Do Orchids Die Due To Direct Sunlight? – Light Requirements Guide

Orchids are one among the many magnificent flowering plants found in gardens and green areas. These flowers have several different varieties and each has a unique appearance.

The flowers that these plants bear are of a different appearance than general flowers and have a very elegant and attractive look to them.

Orchids are also one among the most varied group of plants with flowers. There are more than 25,000 different species of the orchid found all around the world.

These flowers are very attractive and appeal to bees, insects, butterflies, and other pollinators. They are available in several colors and are also usually sweetly scented.

These showy qualities of the orchid make it a very attractive garden plant. Orchids are available in various types and these can either be grown outdoors in your house gardens or even as indoor plants to enhance the beauty and display of the interiors.

Being the showy and sophisticated flowers, that orchids are, they also need to be cared for and tended well. Once you are well acquainted with the demands of this plant, they would grow well and be the additional accents to your décor elements.

The light requirement for the orchid plant is something to learn about. There are several rights and wrongs when it comes to light supply and also either too much or too little sun.

Various species have varying light needs and they require a balanced and proper supply of sunlight to bloom and add to the display of the gardens and your rooms.

Table of Contents

Orchids and their light requirements:

Generally speaking, the orchid requires a strong but indirect source of light. The bright and indirect supply of sunlight is the ideal kind, but it all also depends greatly on the type of orchid that you own.

Different types of this flowering plant prefer different light conditions. Some orchids like a low-intensity sunlight supply.

Some other orchid varieties grow better under moderate to high sunlight conditions. Depending on your orchid species, the light supply and placement of the plant must be chosen.

Light supply is the key feature to a good bloom:

Proper lighting is very necessary for your orchids as their other requirements like increase or decrease in temperature water needs, etc. are all indirectly associated with a successful source of light.

Adequate sunlight supply during the growing season of the orchids is very important, thus light source, the quantity of supply, placement of the orchid plant, etc. must be regulated according to its light needs.

Insufficient lighting can result in decreased flowering and lowered quality of foliage. Also, more than necessary amounts of sunlight can cause adverse effects on the plant. A balance is required when it comes to sunlight supply for orchid plants.

Orchids are generally supposed to have light green colored foliage. A yellowish-green leaf color with upright leaves is an ideal orchid appearance. If your orchid plant’s leaves are a darker and grass-green shade with long and flaccid leaves, then it is an indication that the orchid plant isn’t receiving enough light. 

How to know what intensity of sunlight your orchid plant is receiving?

Placing the potted orchid plant by a direct or indirect light sourcing window may not be enough. At times, the amount of light you assume your plant to be receiving may be deceitful.

There is a way to check and find out about how much light and in what intensity is the light being supplied to your orchids.

There are automated meters and scales that can measure the amount of light, but if not you can use your hand and it will be just as fine.

On a bright and clear day, place your hand between the source of light and the orchid plant, making sure that your palm is at a 12inch distance from the foliage. The shadow that your palm casts on the plant determine whether there is enough light for the orchids or not.

If there is no shadow of your hand over the plant, then it means that the plant is not getting enough sunlight for any orchid species to grow.

If the shadow of your palm is light and faded over the plant then it indicates that the level of light is low and this kind of light works for many orchid types.

In case the shadow of your hand falling onto the plant is sharp, dark, and clear, it is an indication that the light is bright and high enough. This intensity of light is likely sufficient for those orchid species which need more light to grow.

General light requirements for an Orchid plant:

Orchids grow in strong and indirect sunlight. They require an adequate light supply for the blooming of the flowers.

A strong but at the same time, indirect sunlight supply must be made available to the orchid plants. Direct sunshine can affect the bloom and cause sunburns in the foliage of the plant.

Where to place your Orchid plant?

Taking into consideration the light requirements of your indoor potted orchid plants, the placement and positioning of the plant is a key factor which assists in good light supply.

The potted orchids are best suited to the sunlight conditions when placed by either south-facing window or east-facing window.

These provide a bright exposure to the plant without the harshness and the heat of the sun. South or east side window locations are ideal for the placement of an orchid plant and provide the optimal intensity of sunlight.

A west located window is too hot and exposes the orchid plant to harsh afternoon rays of the sun which are direct and can cause leaf damage. If placing the orchid plant by a west-facing window, it is best to place it behind a sheer curtain so that the light rays are indirect but bright at the same time.

If the orchid plant is kept by a north-facing window, it won’t get enough sunshine and light which is required for blooming.

Sunlight requirement depending on type of Orchids:

As we have already discussed, there are two varieties of orchids depending on light needs. Orchids can be classified under two – Tropical Orchids and Terrestrial Orchids.

Tropical varieties of orchids are native to forests where they receive sunlight which reaches them through the canopies of bigger trees. Thus, they are accustomed to growing in indirect sun and prefer a light intensity bright sunlight condition.

In homes or gardens, these tropical orchid plants must be grown in low and warm light and direct heat as well as light rays of the Sun must not be allowed to hit the foliage. Phalaenopsis, Lady Slipper, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, etc. are few among the tropical orchids. These can be placed in north or east-facing windows or a protected and shaded west and south window.

Terrestrial orchids, as the name suggests, grow in the soil and mostly in open ground areas rather than forests. They do not have a cover over them and hence, they grow under the full and bright sun. They are not too vulnerable to damage due to direct sunlight exposure.

They also prefer soaring temperatures and can tolerate more light as compared to tropical orchids. These types of orchids are also popularly called hardy orchids. They can be kept by a west or south-facing window and a thin sheer curtain to block extreme sunlight is advised to keep them protected and to prevent burning of the foliage. They like growing in warmer households. Cattleya, Vanda and Dendrobium are some such terrestrial orchid varieties.

Signs that the Orchid is not getting proper sunlight:

The color of the foliage is a great element which can determine the health of the orchid plant. If there is an insufficient supply of light or over-sufficiency of sunlight, it can be made out by just checking the following signs in the foliage of the orchid plant;

–         If the leaves of your plant have a dark green hue and tend to be droopy, then it is a sign that it has a lack of light supply. Due to less light available to be absorbed by the plant, the leaves grow in area to be able to absorb more light, this results in bigger and heavier leaves which tend to droop downwards.

To correct this, move your plant to another window location where exposure to sunlight is comparatively more. You can also shift your indoor orchid plant to the outdoor garden and let it sit under a shady tree where it can get enough indirect light supply.

–         If the foliage of the orchid plant is turning yellow or red, then it is a sign that they are receiving too much sunlight. Too much sunlight exposure causes harm and burns to the foliage. If the leaves are more yellowish, then it is time for you to shift your orchids to a more sun-protected area.

You can also check if the intensity of sunlight it too much by touching the leaves of the plant. If they feel warm then it is a sign that they are suffering from high-intensity sunlight and heat. These orchid plants must be immediately shifted to a more indirectly bright source of light to avoid damage.

–         Bright yellow-green leaves are a representation of healthy orchid leaves that are receiving enough sunlight and do not need any alteration.

What happens when orchid plants are exposed to too much direct sunlight?

Some orchids may prefer a direct source of the sun and others like a more indirectly lit positioning. But there is always a chance of damage to the foliage, improper growth, and reduced blooming of flowers caused by direct and intense rays of the sun.

The supply of light is less than what is necessary then the effects of it on the plant would not be as adverse as when the light is too much and too intense.

The very early indication that the plant is getting too much light is seen on the leaves. The foliage slowly turns into a more yellow shade of color. If this condition is not immediately corrected by placing the orchid plant in indirect light supply, then this can eventually turn worse.

The yellow portion of the foliage can slowly turn whitish. Once the leaf starts to turn white, the damage caused in the plant cannot be reversed. This white area is a sign that the leaf has suffered sunburn.

The white patch on the leaf will slowly turn brown as the sunburnt portion dries up.

If the orchid plants are kept in the direct sun for too long, then it starts to lose its chlorophyll and the green color begins to turn yellow. If this losing of chlorophyll is stopped in the early stage, the damage can be controlled. If the dried spots turn white, the leaf portion cannot be saved anymore.

To save the plant from further yellowing and drying out due to sunburn, it should be moved to a safer environment.

If the plants are suddenly exposed to a lot of sunlight, it can facilitate damage in the foliage. The plant in the initial stage must be kept in a partially shaded area and then slowly and gradually moved to a sunnier position.

Even while changing the potting position after the winter for the growing season; it must be carried out eventually so that the plant is not suddenly traumatized by the change.

Therefore, even though the orchid plant won’t die readily due to direct sunlight, but it will go through a lot of chlorophyll loss, sunburn, and deficiencies due to improper photosynthesis.

Over time, these conditions will not only affect the appearance and flowering of the orchids but also will lead to the slow drying up of the entire plant.

Eventually, due to too much light and heat, the plant will suffer adverse issues and this will result in permanent damage and the death of the orchids.


Thus is it very necessary to keep a check on your potted orchids from time to time. Make sure the leaves maintain their fresh color and have a proper temperature.

In case the plant shows any sign of damage that we discussed before, immediately take action and shift the plant to regulate its needs. With all the correct steps in mind, the plant will turn out great and will keep your home environment unique and beautiful with its attractive and fragrant flowers.


Leave a Comment