Let’s face it, not many of us live in glass houses with plentiful amounts of sun streaming in every day. You might live in a studio apartment with only a couple windows or in a house with a few darker rooms. Here are 10 easy care houseplants for low light. Although some of them would do better in medium light, they’ll tolerate low light just fine.
I see articles that say “houseplants that grow in no light or houseplants that grow in the dark”. Not true. All houseplants require some light to grow, even if it’s artificial light. Plants need sunlight to photosynthesis and produce chlorophyll – this is what makes them green.
Keep in mind that low light isn’t no light. Otherwise, houseplants would look more like white asparagus, which is grown under layers of mulch and dark plastic to keep the growing conditions dark. More on low light levels at the end by the way.
10 easy care houseplants for low light:
I started my horticultural career in the field of interior plantscaping and spent 12 years both maintaining and specing out plants on commercial accounts. The plants listed below are the ones which I saw survive the best and the longest in offices, lobbies, hotels, malls, and airports. Low light environments indeed! You won’t find any new discoveries here but below are my favs based on ease of care, durability and longevity.
You can find these plants, more houseplants and lots of info in our simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.
Confused about how often to water your houseplants? Check out my Guide to Watering Indoor Plants. There’s no definitive answer as to how often because so many variables come into play. I answer questions and give you things to think about which will help you when it comes to watering your indoor plants.
Pothos, Devil’s Ivy.
Hanging or Table Top Plant.
This is the quintessential hanging plant for lower light conditions. I’ve seen the trails reach 25′, although the plant tends to be a bit straggly on the top and the stems at that point. Pothos are available in many different leaf colorations from green splashed with white to chartreuse to solid green .
The solid green one does the best in low light. Just know that the other varieties will revert to this if not getting enough light.
Hanging or Tabletop Plant.
The Heartleaf Philodendron has heart shaped leaves, just like the common name says. The longest I’ve seen the trails on this one is about 5 or 6′. It has thinner stems, grows flatter and is less robust than the Pothos. It’s not as widely sold as the Pothos but is popular nonetheless.
You can find it in a few variegated forms but will also revert to solid green in lowest light.
Lucky Bamboo is a winner because it grows for the long haul in water. It does grow in soil also but is seldom seen that way. You can find it in many forms (mine you see pictured on the left is spiral or curly) and in many arrangements. It’s said to bring good fortune – yes please!
Aglaonemas, Ags, Chinese Evergreen.
Tabletop or floor plant.
We used Aglaonemas a lot on commercial accounts because they’re pretty darned sturdy. They come in a wide variety of patterns; even some new ones splashed with pink and red. They get as as wide as they do tall, so the floor plants will be 2’x2′ or 3’x3′. The Chinese Evergreen or Silver Queen are good old standbys which do the best in the lowest light. Those with more variegation and color do best with more light.
Tabletop or floor plant.
The tallest I’ve seen a ZZ Plant reach is 5′. The leaves are a rich dark glossy green which hardly ever show brown tips, even here in the Arizona desert. As it grows the leaves arch out making quite a striking silhouette.
Snake Plant, Mother In Law Tongue.
Tabletop or floor plant.
I’m addicted to Snake Plants not only because of the way they look, but especially because they’re downright tough. The less you baby them, the happier they are. This plant, along with the ZZ Plant and the Cast Iron Plant, is especially good if you travel because of its low water requirement. There is a lot of variety in height, leaf size and shape as well as color and variegation to for you to choose from with these.
More on Snake Plant care here.
Cast Iron Plant.
The dark green leaves of a Cast Iron Plant shoot up like flames on skinny stems reaching 2-3′ tall. This isn’t a “glitzy” plant but it sure is a tough cookie, as evidenced by the common name. It’s great for darker corners, under stairs and in hallways. There are a few shorter varieties as well as leaf variegations.
Darcaena Janet Craig, Dracaena Lisa.
In my days as an interior landscaper, “Janet Craig” was the only variety on the market. We put a lot of these in offices, malls, lobbies, and the like. Now the variety “Lisa” has come on the scene and is more commonly sold. They both have the same glossy, dark green foliage and are sold by the cane (stem) usually with 3-5 per pot so you get the foliage heads at different levels giving a staggered look.
We used the Dracaena fragrans, along with the Janet Craig, quite a bit in interiors for low light . I did the video before doing this post and included this plant in this list. I’m having a hard time finding a picture of a Dracaena fragrans but basically the Dracaena massangeana, pictured above, is a variegated form of the Dracaena fragrans. The massangeana needs medium light to bring out the variegation and will revert to solid green. That’s the Dracaena fragrans!
The care for this plant is the same as the Dracaena Janet Craig, Lisa.
This gorgeous, elegant palm arches and fans out as it grows so it’s not one for tight spaces. They grow very slowly, putting out 1 frond (leaf) per year, so they’re more expensive than the Areca and Bamboo Palms. We found them to be much more durable and longer lasting on commercials accounts than those 2 other palms so it might be worth the investment in the long run.
Low (natural) light in a nutshell.
Remember, low light isn’t no light. Many of these plants will actually do better in medium light but tolerate low light. You won’t see much growth though but the plants above are the ones I saw do and look the best over time with limited amounts of natural light.
I read somewhere that the general rule for low light is that you want it bright enough to see and do things like reading, sewing or cooking. If you can, then these plants will do just fine. This to me is a good analogy so I wanted to pass it on.
Below are general guidelines for exposure for low light plants. It’ll vary a bit depending on the number and size of windows (or glass doors) in a room.
North facing: usually no direct sun but still some light. Plants can be close to the window(s).
East facing: you want the plant to be at least 5′ away from the window(s).
West or south facing: you want the plant at least 10′ away from the window(s).
None of these plants (or most houseplants for that matter) will take direct, hot sun so keep them out of windows.
I tend to wing it when it comes to light. If a plant seems to be a bit unhappy, I move it. In the winter there is less light so you might have to move a plant closer to the light source. And, rotate your plants from time to time so they grow evenly.
I hope you’ve found this list of easy care houseplants for low light to be helpful! What are you favorite low light plants? Do you have any to add to the list?
You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive
Happy indoor gardening,
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