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What Is Indirect Sunlight for Outdoor Plants?

Outdoor plants require sunlight to function and grow properly. The amount of sunlight they need varies and is dependent on specific plant requirements.

Some plants need the rays of the sun to hit them directly, others would prefer indirect rays. The last group would not want sunlight at all, they would prefer to stay and grow in a shade.

As a gardener who also spends a considerable amount of time online looking for the best gardening tips, you may have come across ‘indirect sunlight’ a lot. But do you know what it means? What is indirect sunlight for outdoor plants? This and more are what we will be looking at today.

Let’s get started!

What Is Indirect Sunlight for Outdoor Plants?

Indirect sunlight refers to sunlight that gets to a plant but is not direct. Plants receive indirect sunlight in several ways, such as :

  • Through a sheer curtain
  • On a north-facing windowsill
  • Via a tinted windowpane
  • When they are set back from a window that gets direct sunlight
  • Etc.

How Do You Know Your Outdoor Plant Is Getting Indirect Sunlight?

What Is Indirect Sunlight

While there are specific definitions of direct and indirect sunlight, in reality, the line that separates both is somewhat blurry. But we would attempt to make things clearer.

Here are ways to know if your plants are receiving indirect sunlight. Think of them as litmus tests for indirect sunlight.

Use of Light Meter

The light meter is a device that can be used to check for the light intensity that is present in a particular place. The light meter measures light intensity in foot-candles. When using the light meter, indirect light should be between eight hundred to two thousand foot-candles.

But the light meter cannot say whether the plant is receiving indirect light or not. If you stand directly under the sun say at 8 or 9 am in the morning and use your light meter, you may get a value within that range even though you are standing directly under the sun. This is because, by that time, the intensity of the sun is still low.

Though the meter reads between 800 to 2000 you still are under the sun directly. So, the best thing to do is to fuse the meter reading with your knowledge of the definition of indirect sunlight.

Smart Apps

Technology is seeking to make everything way easier and cooler and agriculture tools have not been left behind in this move. There are many smart apps for phones that can do the work of a light meter. As a tech-inclined gardener, you should install any of your choices and use them to check for light intensity.

The measurements are usually in lux or foot-candles. When you make use of the app, let your camera face the direction light is coming from and not the plants.

Sharpness of Shadow

Once light hits an object, it usually casts a shadow. One of the ways to know if your outdoor plant is getting indirect sunlight is by observing the shadow.

Look at the shadow of your plant. If the shadow is clearly defined and does not have blurred edges, this means that the plant is getting hit directly by the sun.

But if the shadow is weak and has blurred lines, then the plant is getting indirect sunlight. If the shadow is almost invisible this means that the lighting there is quite low.

The best method to use in checking if your plant is getting indirect sunlight is the light meter. First, ensure that your plant is not being hit directly by the sun.

A rule of the thumb is to draw an imaginary straight line from the sun to your plant. If there is something blocking the path of that imaginary line, like the branch of a tree, then the plant is receiving indirect light.

Indirect light for outdoor plants may be tricky to accurately ascertain but we believe we have given you tips and instructions on how to know when your plant is receiving indirect sunlight.


Your plants are getting indirect sunlight when they are in a well-lit position but do not get sunlight blazing directly onto their stems or leaves.

The light that touches them is usually bounced off from another source. This means that the plants which experience this indirect lighting stand a lesser chance of getting scorched by the sun.

If you are a gardener in a hot climate, or during summer, you have to ensure that the plants in your garden are not being scorched by the sun due to direct exposure.

Sunburns are almost instant and irreversible. When you see that the plants are getting discolored or getting tanned, especially the leaves, then it is time to switch to indirect lighting.