North, South, East or West?

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What direction do your windows face?

Today’s blog might seem a bit simplistic to some readers, but could be useful to others: how to determine which direction your windows face. Since I have a naturally good sense of direction, I pretty much know the cardinal directions are without even having to think about it, but I realize directions remain a mystery to many people.

Just Use a Compass

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When a compass needle points to the north, you can determine all the other directions.

The easiest way to  find your bearings is with a compass. Just hold it horizontally and turn it until the needle points to N (north). That way you’ll see the other directions as well: south (S), east (E) and west (W).

True enough, a compass points to the magnetic north rather than the geographic north, and they aren’t quite the same, but that’s close enough for an indoor gardener’s needs.

Note too that there are compass apps on smart phones and tablets, so it is no longer necessary to go out and buy a compass.

Let the Sun Be Your Compass

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The sun rises in the east, so if your window receives morning sun…

If you don’t have access to a compass, you can let the sun guide you. Of course, this will only work on a clear day and during daylight hours. You just have to know that in the morning, the sun rises in the east, that it will be in the south at noon (if you live in the northern hemisphere) and in the west in the afternoon. As for the north, it’s the opposite of south, so at noon, face away from the sun and you’ll have found it.

What Indoor Gardeners Need to Know

If you live in the northern hemisphere, assuming there are no obstacles like tree branches, a neighboring building or an awning, here are the effects different orientations will have on your plants.

South Window

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Full sun plants will love a south window, but you may need to move them back from the heat in the summer.

This is where the sun is most intense. A south window is ideal for plants that prefer full sun. Moreover, during the winter in northern regions, when winter hours of sunlight are so short, just about any plant will appreciate a south-facing window. During the summer, from about April to October, it may however be necessary to move plants needing moderate to low light back from a south window or to pull a sheer curtain between the window and the sun, especially in the afternoon, as otherwise the light can be too intense or conditions may become too hot.

East Window

In many respects, an east window is best one for houseplants, because they will receive full sunlight in the morning and good light for the rest of the day without having to suffer the intense heat that usually arises near south and west windows during the summer months. Plants preferring medium to low illumination do really well near an east window. Those that prefer full sun will generally do all right there, but they may have a more open habit or bloom less abundantly or less frequently than in a south window.

West Window

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Draw a sheer curtain between houseplants and the full sun during the summer in south or west windows.

Theoretically, plants receive the same light in a west window as in an east window, except at the opposite time of day, therefore good light in the morning and at noon and full sun in the afternoon. On the other hand, the sun is hotter in the afternoon, at least during the summer, and it’s often necessary to move the plants back from a west window, or pull a sheer curtain between the plants and the window, during the summer months.

North Window

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A north window gets so little light in the winter that few plants will do well near it.

In the summer, a north window receives fairly good light, normally enough to keep plants that like medium to low light happy. Also, in the far north, there’ll be a bit of direct sunlight early in the morning and at the end of the day. During the winter, on the other hand, light intensity in a north window drops considerably and only low light plants are likely to be able to tolerate such a spot. Ideally, you’d move plants growing in front of north-facing window to a brighter spot from November through March.

If You Garden in the Southern Hemisphere

If you live in the southern hemisphere, you can use the information above with one exception. In your hemisphere, it’s the north window that receives the most light and the south the least. Information on the east and west orientations, on the other hand, remains the same.

When Looking For a New Home

If you’re an indoor gardener who does not have a sense of direction, make sure you always bring a compass with you when you are looking a new apartment or house. It can be very disappointing to discover after the fact that all your windows face north and that, as a result, your plants are dying one by one.20170219a

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