What direction should the window face?

guest123February 12, 2009

I have a house plant book that categories plants according to whether they need "full sun," "semi-sun," "semi-shade," or "shade."

Full sun is an area receiving at least 5 hours of direct sunlight; semi-sun receives only a couple of hours of direct sun in the winter; semi-shade receives no direct sun light but receives a substantial amount of indirect light filtered through sheer curtains or trees; and shde recieves no direct sunlight and is somewhat dark during the day regardless which direction the window faces.

How does which direction (i.e., north, east, south, west) that a window faces impact a house plant? Do certain plants need a window that faces a certain direction or do all plants have the same directional preference?

I am in a New York like climate, with little or no direct sun light at any time of day during the almost exclusively overcast days during the winter season, so direct sun light is not an option.


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Mentha(9 CA)

Full sun = South facing window
Anything you would want to bloom, or is usually a tree or shrub, most cacti, herbs, variegated plants, some orchids, and most flowering tropicals would fall under this class

semi-sun = West
Plants which need more warmth but a little less light, cacti, succulents, vines like hoyas, variegated or colored aroids, & most orchids

Semi-shade = East
Plants like Philodendron or pothos, and other solid green aroids, orchids which like cooler temps

Shade = North
ferns, moss, lichen

Keep in mind when they say it can tolerate low light, this does not mean that low light is what's best for it, by no means is this a prescription, but maybe a helpful guide. Do keep in mind that light dimishes by 1/2-1/4 for ever foot away from a window. So a plant sitting a few feet from a south facing window may not be getting as much light as one on a windowsill in a north window. The more light you can give your plants though, the happier they will be.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 2:48PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

In our hemisphere, insolation from the S is the strongest, follwed by W,E, and N in order. Yes, plants should be sited according to their preferences.

You should learn about your plants from more than just one source, because there is so often quite a bit of disagreement between them. I prefer university-based internet sites but I have a bunch of books, too.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 2:49PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

What mentha said! :-)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 2:51PM
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karen715(z5 IL)

What Rhizo and Mentha said.

But, quite honestly, if someone made me choose one exposure exclusively for growing houseplants, never allowing me to grow in any other window again, I'd choose East. I'd probably have to eliminate several succulents, and a few flowering houseplants from my repertoire, but most of the plants I've grown and loved over the years do fantastically well placed directly in east windows. (To disagree with Mentha, [just a little] I've found that my Hoya carnosa couldn't be happier, and most variegates and purple-leaved plants do fine. Multi-colored variegates like crotons, and red leaved plants, like Cordylines and Iresines, I do agree, need a stronger exposure.) In the case of some low light plants, a couple of feet away or slightly to the side of the east windows is also quite good.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 3:43PM
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Guest, I'm sure you can appreciate the countless manner which light can be mastered to fit any situation.
Light from any exposure can be questioned by how it is received by the plant. i.e. a tree, that has open canopy, allows more light than a tree with a compact growth of leaves.
Yet, such light can be received from the best source.

I've never heard much difference given "partial sun" as opposed to "partial shade"....they are one and the same thing.
"Partial" leaves the question up in the air about how partial is meant by the term.
A rosebush is recommended to be given "full" sun....and that be 8 hours. The best sun for roses comes from the south or western exposures. The plant may though do just as well given 6 hours...if the light is strong.
The "eastern" exposure is referred to as the "cool" sun...the "morning" sun....and plants that do well in "full" often do "almost" as well in east facing sunlight...with the consideration that barriers to its fullness can directly work its effectiveness.

In general, a northern exposure is not a reliable sun..yet some plants, not needing such strong light, can do somewhat well. Most plants that are situated in a northern light do not flower as well, nor do they put out such strong growth as well.

You can always put something in between a source of light and where you wish it to reach. Trees and other plants, overhangs of buildings, fences or gazebos, tables or chairs, anything and everything that might influence how much light is given an area, can decide on what exposure a plant should be given.
Put a rose bush behind a compact canopy of tree, in a western exposure, and the plant may well not flower.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Mentha(9 CA)

I agree, the light levels in both are interchangable, but some plants like more light and less heat, so an East window would be better, however, a West window would do better for ones which like a little more warmth.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 7:35PM
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Thank you everyone! This is fantastic and really clarifies this perfectly. Thanks.


Were you saying that in Alabama a south-facing window would be considered shade? In other words, the explanation provided by Mentha would be opposite for someone in the southern United States? Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 12:08AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

Rhizo meant somewhere in the southern hemishere, like Australia.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 1:57AM
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daw_etc(8 Cen CA)

I actually think of "partial" to mean "mostly." So partial sun would be mostly sun with just a bit of shade during part of the day (maybe a wall or tree obstructs the sun for just a bit). And partial shade would have shade for most of the day. I've never thought of them as the same thing.
Is that how others feel about it?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 2:04AM
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Mentha(9 CA)

hemisphere oops

In Australia and other southern equator places the seasons are also reversed, this time is their summer. They don't all it "The Land Down Under" for nothing.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 2:12AM
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Imlooking for the best windows for my plants. I really want to know what facing window is best for a sensitive plant. That is the actual name of the plant

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 1:19AM
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