Low Light Houseplants

My Garden Life
March 15, 2022
Table of Contents
There is no such thing as houseplants that don’t need light, but there are low light houseplants that handle growing indoors better than others. In nature these are usually plants that can be found growing in trees or in the dense shade of the forest floor. Their natural ability to adapt to shady conditions make them good houseplants for situations with low light, indirect sunlight, or growing under artificial light.

These ten plants grow well indoors if provided up to four hours of natural sunlight. This is the amount of light typically found near an east or west-facing window, or by a north-facing window that may receive low-level light all day. In situations without windows, it’s important to provide houseplants with supplemental artificial light.

Here’s a list of ten low light houseplants to brighten up your darker spaces:

1. Mother-in-law’s Tongue, Snake Plant

(Sansevieria species)
Low light houseplants -two different varieties of potted Sansevieria on a table in front of a white painted brick wall
Sansevieria are long-lived plants that can grow for decades as a houseplant. They’re native to tropical regions of Africa and southern Asia. Sansevieria is an interesting plant that has no stem, only leaves. A thick protective film covers the leaves and reduces moisture loss allowing the plant to grow well in arid locations. This feature also makes Sansevieria an easy-care houseplant, able to survive those who are forgetful about watering. Sansevieria can thrive in northern windows and under artificial light. Its dramatic vertical form makes Sansevieria a good focal point in a room or office.

2. Lucky bamboo

(Dracaena sanderiana)

relaxing image of a bundle of lucky bamboo stems in a decorative dish on a table surrounded by candles

Lucky bamboo is not a true bamboo, but its stalks and foliage look similar to actual bamboo. Lucky bamboo grows well in water or soil. If grown in water, try to use chlorine-free water and change it weekly to prevent the growth of algae. Lucky bamboo is a good choice for a kitchen counter, tabletop, or office desk.

Lucky bamboo has been an Asian symbol of good fortune and prosperity for thousands of years. It’s popular for displaying during the celebration of the New Year, religious festivals, and storeowners often keep lucky bamboo plants around to encourage business success. The number of lucky bamboo stalks is believed to symbolize the type of luck you will receive.

3. Cast-Iron Plant

(Aspidistra elatior)
Isolate image of a potted Aspidistra, or cast-iron plant
Called “cast-iron” plant for its ability to tolerate a range of temperature, drought, and low light conditions; Aspidistra is about as close to a houseplant that doesn’t need light as you’re going to find. It’s also one of the few plants that can tolerate drafty situations near a doorway; a feature that made Aspidistra extremely popular in the parlors of Victorian era homes of the 1800’s.

Aspidistra is native to China and Japan where it grows in the shade of the forest canopy. Leaves are produced directly from the roots, there are no stems, and individual flowers, although rare on houseplants, are produced at the base of the plant. Cast-iron plant is a slow grower, so it won’t outgrow its pot or location as quickly as many other houseplants might.

4. Prayer Plant

(Maranta leuconeura)
Maranta, or prayer plant, in a pot on a rustic stucco background
The name “prayer plant” comes from the fact that this plant’s leaves open to a horizontal position at dawn to capture light, then fold up to a vertical position at dusk. This leaf movement is called “nyctinasty”.

Prayer plants are native to the tropical forests of Central and South America, and the West Indies, where they grow on the forest floor. They’re popular as houseplants because they can tolerate low light and their colorful, patterned foliage adds a vibrant, decorative touch to a room. Prayer plant’s low, trailing habit make it a good choice for a hanging basket, shelf, tabletop, or office desk.

5. Spider Plant

(Chlorophytum comosum)
spider plant in a decorative white pot set on a rustic table
Spider plants have been a houseplant favorite for generations. They’re easy to care for and spider plant’s grassy, green and white striped foliage adds beautiful color and texture to a room. This is a great plant for anyone new to growing houseplants. Spider plants are well-suited for hanging baskets or on a shelf where the dangling stems with baby plants have room to grow.

Spider plants are native to tropical regions of Africa where they are commonly found growing along forested riverbanks. They’re fun to propagate and share with friends and family. Spider plant babies are produced along long stems. In nature the stems arc to the ground where the baby spider plants can root directly in the surrounding soil, allowing the plant to spread. You can snip off spider plant babies and grow new plants by rooting in water or potting directly in soil.

6. ZZ plant

(Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
ZZ plant on a table near a sliding glass door
ZZ plant is relatively new to the houseplant scene. It’s native to the dry grasslands and forests of eastern Africa but only began to be marketed as a houseplant in 1996. Since then, its popularity has soared. If you’re looking for houseplants that don’t need light, this plant comes pretty close. It’s a good choice for a north window or an office plant.

ZZ plant has a plump, round rhizome (underground stem) that looks like a potato. The rhizome stores water making ZZ plant a good choice for anyone forgetful (or lazy) about watering.

7. Spathiphyllum

(Spathiphyllum hybrid)
Spathiphyllum, or peace lily, houseplant in a decorative pot set agains a wall
Spathiphyllum aren’t just one of the most popular houseplants around, over time they’ve come to represent peace, purity and sympathy. First discovered growing wild in Colombia and Venezuela; the Spathiphyllum plant was introduced to Europe in 1870 and over time became a favorite for growing indoors. Spathiphyllum prefer bright, filtered sunlight but can tolerate lower light and grow well under artificial light.

The white, showy part of the Spathiphyllum flower is not a petal, but a modified leaf called a “spathe”. Hybridization efforts have resulted in many new varieties of peace lilies, in different sizes, and often producing more, and larger, flowers and spathes.

8. Pothos

(Epipremnum aureum)
Pothos houseplant in a decorative fiber basket on a table
Pothos is one of the most popular plants for low-light situations. It’s colorful, marbled foliage adds color to a room. In nature, pothos can be found growing in the shade of trees and bushes in French Polynesia. The vines grow up the bark and branches of trees, attaching themselves with aerial roots. As a houseplant you can let the pothos vines dangle by growing your plant in a hanging basket or by placing it on a shelf. Pothos can also be trained to a fiber pole (usually made from coconut coir or moss) or kept trimmed to create a lush potted plant.

Pothos is easy to root in water, so keep some of your trimmings to start new plants for yourself or to share with plant-loving friends. The pothos cuttings should be potted in soil once new roots start developing, or you can plant them directly in soil right from the start.

9. English Ivy

(Hedera helix)
English ivy in a decorative pot on a windowsill with miniblinds in the background
English ivy is a versatile plant that has been popular for growing in containers for centuries. It’s native to a broad region, from Europe to western Asia, where it can be found growing in shady woodlands. In nature English ivy grows in two stages; starting as groundcover then maturing to a bush that can produce flowers and berries.

As a houseplant English ivy will retain its trailing habit making it a good choice for a hanging basket or placed on a shelf where the vines can dangle. Potted English ivy is also popular for growing on a small trellis or fiber pole, or training to a wire frame to create an ivy topiary. While English ivy will grow well in a north window or under artificial light, it’s worth noting that variegated varieties can lose their coloration if the light is too low and the leaves can revert to green.

10. Aglaonema, Chinese Evergreen

(Aglaonema species)
Aglaonema houseplant in a basket on a table
Aglaonema is one of the easiest low light houseplants to grow and great choice for beginners. In addition to its beautiful, patterned foliage, it’s not unusual for a mature Aglaonema to occasionally flower. The bloom produces a whitish-green, modified leaf called a “spathe” that looks more like a pod than a flower. The spathe shields a spadix of tiny white flowers in its interior.

Aglaonema is native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia where locals believe this plant brings luck and happiness to a home. Many colorful hybrids have been developed with leaves that are combinations of green, pink, white and red.

How Much Light do Low-Light Houseplants Need?

The plants in this list are some of the best plants for low light conditions but it’s important to know how to tell if your plants are getting too much or too little light. Help ensure the success of your houseplants with tips on how much light indoor plants need.

potted anthurium, fittonia and ficus in a sunny window


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