The short answer is that plants grow better in
the sunlight. This is similar to asking
whether animals grow better with or without food.
However, like with animals and food, the type and
amount of light that plants need is important and
may differ from plant to plant.
Plants use the sun's energy to break down
carbon dioxide to form the cellulose that forms
their leaves and stalks. With too little
sunlight, plants have to rely on stored energy to
live and grow. Thus, a healthy plant can survive
short periods of darkness but will eventually
wither and die without enough light. Too much
sunlight is also a problem. Lots of sunlight
usually means lots of heat, which can cause the
plant to lose water and dry out. Intense light can
also break down the colored compounds in the
plant's leaves, causing damage. The color of
the light is important too - plants can more
easily use blue light than red light, and grow
best when they can get the full spectrum of
You can do your own experiments to test this,
which would make a great science fair project.
First, choose the conditions you want to
compare - for example, sunlight vs. shade or
full spectrum vs. only red light. Then, buy a
set of leafy houseplants from a nursery, choosing
ones that are about the same size. (I recommend a
variety of coleus, also called solenostemon.)
Then, track the growth of each plant under the
conditions you chose. Try to keep as many other
conditions the same, like how often and how much
you water them. Keep detailed notes on their
height, how many leaves they have and what color
they are. Taking pictures can help.
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