House plants for bright light

Cacti sitting on small windowsill

Areas in the home that receive the brightest, most intense light are south-facing windows, where, in the height of summer, the sun streams through the glass for most of the day. Plants that have adapted to arid environments, such as desert cacti and certain hardy succulents, have the best chance of success on a south-facing windowsill, but this isn’t necessarily the most suitable place for tropical foliage plants, which can quickly burn or wilt if the light is too harsh.

Dramatic changes in the colour of a plant, such as turning red or becoming bleached or scorched, can be signs that it’s suffering from too much light. Most leafy house plants are better suited to east, west or north-facing windowsills. Or at least a few feet back from a south-facing window. Growing healthy plants indoors is not down to having green fingers. Success is dependant on light and good watering habits. For a south-facing windowsill, select plants that are used to long periods of sun exposure in their natural habitat, as these are less likely to fail.

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House plant inspiration

Plants featured in this video



Lithops are fascinating plants that have adapted to survive in the deserts of their native southern Africa. These tiny succulents have two leaves, bloated with water, making them an attractive snack for a thirsty animal in the desert. They avoid being eaten by camouflaging themselves as stones so animals don’t notice them. Living stones survive in climates that receive as little as 10cm of rain each year and have precise times of the year you can and can’t water them. Deviate from this, and they can quickly die.

Don’t water lithops from autumn to late spring the following year and not when it’s splitting and growing new leaves. Wait until the outer leaves have completely shrivelled up, and always allow the substrate to dry out completely before watering. Bright light is essential, with a minimum of 4–5 hours of direct sunlight needed each day. Lithops may reward you with unexpected, daisy-like flowers if conditions are right.


Carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula, cape sundews, and venus fly traps thrive in bright light and make an interesting addition to a south-facing windowsill, with the added benefit of capturing annoying flies. The number one rule for watering carnivorous plants is not with tap water! Always use rainwater and never let the soil dry out. Feeding carnivorous plants is easy; just give them a fly or two.


Jade plant

The tortoise of the succulent world, Crassula ovata, better known as the Jade plant, is a slow-growing species native to southern Africa and can live for decades. As it matures, the stem begins to resemble a trunk, and the plant’s overall shape becomes like that of a small tree. If given plenty of bright light, you maybe be lucky enough to see white flowers appear in January.



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