Let’s talk about light Part 2: Plants for… East facing rooms
In this post we are focusing on houseplants that enjoy life in East-facing locations, an orientation that is quite adaptable but the aspect of the intensity of light requires more careful consideration in these spaces. After my post a few weeks ago about houseplants, lighting + room orientation, I want to now focus on each of the different light exposures — North, East, South + West to turn our attention back to the PLANTS! More specifically, which ones are going to be right at home in situ in each of these particular orientations. I started off with Plants for… North facing rooms which you can read here. I get regular questions about this so thought it would be helpful to have all the information clearly laid out + in one place here on the website + saved under the ‘a HPH guide to…’ tab on the houseplanthouse homepage.
Over the last few years, I’ve lived in a few different spaces — from a second floor apartment with old single-glazed sash windows, surrounded by trees (which really impacted how the light came in during the Summer months) to a little cottage with latticed, draughty windows. I’m currently semi-camping in my renovation project which is an old Chapel that I’m converting into the new houseplanthouse headquarters as my live/work space. This variety of homes has not only given me experience of the full range of room-orientations, but has really taught me how to understand the spaces in which my houseplants grow best.
If you’ve not see the first blogpost for context, I’ll link it here: Let’s talk about light: a HPH guide to understanding houseplants, lighting + orientation — I had a lot of fun making those diagrams + thanks for the kind messages on them! In this preliminary post, it’s really important to remember the points 5 (obstructions + window treatments), 6 (seasons) + 7 (moving shock) in the wider context of the question of light, + also that I’m in the Northern hemisphere for reference!
East light attributes
Let’s start with a brief re-cap on the key points to note about eastern exposures.
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF EAST LIGHT:
- An adaptable light that’s best in the morning
- Suits easy going plants like Epipremnum (pothos) or Ferns but might not be bright enough for sun-loving varieties
- Growth can be slower unless plants are closer to windows
East-facing locations are brighter than Northern rooms as they get the lovely light from the morning sun as it rises + are often a good choice for bedrooms if you are designing a space — they are generally considered ‘medium bright, indirect light’. For plants, these spaces are quite adaptable + are great for your trailing displays or leafy gang because by the middle of the day, the sun will be higher in the sky + moving away from this area. This means that in eastern exposures, I can grow things well in closer proximity to the window because the light intensity isn’t strong enough to burn or crisp the foliage. In the cottage, the windows were South-East facing which made them a key area of the space to keep my plants (other areas were quite dark).
Plants for east facing rooms
1. Epipremnumvarieties: Golden Pothos, Neon Pothos
East facing positions really suit these types of trailing pothos — whilst a Golden pothos can grow in a North facing spot, it will really appreciate the extra light an Eastern position if you can provide that. Mine’s in a North-East facing room at the moment which of course is a balance between the two + is still growing, despite being pretty far from either of the windows temporarily. The advantage of an East-facing placement for a golden pothos is that the variegation (below right) is less likely to revert to solid green foliage. A Neon pothos (below left) is also another variety that is quite adaptable to an East-facing room, provided it’s not too far away from the window + the morning light will help to keep the zingy chartreuse colour vibrant if it can get good light levels here.
2. Ferns: Boston Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Birds nest Fern
Ferns are the perfect option for an east-facing room because they’ll enjoy a period of morning brightness as the sun rises followed by a softer, ambient light throughout the day. These kinds of conditions are favourable because the fronds will cope much better with an indirect light which can help to prevent the notorious leaf crisping that often occurs in a more intensely-bright location.
A Boston fern / Nephrolepis exaltata (below left) is a great classic in the fern department + well-suited to an Eastern windowsill position. I also used to grow this outdoors on my shaded East-facing balcony in my old apartment during Spring / Summer. The Birds nest fern / Asplenium nidus (below centre) is another option for this room orientation which gets beautiful ‘crinkles’ or waves on the leaves/fronds, whereas growth is flatter in a darker position a bit further from the window or in a North-East room. Adiantum / Maidenhair ferns (below right) are also much less likely to crisp up if the light is softer + indirect in nature, but if it is too dark the plant could start to yellow. Close to an east-facing window or on the windowsill would be a great location for these fluffy, feathery fronds to flourish.
Hoyas are an increasingly popular group of houseplants + there are literally hundreds of varieties! They enjoy decent amounts of light + an east facing position with bright but indirect light is ideal for many types — some are more succulent-like with thicker leaves + others hail from more tropical settings. Variegated hoyas like the carnosa tricolour (below far right) need more light than non-variegated types + my east-facing windowsill has been keeping my plant happy as it’s receives good levels of light throughout the day, without the scorching that can occur if the light intensity is too much. The pubicalyx (below centre) is another easy-going variety which I love + an alternative option to consider. As a plant styling option, hanging your hoyas in an east-facing window can create a beautiful ‘plant curtain’ look but if you decide to do this, don’t make the mistake of hanging them too high which might result in the top of the plant not getting enough light! I’ve got a A complete Hoya Care Guide if you want to read more about these.
4. Snake plants: Dracaena/Sansevieria trifasciata
Snake plants are adaptable to a range of lighting conditions + whilst they are one of the most commonly advertised ‘low light houseplants’, I don’t really choose to grow my own plants in this way. An eastern position is a great option for these plants to sit happily on a windowsill — they don’t take up a lot of room with their upright growth habit so are perfect if you are short on space. My non-variegated snake plants group together on my east-facing sill + are doing well with new growth popping up. If you have fairly bright conditions indirect light is a better option + you’ll notice more growth, plus a robust plant that makes a statement rather than a few spindly stems in a shady spot.
5. Jungle cacti: Rhipsalis, Schlumbergera, Epiphyllum/Disocactus…
Jungle cacti are quite possibly my favourite type of cacti to grow + ones that I would recommend to houseplant lovers that might not have those glorious south-facing windows to house a desert cactus collection. East facing windows are particularly good for jungle cacti because they can handle the morning light as the sun rises, but are more protected from the stronger afternoon rays in this position. A couple of plants in this group you might know already are the classic ‘holiday’ cactus — Schlumbergera + Hatiora… otherwise known as the Christmas/Thanksgiving + Eater cacti respectively. Also under the ‘jungle cacti’ umbrella are Rhipsalis, Epiphyllum/Disocactus, Selenicereus, Hylocereus, Pseudorhipsalis + Lepismium to name a few. I’ve put together a big Jungle Cactus post if you want to have a look at more growing inspiration within this group — I’ll link it here.
Like Hoyas, Peperomia are another popular plant group at the moment + are well suited to an east facing room, close to the window. My Peperomia Hope is currently growing adjacent to a tall east window trailing off a shelf + whilst it’s a pretty slow grower, it’s doing fine. These plants can also enjoy a brighter position + in the cottage, it was growing close-ish to a South-east window, behind a net to soften the light + this was the fastest growth I’d ever experienced! Some peps with an upright growth habit are quite diminutive in size so are ideal as a windowsill plant in this room orientation + with their interesting foliage, make for an eye catching display in a small space. An example of an upright Pep to consider is a Polybotryta ‘Raindrop’ — here’s mine in the photo, below far right:
7. Schefflera: Umbrella plant
Umbrella plants are one of those ‘classic houseplants’ that I really don’t see that often anymore which is a shame! Here was my plant from my old apartment that lived exclusively in my east-facing kitchen on the table around 1 metre from the French doors — longer-term readers of the website might remember it: throwback photo below right from 2017! This position really worked for my plant + it loved the morning sunshine in this room + growth was pretty slow-but-steady here. They are quite an adaptable option for an east-facing room, particularly with a larger window which you can position your plant adjacent to. My doors were fully glazed which really helped to maximise the light entering the space, only filtered by a very sheer net curtain in the summer months. These plants can also acclimatise to a brighter room if you’ve got something like a South-East position to work with, you’ll just have more placement options here with this stronger light reaching further into the space for longer. Before moving, a friend offered me their 6ft+ Umbrella plant + I was pretty sad not to be able to fit it in the van! If you like the idea of a statement leafy plant with an upright growth habit, a Schefflera is certainly one to consider.
Begonias are group of plants that I have welcomed into my home relatively recently — see here for context: Plant style: 5 houseplants I’ve grown to love (that I didn’t like last year). Over the last 2 years or so, I’ve tried a number of different lighting positions to experiment with what suits these best in my growing conditions. I have really enjoyed growing my couple of plants in an east-facing room, close to the window, or in a South-east facing room a few metres away from the window. They are quite adaptable but the advantage of an eastern exposure is that there is less possibility of leaf crisping as the daylight is of a softer intensity + they really appreciate being rotated regularly to keep growth balanced. Two of my favourites are my begonia lucerna/angel wing begonia (left in the picture below left) + a polka dot/begonia maculata (right in the picture below left):
If you have a smaller place + are looking for a desk or floor plant to create impact in your east-facing room, a leafy Dieffenbachia will do this with ease. These plants have larger foliage + there are quite a few varieties to choose from — my favourite of all is the ‘reflector’ above left which has the most beautiful three-dimensional quality as the light hits the speckled leaves. Over time they can sometimes drop their bottom leaves + begin to look more like a palm, so is an alternative to consider if you like plants that have that sort of look. These plants enjoy an east-facing location because an intense, brighter light can actually give the leaves a pale, washed-out appearance. This is a good example of how brighter isn’t always better for every houseplant.
10. Dracaena varieties: particularly marginata + fragrans massangeana
I think Dracaena are one of those underrated plant groups that are so easy going to grow + can add a tropical, palm-type of look to a space with relatively minimal care. The marginata + fragrans varieties really do prefer a location out of direct light + so close to an east-facing window is perfect. My marginata plant above left grew well on top of my fridge in my old east-facing kitchen, a few metres away from the window + coped amazingly well with a more shaded, softly-lit location. Similarly, my fragrans lindenii (also often called a corn palm) much preferred to stay out of the way of direct light + enjoyed the morning sun for a few hours before indirect light the rest of the day. In brighter positions, this plant group can suffer with crisping, yellowing + scorching so I’ll always choose a softer spot for the longer term happiness of my plants over a brighter spot to achieve ramped-up growth.
11. Aglaonema varieties
Aglaonema are one of those plants that some people find boring, but over the last year or so I’ve noticed a definite buzz in popularity for these lovely, leafy plants, particularly online. This perhaps, has something to do with the huge variety of cultivars that have entered the market in the last couple of years. They are pretty slow growing which makes them a good choice for smaller spaces. I mentioned the green varieties in my North facing plants blogpost but an East-facing location opens up more possibilities for growing some of the more colourful cultivars. I don’t have any of these yet, but I’ve got my eye on a few!
12. Prayer plants: Maranta, Calathea/Geoppertia
For an east-facing spot, Calathea/geoppertia or Maranta are worth considering if you like a plant with interesting foliage. The lovely leaves of these plants fold + raise up at night, as if in prayer! Whilst the Maranta can grow quite well in a North-facing position, if an East-facing location is an option for you it’ll be really happy here too. Calathea/geoppertia are perhaps more finicky to keep happy long term, but they really do enjoy the combination of direct morning light followed by indirect daylight that stretches into the afternoon in this room orientation. These plants prefer a softer light + can actually look a bit worse for wear if they are somewhere too bright, with crisping leaves + washed-out leaves. One of my relatives has the most beautiful Calathea/geoppertia orbifolia that she’s grown in her east facing living room for years + years! See below left:
Palms are another of those plants that can also enjoy an east-facing room + a great option if you’ve got the space for it. Whilst they do grow well in a Northern exposure, you might notice faster growth in an Eastern location next to a window. They are a statement + can grow to be a real feature in a room. Varieties like the Howea forsteriana (Kentia) + Chamaedorea elegans (Parlour) palms are a great choice + they were another favourite of the Victorians due to their ability to cope with subdued light + polluted air from open fires. The Chamaedorea above left is often next to the window in a north facing room of a family member, which receives soft light throughout the day + is a lot less crispy as a result! It used to be positioned in a brighter room, but since moving to this space, it’s really flourished. It might not be the fastest grower, but it’s a plant that will be at home in your space for years to come. If you’ve got a North, East or North-East room, these hardier palms will create a tropical look with lots of impact.
I hope you enjoyed this east-facing edition + that it’s given you some planting inspiration if you are looking for plants that will work in your space. Of course it’s worth saying that there will undoubtedly be an element of cross over between these guides as most plants are not just suitable for one space + most of us don’t have our homes set to a compass (North-East, South-East etc.). Most of the North-facing plants mentioned will also do well in this room orientation + you will likely notice faster growth in this setting. I’ve included some of the key ones within this post for ease, but feel free to refer to that post for further planting ideas.
The key points to take away are that in this room orientation, the question of window treatments is an especially important consideration. In east-facing rooms, be aware of how you use this space — is it a bedroom? If so, are the people in this room early risers? It might mean that you are inadvertently shutting out those valuable hours of morning light if this is a space used for sleeping, meaning that any plants in this space could miss out on this lovely AM sunshine. If it’s not a space that’s used often, like a spare room or work from home space, leaving the curtains open overnight can be a good option if it works for your personal situation.
Also, placing plants in close proximity to the window/light source to provide the most favourable environment for them to grow in softer light + watch out for any that might start to stretch towards the light (rotating them regularly helps). As I mentioned in the preliminary post, to maximise the way that light enters your home, a few carefully placed mirrors adjacent to windows can really help to spread the available light around. I’m planning on adding in a carefully positioned mirror in my north-east room in my new place + I’ll be sure to share it when I do. In terms of supplemental lighting in softer-lit environments, I’ve got a post that I’ll link here in case you are interested.
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Published at Sun, 14 Nov 2021 08:36:31 -0800