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The Seasonal Dance of Natural Light and its Influence on Houseplants

Each year as we journey through the seasons, the world outside our windows undergoes breathtaking transformations. Leaves turn golden, temperatures shift, new growth springs forth, plants bear fruit, and along with it the colors and impacts of the light streaming through our homes shift too. In this article, we'll explore how the color and intensity of natural light morphs with the seasons and discuss how this impacts our houseplants.

Natural light is a dynamic force, and its spectrum morphs as the Earth orbits the sun. Throughout the year, we witness variations in the color temperature of natural light, which has a profound effect on plant growth.

Colors of Light

The light spectrum is made up of the entire range of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun or artificial light sources. As the wavelengths change size we see (some of) them as different colors. From shortest to longest the colors in the visible spectrum are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and then red. Each color corresponds to a specific wavelength range within the spectrum (measured in nanometers), with violet having the shortest wavelengths and red having the longest. Beyond the visible spectrum lie ultraviolet (UV) light with even shorter wavelengths and infrared (IR) light with longer wavelengths, which are not visible to the human eye.

All types of light have various effects on biological and physical processes but in terms of plants we speak mostly to blue and red light. These two colors of the light spectrum have the greatest influence plant growth and various physiological processes. For example plants utilize pigments like chlorophyll to absorb light energy for photosynthesis.

How Blue Light Effects Plants

Blue light, typically in the range of 400-500 nanometers, plays a pivotal role in regulating various plant developmental processes. It primarily affects phototropism, the phenomenon by which plants grow towards light sources, as well as the regulation of stomatal opening and closing. Blue light is essential for chlorophyll synthesis and the formation of strong, healthy stems and leaves. It also helps in the control of plant architecture, promoting compact and bushy growth in many species. Moreover, blue light influences the photomorphogenesis process, affecting the opening of stomata and the regulation of certain growth hormones, thus impacting overall plant growth and development.

How Red Light Affects Plants

Red light (typically in the range of 600-700 nanometers) is crucial for photosynthesis as it is efficiently absorbed by chlorophyll. It plays a significant role in the growth and flowering of plants, stimulating stem elongation and promoting flowering and fruiting processes. Red light is particularly effective in driving photosynthesis and influencing the synthesis of carbohydrates, which are essential for plant growth and energy storage. Additionally, red light can influence photoperiodism, the physiological response of plants to the length of day and night, crucial in triggering flowering in many plant species.

The interplay of blue and red light, along with other wavelengths, orchestrates various physiological responses in plants, impacting their growth, development, and overall health. Manipulating these light spectra through controlled lighting environments, such as in indoor farming or greenhouse settings, allows for optimizing plant growth and enhancing crop yields by providing the specific light conditions necessary for different stages of plant growth.

Light Color Seasonal Shifts

As Earth orbits the sun our proximity to the star and the tilt of our planet's access effects the intensity and coloring of light that we experience day to day. Depending on your local region the time of year you go through each shift may differ but we all experience some degree of the 4 seasons: Spring Summer Fall and Winter.

Spring: Cool and Balanced:
Spring light tends to be cool and balanced, with a mix of blue and red wavelengths. This balanced spectrum encourages lush, healthy foliage growth in houseplants. It's the season for new leaves and robust development.

Summer: Intense & Warm:
When summer takes the stage, the sun ascends higher in the sky, intensifying light levels. The light becomes warmer, with more red and yellow wavelengths. While this can be great for flowering houseplants, it can also lead to challenges like increased watering needs and the risk of scorching.

Autumn: Golden Glow: 
As autumn approaches, the sun's angle begins to change again. The light spectrum takes on a rich, golden hue, which is often associated with the "golden hour" in photography. This unique light can trigger flowering in some plants while signaling others to prepare for a period of rest.

Winter: Subtle Blue Hues: 
Winter light is often characterized by cool, soft tones with a predominance of blue wavelengths. This low-intensity light can be a challenge for some houseplants, resulting in slower growth rates and dormancy periods in some plants.

How Seasonal Light Changes Impact Your Houseplants:

Understanding seasonal light shifts is essential for providing the best care to your indoor plants. Each plant has its own adaptive responses to light change but here are some of the basics behind how these changes affect your houseplant collection:

Growth Patterns: 
Houseplants often respond to seasonal light changes by adjusting their growth patterns. They may produce new leaves in the spring, focus on flowering in the summer, or slow down and conserve energy in the winter.

Watering Needs: 
Light intensity affects soil moisture levels. With more intense summer light, you'll likely need to water more frequently. Conversely, in winter's subdued light, you'll water less. It's important to test soil moisture before watering each time and understand that the change in light and season effect how quickly your plants' soil dries.

The changing light spectrum can influence the coloration of your houseplants. Leaves might become more vibrant or take on different hues as they adapt to shifting light conditions. Red light is the most common to affect plant color.

Some plants require specific light conditions or sequences of light conditions in order to bloom. For example a plant adapted to flowering in the Fall is likely to to do when light conditions most closely match the colors of Fall in their native location.

As the seasons ebb and flow, so too does the light that nourishes our plant collections. By paying attention to the color and intensity of natural light, you can adapt your care routines to meet the unique needs of your houseplants throughout the year.

As always if you would like help with anything in your plant collection including learning more about what light changes can mean for your collection feel free to reach out! We're always happy to help.

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