31 Low Light Houseplants For Indoor Gardens
Thinking of adding some houseplants to your indoor garden space, but need to make sure they can survive without a lot of light? Finding indoor plants that don't need a lot of indirect light can be a bit of a challenge! In this article, gardening and houseplant expert Madison Moulton takes you through her favorite houseplants that can survive in these conditions!
When it comes to houseplants and lighting, one of the most common questions asked is: which houseplants grow in low light? This is quite understandable, as not everyone has optimal lighting conditions for most plants. Most houseplants need indirect sunlight. But that doesn’t mean that some plants don’t tend to fare a bit better than others with less light.
While having the ability to move your indoor plant around your home or apartment into a more well lit area will give you more indoor plant options, it’s by no means a requirement to a healthy indoor garden. There are some plants that are so evolved, they can survive in low light and warm conditions, like the top of your refrigerator.
So, whether you live in a north-facing apartment, or only have space for a houseplant far away from windows where little sun reaches, you can still have a flourishing indoor garden. Let’s take a deeper look at our favorite plants that are incredibly tolerant of low light conditions!
A Quick Note About Indoor Lighting
Before we get into the actual list, we need to dispel some myths about what constitutes a plant that can tolerate less light indoors.
The first is that low light is not the same as no light. All houseplants need some form of sunlight to survive due to the process of photosynthesis. Without it, some might die slower than others, but they will all eventually die.
The second myth is that the plants will thrive or look fantastic 24/7 in low light. Unfortunately, despite the suggestion being repeated across the internet, very few plants (if any) actually prefer to grow in low light indoors. They may tolerate it, or may not show any signs of struggle. But, they will certainly not thrive under these conditions.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to grow plants in these conditions. But it is important to know the caveats so you can give your plants the best care possible.
Low light is typically found in areas far away from windows or in rooms with north-facing windows only. If you need to get technical, it’s the range from 25 – 100 foot candles or 270 – 1000 lux. Use a light meter or your smartphone as a measure.
Among the many reasons to love Pothos, their low-maintenance nature is right near the top of the list. These plants are known to thrive on neglect and have been labeled almost impossible to kill. This makes them ideal houseplants for beginners.
When it comes to lighting conditions, many Pothos varieties are happy in front of a north-facing window or placed far away from the light sources. They may not grow as quickly. But, since they are one of the fastest-growing houseplants around, you are still bound to see some progress.
When aiming to place a Pothos in an area with less light, choose a non-variegated cultivar like Jade Pothos. Some variegated Pothos species will begin to lose their variegation if placed in these conditions. It’s best to choose a solid color cultivar to keep the leaves looking lush.
Similar to the Pothos in looks – so much so that these two plants often get confused for one another – Philodendron hederaceum is another ideal candidate. This climbing plant looks wonderful trailing along bookcases or up moss poles around the darker corners of your home.
In fact, many plants from the Philodendron family are suitable for conditions with less light. The darker the leaves, the more chlorophyll they have and the better they will survive without bright sunlight. Again, flat dark green leaves are preferred over variegated Philodendrons like Pink Princess to maintain their color.
Keep in mind that soil dries out much slower in without bright, indirect light. Always check the soil before watering to avoid waterlogging and root rot.
If there is any indestructible houseplant perfect for absolute beginners, it’s the Snake Plant. Sansevieria (now part of the Dracaena genus) is one of the most adaptable plants you can buy. Introduce them slowly to their new conditions and they will handle less light or even direct sun with ease.
The structural, pointed leaves also lend this plant the comical name Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. These leaves come in dark green, often edged with intense yellow and sporting interesting patterns that brighten up any dark corner.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot for your Sansevieria, you can largely forget about it. In fact, it’s far better to forget it than to fuss over it and water it too often as the semi-succulent leaves cannot handle soggy soil.
The arching leaves of the Spider Plant are bound to catch anyone’s eye, even in a dark room. Scientifically known as Chlorophytum comosum, this popular houseplant features masses of elongated green leaves edged in white that fall over around the pot to create a fountain of foliage.
Spider Plants are remarkably adaptable, adjusting to areas with less light well. They may lose a bit of their color and sheen, but they will not suffer any major health issues when deprived of the perfect lighting conditions. They are relatively quick growers and don’t require much maintenance, making them perfect for beginners. Spider plants also seem to live forever, even with a little neglect.
Chlorophytum comosum is a popular plant to propagate too as they produce babies along arching stems that look like tiny spiders – hence the name. However, your plant may not produce these in lower lighting conditions.
If you’re looking to propagate more plants, it’s better to move them to an area with moderate to bright indirect light for a short time and move them back once you’ve collected all your pups for propagation.
Cast Iron Plant
The common name of Aspidistra elatior says everything you need to know about its tolerance for less than ideal growing conditions. Called the Cast Iron Plant, or Bar Room Plant, they are incredibly tolerant of neglect and retain their deep green hue under almost any conditions, bar direct sunlight.
Cast Iron plants are extremely hardy. They can handle missed waterings, low humidity, and cold temperatures with ease. Gift to forgetful houseplant parents or place it in your own home office and watch this plant thrive.
Although the common dark green species are the most hardy and the most sought-after, there are a few cultivars of this award-winning plant to choose from. Some are speckled, while others feature stripes of different colors. With such wide variety, there’s bound to be something for everyone within this species.
Houseplant enthusiasts have fallen in love with the adorable ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), not only for its stunning foliage and thick stems, but also for its low-maintenance nature. This plant can handle neglect, including lack of water, lack of nutrients and of course – lack of light.
Growing from thick rhizomes, the roots and stems of the ZZ Plant hold plenty of water, allowing them to go without an additional drink for several weeks without trouble. The dark green leaves that stack up along these stems contain plenty of chlorophyll, making the most of lower light situations with ease.
There are some caveats to growing your ZZ Plant in low light. Firstly, the dense leaves may begin to spread out more along the stem as they stretch toward the light source. Secondly, the plant will become unbalanced without regular rotation due to these stretching stems. Rotate the pot frequently and move to moderate light if the stems become leggy.
The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) is a traditional houseplant staple. With stunning spiked flowers and the glossy modified leaves surrounding them, it’s not hard to see why. A great gifting plant, the Peace Lily will survive with less light while maintaining its glossy green color.
When placing your Peace Lily in these conditions, remember to water less often to avoid root rot. Wiping the leaves down regularly will also improve their overall look. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to get many blooms from your Peace Lily in these conditions, but you can look forward to their cascading glossy leaves year-round.
Aglaonema is a diverse genus full of variety in shape, size and color. Known as Chinese Evergreens, these plants are low-maintenance and demand little from their owners, including light.
As there are so many plants to choose from in this genus, it’s best to choose one with darker leaves. Thanks to the higher chlorophyll content, they are better able to handle these conditions. Try the species Aglaonema nitidum or the cultivar Maria for that glossy deep green color while thriving with less light.
Since Pothos was first on this list, you may be surprised to see Satin Pothos too. Much confusion surrounds this plant thanks to its common name. However, it is technically not a Pothos at all and is part of the genus Scindapsus, known as Scindapsus pictus.
Like the plants they share a common name with, Satin Pothos is also tolerant of low light conditions. The trailing vines may become slightly leggy and the leaves will remain small, but they will continue to grow and survive. The silvery spotted variegation pattern is captivating wherever it is placed, including in the darker corners of your home.
A relative of the Peace Lily, Anthuriums are somewhat ‘old school’ houseplants that have found themselves back in fashion. These plants are known for their spadix flowers and the modified leaves that surround them in a range of colors from classic red to watermelon and more.
Beyond their looks, they are also appreciated for their ease of care. These plants are not needy and tell you when there are any issues, allowing you to keep them healthy and happy year-round.
They are also happy to grow in lower light than other houseplants, although they are unlikely to put out any flowers in these conditions. If you are happy to keep the Anthurium for its gorgeous foliage, it’s the perfect plant for areas without bright, indirect light.
Often confused with Chinese Evergreens due to their similar look, Dieffenbachias, commonly known as Dumb Canes, are wonderful great for areas without direct or indirect sunlight. Their large, circular leaves catch plenty of sun from all angles, allowing them to make the most of what little sunlight they receive to look and grow their best.
Again, much like Chinese Evergreens, it’s best to choose varieties and cultivars with darker green leaves, indicating they hold more chlorophyll.
Try the large and impressive Snow cultivar with dark green leaves and white spots, or Dieffenbachia maculata ‘Exotica’ with creamy white variegation. Avoid highly variegated options like Triumph and Honeydew that only have small slivers of green on the edges and yellow or cream throughout.
Calathea is a diverse genus of plants with unique foliage that is guaranteed to turn heads, even when placed in the darker corners of your home. From pinstripes to patches of variegation, there are many options to choose from and an almost endless list of ideal places to put them.
There are several characteristics that make these plants tolerant of many growing conditions. One is the massive surface area of the leaves, particularly in larger varieties like Calathea orbifolia. These act like large solar panels that absorb plenty of sunlight from all angles.
The second is the deep green color of the leaves, present in most varieties and processing as much sunlight in lower light areas as possible.
Featuring semi-succulent leaves, fascinating shapes, stunning variegation – and even cute clusters of flowers – there’s little not to love about the Hoya genus.
Hoya carnosa is one of the most popular species, followed closely by Hoya australis and Hoya compacta. You can even try growing the perfectly heart-shaped Hoya kerrii species – the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.
Many species, particularly those without variegation in their leaves, are tolerant of low light. They unfortunately won’t produce their pink or white flowers, but their interesting leaves ensure there is always something to look at, even when no flowers are around.
Be mindful about watering. As semi-succulent plants, they hold plenty of water in their leaves and are prone to rot with even one extra watering when it is not needed. As the soil dries out far slower in these areas, wait for it to dry out almost completely before watering these plants again.
Scientifically known as Dracaena marginata, this indoor tree is native to Madagascar and thrives in tropical and sub-tropical areas. They have a strong upright growth habit with woody stems that structurally complement softer areas of your home. They also have interesting, spiked leaves that come in a range of colors, including bright pink or deep green.
While these plants prefer sunny areas, they are also happy to grow in lower light. Keep in mind that these already slow growers will grow a bit slower in these conditions. If you want a large and impressive tree feature for your less well lit area, purchase an established plant rather than a smaller one. Like Hoyas, make sure you watch your watering to avoid rotting the woody stems.
The Peperomia genus has taken center stage in the houseplant world, becoming the favorite of collectors and new plant parents everywhere. There is tons of variety in leaf shape and color across the 1 500 species of this genus, also known as Radiator Plants. This means there is bound to be a Peperomia suitable for every corner of your home, including the lower light areas.
Peperomias with larger leaves, such as Peperomia obtusifolia or the incredibly popular Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) are better suited to low light zones. However, most species – even the smaller ones – will happily grow in most areas without much trouble. They won’t put up their unique flower spikes in springtime, but this won’t take away from their stunning and unique leaves that look wonderful year-round.
Much like the Satin Pothos, the common name Ponytail Palm tends to cause some confusion. This plant is actually not a palm at all, but rather part of the Agave family technically classified as a succulent. Thanks to its unique bulging trunk and curled foliage, there’s no way you’ll end up confusing this species for any other member of the succulent family.
These plants typically prefer bright conditions to grow their best. However, they can tolerate low light for several months, as long as they get some exposure for a couple of months throughout the year. Give your plant bright light in spring when growth is spurred and move it to a lower light area for the rest of the year and you shouldn’t notice any signs of struggle.
Bird’s Nest Fern
An ideal entry-level fern for newbies, Asplenium nidus has long, bright green fronds that extend around the plant in a circular, upright pattern. Like other ferns, they are particular about temperature and humidity, requiring warmth and plenty of moisture to thrive. However, what they are luckily not too bothered by, is low light.
For areas with less light, it’s best to purchase a large and established Bird’s Nest Fern that can absorb as much sunlight through the large fronds as possible. These plants are slow growers and won’t get much larger without normal light, so it’s recommended to buy the size that you want from the get-go.
Not to be confused with the Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides), Pachira aquatica is a tropical evergreen tree that can grow up to 20 meters in its natural habitat.
While you shouldn’t expect that kind of growth indoors, you can expect growth up to two meters and eye-catching leaves, assuming you don’t have it in its common bonsai form. These trees also often come with their trunks braided, adding another level of visual appeal.
If you are interested in this plant because of its name, prepare to be disappointed – this tree will not make you rich. It will, however, prove itself an easy tree to care for. While it is considered a tropical plant, it can handle cooler climates quite well.
This trend of not being overly reliant on its native conditions extends to its appetite for light. While it won’t grow as tall in dimly lit areas, it will grow nonetheless.
Found in tropical forests and swamps around the world, this fern has long, arching fronds in a classic shape reminiscent of the 70s houseplant boom.
Like most smaller plants found in forest environments, the Boston Fern is not heavily reliant on sunlight. If even a small window is visible, it should be satisfied. What this fern does rely heavily on is water.
The Boston Fern requires high humidity and soil that stays consistently moist. If this criterion is not met, the thin leaves will brown and crisp, so place it in a high humidity area (such as a bathroom) close to a water source.
Beloved among gardeners indoors and out, many types of Begonia have plenty to offer their owners. Looks is one of them, with fascinating leaves in a range of patterns and textures.
Flowers are another, with small colored blooms popping up above the foliage when conditions are right. And, above all else, they are perfectly happy to live in low light indefinitely.
The Begonia genus is full of variety, consisting of over 2 000 species to choose from. Begonia maculata has emerged recently as one of social media’s favorite houseplants, sporting long leaves with interesting white spots and burgundy stems.
The Painted Leaf Begonia, scientifically known as Begonia rex, is another classic guaranteed to brighten darker rooms in your home.
It might have Bamboo in the name, but it is not part of the grass family as this infamous spreader is. Lucky Bamboo is actually another member of the Dracaena genus, called Dracaena sanderiana. They are believed to bring good luck to their owners, and are a popular desk plant in offices around the world.
Lucky Bamboo would far prefer too little sun than too much, although they do grow best in bright indirect sunlight. If the plant begins to stretch toward the light, you can move them to a slightly brighter area, but they will generally be happy anywhere away from direct sun.
If you’re looking for a delicate plant with elegant foliage, you can’t go wrong with a Maidenhair Fern. These soft plants are one of the first (after the Boston Fern) that fern lovers reach for. They have a reputation for being difficult to care for and fussy about their conditions. But luckily, one of the conditions they are quite tolerant of is low light.
The most important part of Maidenhair Fern care is moisture. They need high humidity and plenty of water to sustain the thin leaves. Beyond that, they will be happy almost anywhere, as long as it is away from direct light.
The Monstera has become one of the most recognizable houseplants around the world. Featuring in art, wallpaper and almost all tropical-themed decor, this is one leafy beauty that’s hard to miss. Thanks to their popularity, most houseplant lovers have at least one Monstera in their home, whether it’s the common deliciosa or another rarer species.
While Monsteras prefer bright indirect light, they can live with less for parts of the year in a pinch. You may miss out on the fenestration that makes the Monstera so popular, but you will still get to enjoy their interesting shape, glossy green leaves and upright nature.
Dracaena fragrans, lovingly known as the Corn Plant, is a hardy indoor tree with bright green glossy foliage and strong stems. This slow grower may become stunted without some bright sun, but it can handle lower light for short periods without showing any signs of struggle.
Keep it in bright light in spring and move it to a shadier area for the rest of the year.
Polka Dot Plant
Found in South Africa, Madagascar and South East Asia, the Polka Dot Plant is a colorful beauty with an even more colorful name. This unique plant comes in a range of bright colors from pink to red and almost white, dotted with patches of green.
When considering a plant of this species, the deep green Hypoestes phyllostachya is your safest option. They are also great in terrariums for a cute tabletop feature.
While the small leaves of the Polka Dot Plant are spotted with color, the Nerve Plant goes a different route. Similar in shape, these leaves have contrasting colors along their veins, looking like a network of nerves that lend the plant its common name.
Fittonias also come in a range of interesting colors, with deep green being the most suitable for areas with less direct or indirect light. Pair them with pink or orange species around the brighter areas of your home to start your own Fittonia collection.
Calatheas, a previous entrant on this list, are commonly known as Prayer Plants. However, much like the mix-up with the Pothos common name, they are not technically true Prayer Plants.
This title belongs instead to the Maranta genus – part of the same plant family, but not as closely related as their names suggest. Many species do look remarkably similar though and so make wonderful complements of each other when dotted around the house.
Maranta leuconeura features strong patterns and bold colors both on the top of the leaves and underneath, creating a true indoor spectacle for any onlookers nearby.
Not only do their patterns hold true, no matter the lighting conditions, but they also grow surprisingly well without a lot of sunlight. They may not put out many new leaves, but those that are already around will keep their glossy and unique color year-round.
Syngoniums are a lesser-known and underutilized houseplant from the Araceae family. Also known as the arrowhead plant, they are popular shade plants in outdoor gardens.
They are now appreciated as indoor plants, garnering attention from houseplant collectors around the world. And, thanks to their love of shade, these prolific growers are happy in low light inside homes too.
Common Syngonium species feature green leaves with patches of cream. But that’s not all this genus has to offer. There are cultivars with darker green foliage, perfect for less light or ones with hues of pink and red.
The leaves may grow smaller than usual with less sunlight, so make sure you take that into account when considering positioning and placement.
When you imagine your dream country cottage, that plant you likely picture climbing up the side is known as English Ivy, or Hedera helix. This plant is considered extremely invasive and may be difficult to find. However, confine it in a pot and leave it indoors where it cannot spread and you’ll have no issues.
English Ivy does well in any level of light and will thrive in that dark corner you avoid putting any of your other plants in.
This little plant is neither Swedish nor Ivy. But, it’s a great plant for those who aren’t too consistent in their watering schedules. The plump trailing leaves of Plectranthus verticillatus mean that they can go a fair while between waterings before it’s obvious that they need water.
This plant is non-toxic, easy to propagate, and grows fast. Unfortunately, that comes with one con – Swedish Ivy can get leggy if there isn’t enough sunlight. Prune often and move the plant to moderate light areas if the issues persist.
When thinking of shade tolerant houseplants, Parlor Palms are not likely the first to come to mind. The name immediately creates images of fronds in the sunlight in our minds, casting shadows that turn any room into a tropical paradise. But, although they prefer adequate light, these plants will survive just fine without a lot of sunlight as well.
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, this palm is one of the most widely available around the globe. Purchase one as large as you can find, with plenty of fronds to soak up the little light they will receive, and they should be happy for years to come.
Now that you’ve seen some of the top houseplants that will survive without an abundance of direct or indirect sunlight, the next step is to pick your favorite! Just remember that low light doesn’t mean no light at all, and remember to move your plants around if they seem like they may be struggling. With a little bit of attention and TLC, any one of these houseplants on this list will make a fine addition to your indoor garden!