For most indoor plants, the light from a west-facing window is a welcome compromise between the bright but usually weaker light from an east-facing window and the direct and often very bright light let in through a south-facing window. As a result, plants that like a little more light but can’t handle hot direct sun are happiest with this exposure. It’s often a good location for flowering houseplants as well as ones with variegated or even nongreen foliage, as it tends to intensify foliage color.
A west-facing window is also a good spot for many plants that do well with either an eastern or southern exposure, so feel free to experiment with including them. Those preferring an eastern exposure may need to be placed away from the window or shielded by a light curtain, while those preferring a southern exposure may need to move closer to the light. Either way, you’ll have plenty of options to fill your space.
Basic care. Most of the plants that thrive in west-facing windows are not that fussy about their growing conditions. They like light, of course, but otherwise they generally do well with standard home humidity levels and temperatures, though they prefer to be kept out of drafts and safeguarded against extreme temperatures. Some prefer to be kept evenly moist; others can dry out between waterings.
Feed them while they are growing, generally from spring through fall. If using a liquid fertilizer, use one-quarter strength every week or half-strength every two weeks.
Light needs. West-facing windows get direct sun at the end of the afternoon when it is brightest — a plus for flowering plants, especially — but also when it can be the hottest. If plants are getting too much sun or heat, especially if they also receive light from other windows, they can develop scorched leaves and show signs of spindly growth. If that’s the case, move the plant out of the direct sun or provide filtered light during the hottest part of the day. Plants may also need to be moved away from the hotter spots during the summer and returned in winter when the sunlight is weaker.
If the plant is not growing and thriving, it may not be receiving enough light, especially if the light coming in is filtered by buildings and trees. If so, move the plant closer to the window to increase the light it receives.
Standout foliage. A western exposure can bring out the best in many popular houseplants that are grown for their unusual foliage. If you’re looking for a houseplant with unexpectedly bright velvety foliage in shades ranging from green to yellow, orange, red, maroon and purple, coleus is a good plant to start with. Its brightly colored leaves stand out in any space, and it’s relatively easy to grow.
Keep the soil evenly moist, but don’t let the plant stand in water. Fertilize every two weeks from spring through fall with half-strength fertilizer, and cut back in winter. Bright, or even direct, sunlight will intensify the leaf colors, but if it gets sunlight that is too intense, leaf tips can scorch. It’s happy with average indoor temperatures and humidity levels, though it does like it a bit cooler when it isn’t growing. It also can form flowers, but that’s fairly rare indoors.
More: Other plants with intriguing foliage include bloodleaf (Iresine herbstii), croton (Codiaeum variegatum), false aralia (Schefflera elegantissima), pleomele (Dracaena reflexa), Veitch’s screwpine (Pandanus veitchii) and tiplant (Cordyline fruticosa), a source of leaves for hula skirts when grown outdoors.
Caution: Croton, pleomele and tiplant are toxic if ingested.
Flowering favorite. One advantage of the bright light of a west-facing window is that flowering houseplants are often happiest there. This includes that longtime indoor favorite, the geranium. Before dismissing this as “your grandmother’s houseplant,” consider the advantage: lots of blooms in a wide range of colors, bright foliage, easy maintenance, an option for a hanging basket and the ability to blend in with different decorating styles.
To keep a geranium happy, water thoroughly and let it drain completely, then let it dry out a bit before watering again. In winter, water it slightly less, but don’t let the roots get completely dry. Feed with a half-strength fertilizer every two weeks or a quarter-strength fertilizer every week from spring through fall. Deadhead regularly and pinch back the stems to keep the plant well-shaped.
More: Other favorite flowering houseplants that thrive in west-facing windows include azalea (Rhododendron indica), cape jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides), hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.), New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hybrids), Persian violet (Exacum affine) and shamrock (Oxalis spp.).
Caution: Geranium, azalea, cape jasmine, hibiscus and shamrock are toxic if ingested.
3. Aloe Vera
Succulent sun lover. Aloe vera is probably best-known for its healing sap, but it also is a fine choice as a houseplant. Its strappy leaves look at home in almost any setting, but it particularly shines in contemporary or rustic spaces. It’s also easy to grow and can handle some neglect.
For the best results, plant it in a well-draining cactus mix and provide regular water from spring through fall, letting the pot drain thoroughly after you water and allowing the mix to dry out to about a half-inch from the top before watering again. Cut back on water almost completely in winter, watering sparingly about once a month.
An aloe is fine with regular home temperatures and humidity levels, but keep it out of drafts and chilly spots; the leaves are mostly water, so they will freeze if it’s too cold. If the leaves get too pale, provide more light. You can start new plants from the plantlets that form.
More: Although aloe is an excellent succulent choice to get started, you may also want to consider easy-to-grow jade plant (Crassula ovata) or spineless yucca (Yucca elephantipes), which require similar care. Another option is to start a small indoor cactus garden, as many of these also love the bright afternoon sun a west-facing window provides.
Caution: Aloe, jade plant and yucca are toxic if ingested.
4. Air Plants
No soil necessary. Many of the bromeliads commonly sold as houseplants are good choices for a west-facing window. The fact that one of these, tillandsia, is often sold as an “air plant” is probably a contributing factor to its growing popularity. Although it doesn’t subsist only on air, it doesn’t need soil and therefore can be shown off in a small dish garden, attached to a piece of wood that hangs on a wall or sits on a table, or used as the focal point in a terrarium hanging in a window.
Although a tillandsia may not need soil, it will need some care, which includes providing sufficient moisture. Several times a week, water the grasslike leaves lightly until they are barely moist, then let them dry out completely (use a mister if you want). Fertilize with a quarter-strength fertilizer twice a month when watering, as these plants absorb nutrients through their leaves. Provide good air circulation. If your plant develops brown tips, the humidity level may be too low.
A tillandsia can handle direct sun in winter but will probably need more filtered light in summer. It also can handle indoor temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) and needs the higher temperatures to bloom.
More: Other popular bromeliads include blushing bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae), earth star (Cryptanthus spp.), queen’s tears (Billbergia nutans) and vase, or urn, plant (Aechmea spp.).
Indoor tree. One of the most attention-getting indoor “trees” is the bird-of-paradise, with its broad leaves and tropical appeal. Give it plenty of room to grow since it can reach 6 feet tall.
The bird-of-paradise is happiest indoors with the bright light a west-facing window provides, though you may need to provide a bit of a screen in the form of a light curtain if the direct sun it receives is very bright. Water thoroughly, but let it dry out between waterings and allow it to get almost dry in winter. You’ll need to water more often if it’s in an exceptionally bright location. Fertilize with a half-strength fertilizer twice a month in spring and fall.
More: Bird-of-paradise may be the most dramatic, but there are other options to fill a large space in a west-facing location, including avocado (Persea americana), dwarf citrus (Citrus spp.), butterfly palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), jaggery palm (Caryota urens) and sago palm (Cycas revoluta).
Caution: Bird-of-paradise, butterfly palm, jaggery palm and sago palm are toxic if ingested.
6. Holiday Cactuses
Seasonal stars. Long-lasting bright blooms in shades of white, pink, red, orange and lavender are one of the bonuses of growing what collectively can be called the holiday cactuses: Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata) and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri or Hatiora gaertneri). The common name refers to the time of year they bloom, and while there are some minor differences between them, overall they require much the same care.
These cactuses need rich soil that’s kept evenly moist. Fertilize weekly with about one-quarter strength fertilizer from spring through summer while the plant is growing, then cut back when it’s blooming. They don’t want to be in the direct sun, but they do appreciate the light from a west-facing window and are mostly fine with normal temperatures after they bloom.
Bloom is triggered by shorter days and a drop in temperatures at night once they start to form buds, usually around October or November. Put them in a spot where they’ll get 12 hours of darkness to stimulate bloom. You should also cut back on watering at this time. It will take the Easter cactus longer to bloom.
More: If you’re looking for other holiday plants for a west-facing window, consider amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrids) and poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) for the winter holidays, chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.) for Thanksgiving, and lily(Lilium spp.) and primrose (Primula spp.) as indoor nods to spring.
Caution: Amaryllis, poinsettia, chrysanthemum, lily and primrose are toxic if ingested.
7. English Ivy
Trailing form. There’s a reason English ivy is a tried-and-true indoor houseplant, especially at home in a hanging basket. It grows quickly, sending cascades of green or variegated foliage downward, but it can also be trained to climb. It can handle differing humidity and light levels, and it doesn’t require special care.
Keep the soil evenly moist and fertilize weekly with a quarter-strength fertilizer. It likes bright light, but keep it out of direct sun in summer. Prune or pinch to keep its shape.