Keeping Your Plants on the Bright Side

How to Make Sure Your Plant is Getting Enough Light in Winter

The shortest day of the year has passed, but St. Louis days are still averaging only about 9 and a half hours of daylight. That’s a far cry from the summer solstice in June, a day when we see almost 15 hours of sunlight. Just like you might be missing those extra hours of sunshine, your houseplants may be missing those extra hours to soak up the sun. 

If you think your plants could use a little more light in its life, consider investing in grow lights. The use of electric lighting to help grow plants is first recorded in the 1860s. Since then, many advancements have been made in the field of supplemental plant lighting. Today LEDs and fluorescent bulbs are the most commonly used in homes. They are relatively energy efficient and long lasting.

Whether or not your houseplants require supplemental light depends on which direction your windows face, how much light enters through those windows, and how close the plants are placed to those windows.

The first question you likely have is: how do I know if my plant isn’t getting enough light? The Kemper Center for Home Gardening provides these key signs to look out for:

  • Pale green, yellow, or white leaf discoloration
    This results from not enough chlorophyll being produced in the leaves.
  • Stretched or leggy growth
    “Etiolation” is the technical word for this symptom, which occurs when plant stems elongate and become weak as they attempt to grow closer what little light is available.
  • Excessive leaf drop
  • Loss of flowers
    Flowering plants may drop their flower buds or not produce buds at all.
An example of stretched or leggy growth.

Any plant can be grown with artificial light, but some of the ones that most commonly need supplemental light in winter include African violets, orchids, succulents, herbs, and seedlings. 

You can find more information about plant light needs on our gardening help page.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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