With any new plant, the first thing you'll want to know is how much light it requires. This is why nurseries often sell plants with stakes that specify light preferences. Most species can grow at higher levels than the one recommended, but they won't survive for long in dimmer conditions.

What, exactly, do these terms mean? Even in the sunny bay pictured at right, some plants are getting more light than others because of where they're placed. Time of day and seasonal variations also affect light levels. You can guesstimate levels. Better yet, measure them with a light meter calibrated in footcandles.

How to measure light levels for plants
As you can imagine, lots of variables affect the amount of sunlight coming into an area of your home. Some windows might be shaded by trees or a roof overhang outside.

The season of the year makes a big difference, also, as do the timeof day and cloud cover. With artificial lighting, you can guess more closely, but natural light is free. And by picking the right plants, your natural light probably will be sufficient.

A light meter offers much more accuracy in determining light levels. If you don't have one, consider borrowing a meter from a friend and taking readings at points in your home where you'd like to situate your plants. Pick a sunny day and adjust curtains to their usual daytime positions. Drawn curtains, whether sheer or opaque, greatly alter light levels. At each spot, take several readings and average the results.