Direct Sunlight vs Indirect Sunlight

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When it comes to the wonderful world of plants, there are a lot of variables that can impact their growth. The proper amount of water, minerals, nutrients, fertilizer and even aeration of the soil take a major part in the wellbeing of our leafy buddies. But there is one more important factor to consider when it comes to plant growth, and that is the type of sunlight they receive. Learn how direct sunlight vs indirect sunlight differentiate.

There are two main types of sunlight: direct sunlight and indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight comes straight down from the sun, while indirect sunlight is light that has been reflected off another object before reaching the plant. 

Sunlight is essential for plants to grow big and strong and maintain a healthy system of photosynthesis. So naturally the type and amount of sunlight a plant receives can have a major impact on its growth. That being so vital for plants because it helps them to create food through photosynthesis. 

Both types of sunlight contain UV rays, which is important for plant growth but there are certain factors that make one type of sunlight more advantageous than the other in certain situations. Knowing the difference between direct sunlight and indirect sunlight will help you to make the most informed decisions when it comes to your plants.

Enough with the science lesson, let’s get down to brass tax. So, what are the pros and cons of direct sunlight vs indirect sunlight?

What Is Direct Sunlight?

What Is Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight is, as the name suggests, sun that shines directly on the plant. This type of light is the most intense and provides the most energy for plants to grow. It is also the harshest type of light, meaning that it can be tough on plants if they’re not used to it. Generally speaking, plants need to be gradually introduced to direct sunlight if they’re not used to it. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves of a plant to burn, and in extreme cases, it can even kill the plant.

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Any type of light from the sun that directly falls onto the plant is direct sunlight. This includes the morning sun, the afternoon sun and the sun at midday. As long the rays aren’t bouncing off any objects before reaching the plant, it is considered direct sunlight. Even light that passes through your average window onto your plants is direct sunlight. Debatable by some by applying the same principles, light from a lamp falling in the same way over a plant falls within the same category. 

What Is Indirect Sunlight?

What Is Indirect Sunlight

Indirect sunlight comes from the sun shining on a surface like a wall or roof, and then bouncing off and hitting the plant. This could also be it passing through a curtain or mirror and even light that has been refracted and diffused through the atmosphere. This type of light is not as intense as direct sunlight and is more forgiving on plants. Indirect sunlight is often seen as being better for house plants as it’s gentler and allows the plants to slowly adjust to the light.

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Light that has bounced or been refracted off another object before reaching the plant is indirect sunlight. Even light that has diffused and simply illuminates the room or area can be considered the same. Despite a shadow being cast upon plants from an obstruction, as long as the plant is being illuminated well enough from the rays that are being refracted or bouncing off the ground or some other object, it would be indirect sunlight. 

Direct Vs. Indirect Sunlight 

The difference between direct and indirect sunlight is how the light hits the plant and the amount of light that is given. The major differences between the two can be chalked up to the following: 


Direct sunlight is the most intense type of sunlight and provides the widest range of spectral energy for photosynthesis. Indirect sunlight is less intense and has a diminished range of spectral energy.


Direct sunlight lasts a shorter amount of time than indirect sunlight as it’s rays will still stick around despite the sun not being clearly visible in the sky.


Sunlight that is direct hits the plant straight on, while indirect sunlight has been reflected off another object before reaching the plant.

What Benefits Do Direct and Indirect Lights Offer to Plants?

There are both benefits and disadvantages to both direct and indirect sunlight for plants. 

Benefits of Direct Sunlight:

  • Provides the highest intensity of light
  • Has the widest range of spectral energy which is important for photosynthesis 
  • Can be tough on plants if they’re not used to it, but can also help them grow stronger and faster

Disadvantages of Direct Sunlight:

  • Can cause the leaves of a plant to burn
  • In extreme cases, can even kill the plant
  • Lasts a shorter amount of time than indirect sunlight
  • Will require specific placement of the plant in order to receive optimal sunlight

Benefits of Indirect Sunlight:

  • Gentle and more forgiving on plants, making it good for house plants
  • Allows the plants to slowly adjust to the light 
  • Lasts a longer amount of time than direct sunlight
  • Is easier to provide for the plant allowing for a wider range of placement

Disadvantages of Indirect Sunlight:

  • Not as intense as direct sunlight
  • Has a diminished range of spectral energy which may be important for photosynthesis particular plants
  • Lasts a longer amount of time than direct sunlight
  • The plant may in some cases require supplemental light in order to thrive

Ultimately, the type of light that is best for your plants depends on the plant itself and what it needs. If you’re not sure what type of light your plant needs, it’s always best to consult with a florist, botanist, or another expert. There are many different types of plants and they all have unique needs when it comes to light.


Direct sunlight is preferable for growing vegetables and fruits, while indirect sunlight is better for flowering plants. When it comes to photosynthesis, direct sunlight is much more efficient because it provides more energy for the plant to use.

The intense light can be a bit harsh on plants that aren’t used to it, but it also helps them to grow stronger and faster. Indirect sunlight is more forgiving and lasts longer, making it better for house plants. It’s not as intense as direct sunlight, but it still has enough energy to help the plant grow in most cases.

When deciding which type of light is best for your plants, it’s important to consider what type of plant it is and what it needs. If you’re not sure, consult with an expert. Happy gardening!

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