Philodendron Light Requirements – Beginners Guide for Healthy Houseplants

When introducing a new philodendron to your home, one of the first tasks is determining the perfect position for optimal light. And it isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly (pun intended 😛). Providing the ideal type of light for your philodendron can mean the difference between a thriving plant versus just surviving. So let’s get into our Beginners guide for Philodendron Light Requirements.

Philodendron Light Requirements

In this guide, you will learn the following:

  • the fundamentals of philodendron light requirements
  • the different types of light around your home
  • light conditions for different philodendron varieties
  • how to tell if your philodendron is suffering from inappropriate light

Philodendrons are among our favorite indoor plants because they come in various shapes and sizes. Plus, they deliver that quintessential tropical feel inside your home.

But because of their diversity, finding the perfect light conditions can sometimes be tricky. This is why we always recommend our community members begin with the first of the Garden Bench Top 3 Keys to becoming a Thriving Plant Parent: PLANT SMARTS Getting to know Your Plant.

Philodendrons: What are Their Light Requirements

To truly appreciate your plants, you need to think about their origins – where and how they grow in the wild.

Philodendrons are tropical plants originating from countries like Brazil and other parts of South America, where the climates are considered tropical or subtropical.

They grow under tropical forest canopies, low on the ground, or as an epiphytic plant climbing tree trunks and branches.

It is essential to understand that different varieties of philodendrons require different light to thrive. And this begins with knowing the species of philodendron you have just introduced to your plant collection.

The good news is it only takes a moment to identify and research the ideal light requirements for your specific philodendron. Here’s a quick summary table of some popular philodendron varieties (HINT – click on the links to check out the care guides for each particular philodendron species):

Philodendron VarietyLighting Requirements
Philodendron atomBright Indirect Light (no direct sunlight)
Philodendron burle marxBright Indirect Light (no direct sunlight)
Philodendron hederaceumBright Indirect Light (no direct sunlight)
Philodendron scandensBright Indirect Light (no direct sunlight)
Philodendron erubescensIndirect Light or Medium Light
Philodendron micansIndirect Light or Medium Light
Philodendron bipinnatifidumIndirect Light or Medium Light
Philodendron gloriosumIndirect Light to Low Light
Philodendron selloumBright Indirect Light (no direct sunlight)

You’ll be one step closer to earning that Thriving Plant Parent badge by genuinely getting to know your philodendron!

Understanding Different Types of Light for Philodendrons

Once you have established the type of philodendron you have and the type of lighting they prefer, the next step is to identify spaces around your home to allow them to thrive.

And to do this, you need to understand the different intensities of indoor lighting.

Direct Bright Light

This type of lighting is the easiest to understand because its definition has little ambiguity.

A position that receives bright direct lighting is one which is directly exposed to sunlight that is coming through an uncovered window or glass door.

Bright direct light is intense and is only suitable for plants that flourish in direct sunlight in their natural environment.

The ideal positions around the home for plants to receive bright direct light is on a window sill or the floor space directly beneath a window or door.

As you may have already determined, bright direct light is NOT SUITABLE for philodendron plants, given they naturally reside on the forest floors beneath the canopies.

Bright Indirect Light

Philodendron in Indirect Bright Light
Credit: Reddit

The next level down in lighting is bright indirect light. This type of lighting is not as easy to spot in the home.

Bright indirect light consists of the light that spills into your room from an opening, however it is not exposed to strong sunshine. It is indirect sunlight.

The best way to describe this is spaces on the sides of windows. These spaces receive plenty of secondary light from the sun, but not too much that it dehydrates and damages the foliage of your plants.

Some philodendrons, like the Philodendron Brazil and Philodendron Atom, fit into this category.

Indirect Light

You are probably thinking, “Hold On, you’ve already described indirect light in the last section”, but it is essential to understand there is a (subtle but critical) difference between the two types of lighting.

Indoor indirect light is not as bright as indirect light from natural sunlight. It is light where the source is artificial, like desk lamps and ceiling lights.

They may not have the complete spectrum of colors in the sunlight, but plants that naturally grow in the shade can still utilize indirect light for growth.

You would usually find indirect light in areas of the home with no natural light source and are illuminated by other light sources, like an LED or fluorescent light.

With many different varieties of philodendrons growing in the shade of forest canopies, they are well adapted to living in indirect light.

Low Light

Low lighting is the lowest intensity of light that a plant can survive in.

Low-lighting spaces exist where natural light and artificial light are at minimal levels.

There may be some natural light filtering into the space. But this is usually from the doorways of rooms with windows, which we view as a secondary source of light that is not strong. They are often located in internal hallways or corridors unused during the day.

Philodendrons generally require more light than that provided in low-light conditions, mainly because they originate from tropical environments, which receive plenty of sunlight.

You will find philodendrons will tolerate low light for a short period. However, due to their inability to photosynthesize, the growth will eventually become stunted, and their stunning colors and patterns will fade.

Philodendron Light Problems – Signs Your Philodendron Needs to Move

We wish we could tell you that finding the correct position for your philodendron was a set-and-forget process.

Unfortunately, it is not.

You will be called upon to move your philodendron around your home like playing musical chairs with all your plants.

credit: tenor

This is necessary because finding that lighting sweet spot also involves other environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity. These two ambient factors continuously fluctuate throughout the year and will change in the winter months. Not to mention the sun’s trajectory changes daily.

This can inadvertently change your philodendron’s lighting requirements, or cause other issues, such as root rot, hence the moving around.

To understand when your philodendron’s position needs adjusting, here is a list of symptoms or signs that indicate a lighting problem.

Yellow Leaves with Brown Edges and Tips

Philodendron exposed to too much light

If your philodendron is beginning to develop brown tips or crisp edges, it is likely that your philodendron is being exposed to too much light.

Observe the sun’s movements throughout the day to see if direct sunlight reaches your beautiful philodendron.

Philodendron Becoming Leggy

When a philodendron appears to be stretching, and the stems and leaves begin to fall over, it is described as having leggy growth. Your philodendron will look patchy, not complete and lush, like a healthy plant.

This behavior is because your philodendron is not receiving enough light to facilitate the photosynthesis process, and it is stretching to reach for the closest light source.

Try moving your philodendron closer to a light source over 1-2 weeks. Take it nice and slow, and only move your philodendron in small increments each day. Moving a philodendron (or any plant, for that matter) too quickly can cause it to go into shock, weakening it further.

Leaning Philodendrons

If your philodendron is beginning to lean or favor one side, it could be because it is searching for more light.

This happens when a light source is isolated to one side of the room, and the light is not spread evenly across the plant.

To counter this behavior, rotate your plant 90° each week to expose all sides of your plant to light.

It is also a great time to perform a quick visual inspection of your philodendron and admire those luscious green leaves!

By understanding and educating yourself about the typical light problems your philodendron can experience, you are one step closer to becoming a more mindful plant parent with a thriving indoor plant collection.


Resources Used:

  • Photosynthesis. (2023, April 27). In Wikipedia.