1. Evaluate what kind of light you have.
Sunlight is the most important factor for your plant, and different plants need different amounts of light. Most plants love bright indirect or medium light, especially during the winter in the northeast. There are basically four types of light:
Direct light: The most intense indoor light - usually a southern or western exposure; your plant will see the sunshine for more than 4 hours a day. (Great for succulents or cacti).
Bright indirect light: Filtered or dappled sunlight - a bright room where the plant sees the sun through a sheer shade or through the trees.
Medium light: Usually found somewhere in-between the window and the back wall of the room - a sunny room where the plant won’t actually see the sun directly from where it sits.
Low light: Spots that are far from the window (more than 7ft) or in some cases no natural light at all.
Determining which direction the sunlight is coming from will help you know what kind of light you have. Most smart phones have a compass app to help you. Read your compass as you face the windows in your room.
N (North) = medium to bright indirect
NE (Northeast) = medium to bright indirect. Depending on the time of the year, direct sunlight in the morning
NW (Northwest) = Bright indirect
E (East) = direct morning sunlight to bright indirect
S (South) = Bright indirect to medium
SE (Southeast) = Bright indirect
SW (Southwest) = Bright indirect to direct afternoon sunlight
W (West) = Bright indirect to direct afternoon sunlight
You can also do a shadow test:
Midday on a sunny day (with overhead lights off), place a sheet of white paper on the spot where you intend to grow your plant. Now hold your hand about one foot above the paper. What do you see?
If you can see a clearly defined shadow of your hand, the spot receives bright light.
If the shadow is fuzzy, but recognizable as a hand, the spot receives medium light.
If you see only a faint shadow the spot receives low light.
2. Figure out the best spot for your plant.
Avoid placing your plant in a spot where it’s drafty - i.e. very close to old windows, in front of an AC unit or an exterior door. Also avoid spots that are too hot - i.e. directly on top of a heat vent, or next to a radiator, fireplace or woodstove.
Can your pets and/or children reach the plant? Consult these resources before finalizing your plant choice.
3. Select a plant for your light conditions that you like, with a realistic care schedule for you.
We've curated a selection of our favorite, relatively easy to care for plants, in each light category.