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Why do plants need sunlight?

Plants are beneficial to humans and other animals in a myriad of ways. The most common benefit of plants is that they give off oxygen while taking in carbon dioxide. They, namely trees, also provide shade and cooler temperatures. 

Plants are also used in manufacturing products such as paper, lighting, adhesives, medicine, clothing, cosmetics, fuel, charcoal as well as many other products. Additionally, plants provide food for people everywhere. But without light, plants, and life as we know it, would cease to exist. All plants and animals are fully dependent on photosynthesis for their energy. While some carnivores do not eat plants directly, the vast majority consume animals that subsist on plants. But why exactly do plants need light? How does this miracle process work?

Learn more below about plants and photosynthesis. Ambius is a leader in plant care and can help you find the perfect plants for your office or other space. Contact us today for more details.

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Photosynthesis process

“Plants need light for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process of the plant making its own food,” said Matt Kostelnick, Senior Horticulturist at Ambius. Photosynthesis occurs within the chlorophyll inside the chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are the sites of photosynthesis. This is a two-step process: the light reactions and then the Calvin cycle. 

The first photosystem involved in the light reactions is the water-splitting photosystem in which electrons are extracted from water and oxygen is released into the atmosphere. The second photosystem that takes place is what is referred to as the NADPH Photosystem, in which electrons are moved from the chlorophyll to NADP-producing NADPH. Together the two photosystems release energy to the chloroplast, which then uses it to drive cellular processes crucial for plant survival. 

Inside the thick double-membraned layer of the chloroplast is a thick fluid called stroma and inside is an apparatus of stacked green sacs known as grana. This is where the chloroplast molecules capture light energy. The energy from the light is utilized to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) as well as NADPH. 

ATP is the cellular molecule that supplies cells with the energy to do work. NADPH is an electron carrier used in the Calvin cycle where it transforms carbon dioxide into high energy sugar which, in turn, is used by cells to make glucose and other needed organic molecules. Alas, memories of high school biology class come flooding in while attempting to accurately recall all that was taught.

How plant leaves help

Kostelnick went on to explain that, “Plant leaves function a lot like solar-panels, instead of creating energy, they are creating food for the plant by harnessing light energy from the sun (or another light source).” 

Kostelnick’s easy to understand interpretation clearly defines the importance of the process utilized by plants and other organisms to convert light energy mainly from the sun, into chemical energy that will be used to fuel the organisms’ life-defining activities.

Does the color of light affect plant growth?

The color of light can affect plant growth when it comes to artificial lighting. For example, in the presence of blue light, plants will likely be more compact, with leaves that are more thick. When red light is present, plants will be larger and have longer stems. With red light, plants may also have more flowers.

Plants use green light for photosynthesis or they reflect it. The leaves look green due to green light that is reflected.

Low light hanging plants

In an indoor environment, it can be tricky to know which plants handle low light well. But if you’re looking for plants that are good fits for hanging baskets under low light, both pothos and philodendron are good choices.

Pothos, or devil’s ivy, has heart-shaped leaves. Golden pothos is a common type, with green and yellow leaves. Heart-leaf philodendron, another nice option, has dark green leaves. Adding these plants to your space could greatly enhance its visual appeal and provide a more soothing environment in a place that lacks a significant amount of bright light.

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Ambius understands the light levels required for various plants and will identify the types best suited to your environment. Get in touch with us to discuss your options.