 to 500 foot-candles is good for plants that require strong light; 200 to 350 is good for medium-light plants; and 100 to 200 is suitable for plants that can survive under low light.

For a low-tech alternative, use your hand and a gray photographer's square: Simply hold your hand 6 inches away from the square, and observe the shadow it casts. A crisp shadow on the square means the light is strong, a soft shadow indicates low to medium light, and no shadow means there's very little to no light and the spot is not good for plants.

Whichever method you use, check the available light during the middle of a sunny day, when you are likely to have the strongest light. And be sure that the spot you choose gets at least 5 hours of light a day; the duration of light is just as important as its intensity.