Houseplants for Low Light

Question: What are some houseplants that don’t need much light?

Answer: Most houseplants do best in a brightly lit position. Many also enjoy some direct sun. However, a darker room—such as one with few windows or a northern exposure, can also house potted plants. Here are some options for low-light areas. If you can stand by and read a newspaper without turning on a lamp, that’s enough light for them.

Clockwise from top left:

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-vernis). Delicate looking but fairly easy to please, as long as its soil is kept evenly moist. Dry soil causes the leaves to crisp. It also likes humid air, but will accept drier air if the temperature is on the cool side (below 70˚F). Tolerates temps as low as 50˚F.

Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). Not the most interesting plant, but one that will survive low light and general neglect. Likes regular watering, but gets by on less. Dust the leaves occasionally. ‘Variegata’ has green-and-cream striped leaves; it needs more light to show the best markings.

Snake plant, or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sanseveria trifasciata). The yellow markings on its leaves will be brightest in bright light or full sun, but it will cope with poor light. Prefers regular watering but survives periods of drought, during which it will go dormant.

Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum). Copes with dim light but leaf markings will be bolder in a brighter position. Direct sun will burn the leaves. Prefers humid air, which you can provide by misting the air around the plant, grouping it with other plants and/or standing it on a tray of damp gravel.

Image source, maidenhair fern.

Image source, snake plant.

Image source, Chinese evergreen.

Image source, cast-iron plant.

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6 thoughts on “Houseplants for Low Light

  1. I have two lilies not sure of their names…I think one is a pink and one white. I have them indoor and I find their leaves are drooping and they are also turning grey black in color.

  2. I would also recommend African violets. I love having something blooming through the year. Key points about growing them:
    1) house them in a nice cereal bowl and water with HOT water in the bowl for them to sit in for several hours before you pour off the excess water. Water only when they are dry or they will rot.
    2) They don’t like ANY water on their leaves.
    3) They like a N windowsill rather than a window with direct sun.
    4) If their leaves are loosing their green color they are getting too much sun. Tend to bloom more profusely in the long hours of daylight of the spring/summer.
    5) Dissolve fertilizer in the water every few months. Use excess fertilizer water on other house plants.

  3. I would suggest the Peace Lily for low light as well. Looks similar to the Chinese Evergreen but can get some nice white spathes even in fairly moderate light. Needs regular watering though. There are small as well as large leafed cultivars.

    • Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily) is my favorite houseplant. Survives in low light, but is healthier and blooms better in indirect light. Does need regular watering, but don’t let it sit in water. Easy to care for.

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