What does "low light" mean exactly?

SproutingLexi(9b)January 8, 2014

I've been seeing people define it as many different things. What do you consider low light conditions exactly? Filtered light but no direct sunlight? Dark corner far away from a non-sunny window? Name me some examples, please.

I'm trying to figure out where to place a new Chinese Evergreen (a quite dark variety) that says "low light" on its tag.

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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi & Good question,

I can't define it really, but here's what I do with mine. One of my Aglaonemas (Chinese Evergreen) lives in a vase of water in a dark corner.

My other Ags in mix get bright, indirect light, & while my light is quite good (all unobstructed western exposures), the pot is easily 15 ft. away from the window.

Happily, these are strong, durable plants, likely it'll adapt to anything you give it short of a very dark, windowless room.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 1:46PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

Generally, low light is the minimum light in which you can suitably read, from a flourecent or natural light source(meaning you cant use a regular anacedent light to supply light, nor is really a flourecent light bulb useful, really what is useful is grow light, window light and office ceiling flourecent lights

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 3:01PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Depends somewhat on the person and the plant. Our eyes are notoriously crappy at determining satisfactory light levels required for photosynthesis. (Mainly because the amount of light required for us to see well is far less than that required by many plants to photosynthesize.)

For orchids, at least, a general rule of thumb if you are going to try to "eyeball it" goes as follows:

"high light" -- a hand held 5 or 6 inches above the plant -- between the plant and the light source -- will produce a dark, sharply defined shadow.

"medium light" -- same as above except the shadow will be dim and poorly defined (fuzzy/blurry) edges

"low light" -- same as above except the shadow is very faint, lacking any edge definition at all

Many plants will "tell you" what they "think" of the lighting by their color and growth. While there are exceptions, it generally goes like this:

Deep dark, green leaves which is often coupled with weak elongated (correct term "etiolated") growth = "Please get us out of this closet!!!"

Medium (grass) green &
* etiolated growth = "better than nothing but I want MORE"
* tight strong growth = "cool deal, dude!"

Light green (with some plants even yellow green) and tight strong growth, you are likely near the upper limit of what the plant can handle. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

As with any living organism, knowing what is "normal" appearance-wise for a healthy thriving (not merely surviving) plant of whatever type(s) you have, is important.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:59PM
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Thank you for the answers, very interesting. For now I will leave it in a corner that is about 18ft from double patio doors. I get afternoon/evening sun from the doors, but I doubt it will ever hit the Aglaonema. We'll see it how it does!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 3:12PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

That is going to be extremely dim light from a plant point of view.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 2:03PM
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the best way to determine the light levels is with a light meter, of course. but as a guide, here's what i got from multiple sources.
Low (500-2,500 lux/50-250 foot-candles)
North window at 40 degree latitude, 3-10ÃÂ ft from fluo lights
Medium (2,500-10,000 lux/ 250-1,000 foot-candles)
East/West window at 40 degree latitude, filtered daylight, 1-3ÃÂ ft from fluo lights, 5-10ÃÂ ft from a 400W metal halide light bulb
High (10,000-20,000 lux/1,000-2,000 foot-candles)
Full Daylight, South window at 40 degree latitude, 2-5ÃÂ ft from a 400W metal halide light bulb.
if you have a digital camera you can try to measure you light levels with it too - though it's a bit involved.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 6:54PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

My previous library had very healthy Chinese Evergreens/Agleonemas. They never got any light besides the overhead florescent.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 7:43PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey Zackey,

I remember seeing the same thing w/ Aglaonemas in bank lobbies in the 80s here in NYC.

I think they were chosen specifically 'cause they do so well w/ just the office lights. I saw some bank branches where not only did these plants bloom (no great shakes, but still), but even grew charming red berries afterwards. A handsome & carefree look it seemed for the Banks.

I continue to use Ags for some of the darker spots in my apartment.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:40PM
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