Sandy's Garden

Low-E window glass and houseplants

Higher insulating values mean less light for indoor plants

By: Sandy Feather ©2009
Penn State Extension

Q. One side of our home faces true south and the windows, doors, skylights and glass room addition are E-glass.  I want to green up the house with houseplants and was wondering if E-glass would interfere with their growth.

A. Low E-glass or low emission glass is a clear glass coated with a very thin layer of metal oxide to improve the window’s insulation value. There are different grades of low-E glass; the higher the insulating value, the more likely it is to reduce the amount of light available to your plants.

PPG Place
PPG Place in Pittsburgh uses PPG
Solarban® 500 clear reflective glass

That does not mean you cannot grow plants in your new addition, but it does mean that you should choose plants that tolerate somewhat lower light levels. You can use a light meter from a camera to get an idea of how much light the low-E glass allows into the room.


Foot-candles are a common unit of light measurement. Houseplants can be categorized according to their light needs: Very high light plants require 1000+ foot-candles; high light plants require 500+ foot-candles; medium light plants require 200+ foot-candles; and low light plants can get by with 75 – 100 foot-candles. Since your room has a southern exposure, it seems reasonable that medium to high light plants would do well there, but it does depend on what grade of low-E glass your windows are made from.

Here is a list of medium light plants that should thrive in your new room

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium scherzeranum)

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri')

Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’)

Gold-dust Plant (Aucuba japonica)

Pony Tail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Umbrella Tree (Brassaia actinophylla)

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea erumpens)

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum)

Goldfish Plant (Columnea spp.)

Hawaiian Ti (Cordyline terminalis)

Jade Tree (Crassula argentea)

Sago Palm (Cycas revolute)

False Aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima)

Tricolor Dracaena (Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor)

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)

Nerve Plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)

Purple Passion Plant (Gynura aurantiaca)

Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconerura)

Peperomia (Peperomia spp.)

Philodendron (Philodendron spp.)

Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadieri)

Artillery Plant (Pilea microphylla)

Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus spp.)

African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.)

Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)

Claw Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum)

Wandering Jew (Zebrina pendula)


Christmas Cactus Care

Ficus Dropping Leaves

Gnats Indoors

Watering your Houseplants


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