Great lighting is one of the most critical factors in helping plants thrive. Understanding the lighting conditions of your home and how your location changes throughout the seasons will help you select the plants that will grow best in your environment. With a western exposure, you’ll be able to easily grow mostly all tropical or desert plants that thrive in the bright indirect lighting conditions provided by sunny western exposures. Read on to uncover the science behind sun intensity and find the best plants for west-facing windows that will thrive in your home.
Understanding the Sunlight from West-Facing Windows
Our sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Having western-facing windows means your home receives much of its sunlight beginning in the early afternoon when the intensity it at its strongest, continuing through sunset.
Beyond the sun’s daily motion impacting your western views, your latitude — the distance from the equator running north and south — also plays a role in determining how much sun energy reaches your plants with a western exposure. In the winter, the Earth’s tilt is furthest away from the sun, meaning you can expect much less solar energy reaching your plants. This loss of light energy is more pronounced the further you move from the equator.
This means that if you live in the northern hemisphere, your plants will likely receive much more solar energy during the hot summer months of May – August, with winters proving substantially less sunlight from November – March. For western windows, this dormancy means plants will also be more likely to dry out compared to northern or eastern windows due to the increased nature of the sun’s intensity, even in winter.
Understanding the western properties of directional sunlight and how the Sun’s energy changes seasonally at your location will help you find the best plants for west-facing windows.
Other Factors Affecting Natural Light
While knowing why the direction and intensity of the Sun’s rays is important, other environmental factors play a role in how much sunlight reaches your houseplants. Nearby trees or buildings may block some sunlight, reducing available solar energy for your plants. Keeping plants further away from windows or closing the curtains also impacts your plant’s energy potential — even if you have a bright and sunny room and only set your plants a few feet away from the window.
If you have obstacles blocking your west-facing windows, or find blinds or furniture blocking your ideal plant placement, getting an inexpensive grow light will fill in the energy gap for your plants. These lights come in a variety of designs and have features like timers to make them feel as natural as the daylight cycle, so you can still find the best plants for west-facing windows.
The Best Plants For West-Facing Windows
A home with western exposures has ideal lighting conditions for many tropical houseplants. The strong afternoon light from the west matches the medium indirect lighting needs of many of these stunning plants.
A variety of cactus, succulent and aloe plants that typically demand a lot of sunlight will thrive with unobstructed western views. Additionally, tropicals such as Fiddle Leaf Figs, Thai Constellation Monsteras and prayer plants will thrive in the bright afternoon light. Many of these tropical plants (with the exception of Thai Constellations) are readily available at most nurseries, inexpensive, beautiful and will convert the bright indirect lighting from western exposure into beautiful new foilage.
How can you tell if your plant is happy and getting enough solar energy? If your plant isn’t receiving enough light, it will show early warning signs that it needs more sunlight. Look for leaves with less intensity, growth that looks long or stringy, or a decline in new growth. All of these factors could be red flags that your plant isn’t receiving the minimum amount of light it needs to survive.
North, south, east or west — there are no bad exposures for sunlight. But understanding the science behind the natural light your home receives will make you a more informed plant parent. Be sure to read our guides on east-facing, north-facing and south-facing windows if your home has rooms with other lighting needs.
And finally, lighting is just one factor in healthy plant care. Be sure to read our guides for all of your specific plant needs.