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Daylight affects plants, too

December 27, 2012
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere , Marshall Independent

This time of the year, the daylight is shortened, especially as we approach Christmas and the New Year. This is something that I believe we all realize. It is hard to get up and go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. As we approach and then leave behind the winter solstice, the daylight starts to lengthen again.

Our houseplants probably notice this more than we do and often slow way down in growth and being able to make and provide for themselves photosynthesis. According to Karl Foord, Extension educator, the energy received at mid-day on Dec. 21 is less than one-third of that received at mid-day on June 21.

The total light energy received from the sun in December on average is closer to one-quarter of that received in June and July.

The low light is compounded by the need for us to bring our tender houseplants into our homes and add to that the shading that occurs because they are inside, and our houseplants are starving for sunlight. You can try your hand at plants that work well in these conditions, which include African violets, certain orchids, cactus plants, Cyclamen, Schefflera and Norfolk Pine. You can also try the Myer lemon, hibiscus, banana (Dwarf plant, of course), pygmy date palm and cycad.

You can try to also strategically place your plants in or near windows that will have the most light for the longest portion of the day. In winter, the sun rises south of due east and sets south of due west. The south and west facing windows will offer you the best light ability for your plants.

It also would not hurt to wash your windows if you are not regularly doing so, in order to let the most light in as possible.

It is OK to position your plants on the side of a window but make sure that you tier your plants that the smaller ones are in front and the larger plants are in the back.

Sunlight provides the necessary means for our plants to provide sugars and starches.

When we move our houseplants away from the windows, this slows or stops the process and we may starve our houseplants.

We need to keep in mind that as we turn from winter back to spring and then summer that many of these same houseplants may be burned by the intense sunlight coming in through these same windows. There are many plants that can also be set outside as long as they are set outside in the shade.

I have set my Christmas cactus plants outside after the danger of frost is past and they seem to do much better for me. They certainly have a great show, which is going on now. The white, pink and dark pink flowers give a little color to our white world outside. I also set out as many of the amaryllis plants that I can which also help them to bloom more fully in the winter months. This is because they can recharge their bulbs, using the summer sunlight which provides the energy required.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at



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