Find the Best Spots for Houseplants In Your Home With the "Shadow Trick"

Find the Best Spots for Houseplants In Your Home With the “Shadow Trick”


If you want to brighten up your home with some lush, green plants, it’s important to consider how much light they’ll need. Different plants thrive in different conditions, so you can’t cram everything in front of the same window and hope for the best. Instead, you should judge each plant’s specific needs and find a spot with just enough light to keep them happy.

Determining how much light a certain spot gets is trickier than it sounds, especially if the recommendations in your Google results don’t make sense right off the bat. What even is “bright indirect light,” anyways? If it’s indirect, how can it also be bright? Do I need a light meter to figure this out, or what?

Thankfully, you don’t. As plant scientist Christopher Satch explains in this video from the Digg YouTube channel, the “shadow trick” makes it easy to determine light levels in your home:

To try it out yourself, just put your hand between your plant and its light source, then look at the shadow. (If there’s no surface to cast a shadow on, hold a sheet of paper right in front of the plant and put your hand a few inches in front of that.) Its clarity and shape will give you an idea of how strong or weak the light is in that spot:

  • Dark with a crisp, distinct border: Bright light
  • Fuzzy around the edges: Medium or indirect light
  • No shadow at all: Low light

Once you have a general idea of the light quality in different areas of your home, you can stop worrying about whether your plants are getting enough sun and focus on what really matters: Resisting the urge to over-water. (And, of course, buying more plants.)

This article was originally published on Jan. 25, 2017 and was updated on April 15, 2021 to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.



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