Houseplants for Low-Light Conditions

low light houseplants

Written by Gloria Ballard

July 23, 2020

You’ve heard the benefits of houseplants: Besides adding a touch of nature to your indoor spaces, houseplants have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution by their ability to remove several toxins — benzene, formaldehyde and others – from the air. 

Many houseplants have tropical origins, which means they may need a strong light source to thrive. But if your home or apartment lacks sufficient natural light for sun-loving houseplants to survive, there are many choices that do well – better, in fact – in low-light conditions.

Here are five low light houseplants to consider:

Snake plant

If you have ever had one of these, it can seem like it lives for years, even in a dark room, with no care whatsoever. With only a little care, it grows tall, sturdy, sword-shaped dark green leaves with yellow or white edges. 

What it needs: Snake plant (Sansevieria, also known as mother-in-law’s-tongue) can survive in dim light, but a little filtered light keeps it growing happily. Water it enough to keep the soil slightly moist, but know that if you forget to water it for a time, it’ll be okay. 

Insider tip: Snake plant grows well indoors, of course, but a Sansevieria that I’ve had for years seems to appreciate time outdoors on a shady screened porch in spring and summer.

Heart leaf philodendron 

This plant, with heart-shaped leaves on a vining stem, has been a feature of dish gardens and hanging baskets for generations, and for good reason. It’s easy to grow and adapts to a variety of conditions. Philodendron continues to thrive in a low light situation, but is also happy in a space with bright light. The cultivar of Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’ is a festive choice with bright, variegated leaves  

What it needs: Philodendron grows well in regular potting soil that is kept a bit on the dry side – roots will rot in soil that is constantly too wet. 

Insider tip: Philodendron is a fairly slow grower, but I’ve seen plants with 20-foot vines draped over windows, doors, curtain rods – not my style. To keep it from ranging too far from the pot, simply cut the stems back just below a leaf to a more desirable length to keep the plant in check.

Peace lily

There’s a reason you see these things in offices and shopping malls everywhere. They are easy to grow and they don’t need a lot of sun to thrive. A couple of times a year, Peace Lily sends up elegant, white, spoon-shaped blooms.

What it needs: Spathiphyllum, the plant’s official name, grows in any good potting soil. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don’t overwater the plant. It may outgrow its pot and should be divided every five years or so.

Insider tip: If Peace Lily does dry out too much, it’ll let you know by wilting so dramatically that you run to the faucet to get it a quick drink. It springs back in a few hours.

ZZ Plant 

“ZZ” is shorthand for the plant’s tongue-tangling botanical name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It’s a slow-growing plant of waxy, oval, dark green leaves on stems that can reach two feet in height. It does well in low light, and it also tolerates low humidity and even forgives a forgetful owner’s sporadic watering habits.

What it needs: ZZ grows best in well-drained soil in a place where it can get a bit of natural light, but It also grows well under fluorescent lights. Water it when the top couple of inches of soil dries out – and remember that, in this case, less is more: too much water may cause the leaves to turn yellow, an indicator that the rhizome is rotting. Feed ZZ with a regular houseplant fertilizer a couple of times a year.

Insider tip: I’ve grown a ZZ plant in a shadowy corner of a bathroom for a couple of years, and it looks great! And in that spot, it’s easy to remember to dribble a bit of water onto the soil every couple of weeks.

Chinese evergreen

Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema, is considered one of the most durable houseplants you can own. It tolerates low indoor light (although it appreciates being near a window where it can gather a bit of daylight). Also, and it can live for years – ten or more with good care.

What it needs: Chinese evergreen grows in any good potting soil that’s kept slightly moist. It’s best if you don’t allow the soil to dry out so much that the leaves begin to droop, but don’t over-water, either.

Insider tip: This plant has a low tolerance to cold air, so make sure the temperature in its surroundings stays above 50 degrees F.

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