There are some lucky souls who live in houses flooded with sunlight day in and day out, but then there are also those whose homes are submerged in semi-darkness most of the time. If the latter is true for you, and your place receives sunshine in amounts which are insufficient for any sun-loving plants to thrive, it doesn’t mean that you ought to give up on indoor plants completely. Instead, you’ll need to make informed choices when adding plants to your interior décor, and only opt for true low light houseplants – plants known to do well in lower light conditions.
Before we roll out a list of our favorites in this category, let’s first come to terms with a few facts of nature. If you’re looking to grow plants in complete darkness, then your only real option is growing mushrooms. Green plants use sunlight to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll – the very substance which makes them go green. Of course, modern-day technology allows us to replace sunlight with grow lights (artificial lights imitating the light spectrum of the sun), but the bottom line is that nearly all plants will suffer in any seriously underlit room.
That said, plants differ greatly with respect to how tolerant of low light they are, and there are a couple of savvy gardening moves you can learn as a loving plant parent to make life easier for your low light indoor plants:
- Don’t overwater your plants. Plants grow more slowly in low light, meaning they are also more vulnerable to root rot if you don’t let the soil dry out a bit between waterings.
- Don’t expose them to direct sunlight. Bright, indirect light is the most that an average low light plant can take, so placing it next to a north- or east-facing window is a good idea. If the window is pointing south or west, then keep your plant a bit further away.
- Look for the best location for your plants. If they don’t seem to be doing very well, try a different spot with different light conditions.
- Move your plants in the winter. There’s generally less light in the winter and in the fall, so push your plants a little closer to their source of light.
- Rotate your plants regularly. This will expose them to sunlight more evenly.
- Cut down on fertilizers. Less light means slower plant growth, so there’s no need to feed your plants with fertilizers as much as in direct sunlight.
- Choose plants with plain leaves. Variegated leaves don’t absorb the light as well, so they won’t do very well in dim light.
- Put your plants somewhere you can read. If it’s too dark for you to read (with your glasses on), then chances are your plants will find it very challenging to prosper there.
And with all of the above in mind, here are a few true low light houseplants – our eight go-to choices for dim corners and any other underlit spaces.
The pothos is also known as the devil’s ivy, likely because it goes positively berserk in the wild where it can climb and fully cover any big tree or other surface. But don’t worry, you will be able to prune it and easily control the length of its trails when you grow it as a potted plant.
Considered a quintessential hanging plant for dim light, the pothos is very tolerant of neglect, but if you plan to keep it in extremely low light, then your best choice is the solid green variety (as mentioned above, leaf variegation reduces light absorption).
2. Cast Iron Plant
Another plant with a telling name, the cast iron plant is one tough customer. It will do well in a poorly lit room and with a black-thumbed gardener for a roommate, able to withstand long spells with no watering and in limited sunlight.
While perhaps not as glamorous as some other plants, the cast iron plant is a steady performer and a reliable choice for darker hallways and corners. But give it some bright, indirect light every now and then and your cast iron plant will truly come to life with more color and some added perkiness.
3. Peace Lily
A wonderful, easy way to brighten up any darker area in your house, the peace lily makes an excellent low light indoor plant. It thrives, and also blooms throughout the year, on heavily-shaded forest floors, so chances are it will do the same in your underlit bedroom or office cubicle.
The one condition is consistent watering – but do check the soil for moisture as the peace lily doesn’t tolerate overwatering. Don’t burn it by putting it in direct sunlight, but placing your peace lily in a slightly brighter area will result in more flowers and prettier, more colorful leaves.
4. Creeping Fig
A hardy vine quite unlike other fig species, the creeping fig will do well in most lighting conditions – your house’s dark corner included. It’s also a practical choice if you’re looking to cover any wall or fence as your creeping fig will quickly drape it with its small leaves.
Of course, you can curb the growth of the creeping fig by pruning it, especially in extremely poor light where the vines tend to grow long but leafless. The plant is also tolerant of underwatering and low humidity levels, and it looks great in hanging baskets.
5. Chinese Evergreen
A sturdy low-light performer, the Chinese evergreen offers to decorate dark areas of your house with a bush of lovely, two-toned leaves. Depending on the variety you choose, the leaves can range from silvery to pink, but bear in mind that like with so many other plants, more color and variegation generally requires more exposure to sunlight.
The Chinese evergreen can handle some neglect on your part, but make sure you keep it somewhere warm and moist all year round. Water it with moderation, avoid direct sunlight and your Chinese evergreen will bring you some good luck (or at least that’s the plant’s reputation).
6. Bird’s Nest Fern
The bird’s nest fern thrives in moderate to low light, warm temperatures and high humidity levels, and is therefore your perfect choice for a muggy bathroom with a window. With its flat, wavy fronds, it does resemble a bird’s nest, but in its natural habitat it actually grows on the ground rather than up in the trees.
Lowering the amount of light it receives will cause your bird’s nest fern to grow its leaves flatter; for a more wrinkled look, provide it with some indirect sunlight. A trouble-free plant overall, the bird’s nest fern is a great way to add tropical vibes to dull bathrooms.
7. Heartleaf Philodendron
Easily recognized by its trailing leaves in the shape of hearts, the heartleaf philodendron thrives in medium to low light. If you also water it on a weekly basis, it will grow quickly so put it in a hanging basket or on a high shelf; pinch the stems regularly if you’d like your philodendron to slow down a bit.
There are a few variegated types available but just like in the case of the more popular pothos here, expect the leaves to revert to solid green when the heartleaf receives precious little sunlight. Give the plant a misting from time to time and propagate it by putting a few cuttings in a bowl of water.
8. Lucky Bamboo
A fantastic low-light indoor plant, the lucky bamboo isn’t really a bamboo – it’s a dracaena! Plant taxonomy aside, it does best in moderate indirect light, but can also tolerate dim lights remarkably well. Just don’t expose it to direct sunlight so it doesn’t get burnt too much.
It is commonly found in homes and offices around the world, especially in Asia where it is said to bring good fortune and reduce stress levels as it represents a perfect balance between wood and water. Indeed, the lucky bamboo can survive both in water alone, and is often sold in vases of water and pebbles.
So there you have it, eight fantastic true low light houseplants! They will all do fine in dim corners and other low light conditions, just remember that low light does not mean no light. Other than some light though, your plant will need a good plant container, so why don’t you also browse our collection of modern fiberglass planters?