The best indoor plants for low light areas
While having plants in your home, especially the bedroom or living room, offers many great benefits, both aesthetically and health-wise (both physical and mental), you can’t just pick any old plant and hope that it grows by watering it. Furthermore, in most parts of the world, the indoors of a house is far warmer than outside for most of the year and receives much less sunlight, even less so if you have net curtains on the windows.
With this in mind, you will need to pick a plant that can grow in warm environments without a great deal of sunshine.
We have picked 15 great plants to get you started.
Pothos and Swedish ivy will both grow well as an indoor plant that requires little light. Pothos, also known as Devil’s Ivy, is not poisonous to pets or humans. It can produce aerial roots that literally “hang” from the potting mix, but beware – it grows fast if given this opportunity! If you are trying to find a way to soften hard edges in your room, place trailing pothos near the edge of your container garden or hanging basket.
Sharp and hard edges can ruin an otherwise wonderful decorating scheme. Pothos is a great solution to soften the look of linoleum flooring, vinyl floors, and other surfaces that you’d like to warm up.
Swedish ivy grows well in partial shade or indirect light (almost no direct sunlight). It needs fertile soil with excellent drainage. You can help your Swedish Ivy by misting its leaves every day with room temperature water to increase humidity for this plant; it will thrive on these moist conditions.
Staghorn ferns are one of the most popular plants for hanging baskets, as they are relatively easy to grow indoors. Staghorn ferns should be misted daily to ensure their spiny leaves do not dry out or become infested with spider mites. If your staghorn plant’s fronds have turned brown and crispy at the tips, this indicates that it is being over-watered. The best way to avoid this problem is by letting the top few inches of soil completely dry out before watering again. Staghorn ferns will thrive in medium light, but they will burn and turn yellow if you place them too close to natural sunlight.
Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet var. purpurea) is known for its bold foliage, tropical flowers, and ease in growth. It can be grown as ground cover or placed in containers to provide color when other plants are not in bloom. This herbaceous perennial is native to India, China, Indonesia, and Japan, where it grows well along coasts near streams or mangrove forests at low elevations. Seeds were brought to the United States in 1844, but Shell Ginger couldn’t be grown easily until 1963, when it was hybridized with Alpinia nutans by botanists who wanted bigger flowers. Now widely available in greenhouses, this tropical perennial is quickly becoming popular in the South because it doesn’t require much care. Shell Ginger can thrive in full sun to partial shade, but don’t place it in an area where water pools after a rain or the plant will die. It needs moist soil with good drainage and if grown indoors, be sure to put it in a pot with drainage holes.
Shell Ginger flowers are usually long-lasting indoors but not fragrant. The 6-10 inch tall plants produce large arrow-shaped green leaves on red stems that contrast nicely against the orange upright flowers. The colorful green, yellow and purple fruits attract birds early in autumn when they are ripe enough to eat. Shell Ginger is commonly used as ground cover over damaged landscape areas because its attractive foliage and colorful flowers last throughout the year. It also looks good in containers, especially hanging baskets where it can drape over the sides.
Shell Ginger is easy to propagate from cuttings, so you can grow your own if desired since it is not always available at local nurseries. You can start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before warm weather or direct sow them outside after all danger of frost has passed in spring. Young plants are drought tolerant, but established ones need regular watering to thrive. Fertilize monthly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to one-half strength. Snails and slugs often feed on leaves, so keep an eye out for tell-tale trails left behind by these pests.
Shell Ginger is considered a tender perennial that dies back during cold winters in USDA hardiness zones eight and up. It is best grown as a houseplant or in containers in cooler climates. However, you can overwinter it outdoors in warmer microclimates by digging it up and bringing it through winter inside. Cut back on all watering and store in a cool, dry location until spring, when new growth begins.
The Coral Plant has long been thought to bring luck in love and friendships. It is not poisonous but may increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight if you suffer from sunburns easily. Please place it in a west-facing window where it can soak up some direct sunlight in the afternoon. You can also grow coral plants in water, which makes them excellent as centerpieces at weddings.
Often grown in baskets with their roots above soil level, Ponytails are perfect for growing indoors in low light areas, especially when placed near windows that receive indirect morning or evening sun. In addition, they only need watering every 3-4 weeks during the spring and summer months when actively growing, so they will be just fine on your bathroom counter or a kitchen windowsill.
Newly available Ponytails are often grafted so that they can be more expensive. If you find one that is not grafted or offsetting, then the center of the plant may be dead and will eventually rot away, causing the top growth to die. This is okay because it allows you to break off your ponytail and re-root it in soil, providing new offsets for future sale or propagation.
Ponytails are very easy to care for and will reward you with a long bloom cycle. They can flower when they’re under 2 ft high from the base of the plant but tend only to have scapes that are about 1-foot tall maximum. So don’t expect your Ponytail Palm to become much taller than this in their containerized life.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how I care for my Ponytails:
Bright Light: Will not thrive in direct sun but needs bright light. Believe it or Not… even though ponytails are grown outdoors in tropical climates, keep them away from any hot windows or areas where they’ll be exposed to reflected heat off a wall. Use a window without a screen whenever possible. Remember, these plants don’t have much of a root ball, so they need the warmth in the winter months to keep their roots from getting too cold. Bring indoors before frost hits.
Ponytails are hardy down to 30F. If you suspect your plant will be exposed to temps lower than this for any length of time, then bring them inside or cover them with frost cloth.
Spider plants are some of the easiest houseplants to grow, as they tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. Keep it away from direct sunlight as this can cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown on the tips. Spider plants produce small “babies” on long flower stalks that can be transplanted once they have developed their first set of true leaves.
These new spider plant babies will eventually become full-grown plants themselves if you place them in a pot and continue caring for them!
Spider plants prefer to be watered once the top of the soil is dry, but over-watering can cause root rot and affect your spider plant’s health. Be sure that it is in a well-ventilated area as too much moisture will also damage it.
Aglaonemas love humidity, so misting your plant daily with water is encouraged if you live in an area where the air is dry. If your fingers begin turning brown after touching your Aglaonema, then it is not receiving enough humidity. Try misting your plant daily or placing it on a pebble tray filled with water.
Place Begonia in bright light (but no direct sun) to keep its coloring vibrant and prevent stretching toward the sunlight. Because these plants enjoy good air circulation, they do well when placed outside of drafty windows or doors in rooms where breezes come through.
Place these plants in medium to low light conditions, but not total darkness. A span of time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. is generally best, although this varies by where you live – look at how it’s doing and adjust accordingly over a few weeks rather than trying to correct every mistake all at once.
As a general rule, any place that has a half-day of sun is good for your Christmas cactus, although it will do well with bright light as well (during all hours, not just some). The second most common mistake people make is watering too much; allow the soil to dry out before resuming your regular schedule so your plant does not rot.
One of many ferns that are relatively easy to care for indoors, Boston Ferns like humidity but dislike wet feet; allowing their potting mix to dry out before watering again will produce the most beautiful fronds! If you notice brown or yellow leaves, this could be a sign that your Boston fern is receiving too much light. This plant grows best in dimly lit areas with indirect sun exposure.
A few points of interest: Boston ferns can also store water in their leaves, so misting the plant with room temperature filtered water is always appreciated. If you do not have a humidifier or mister, placing your fern on a tray of wet pebbles will help to increase the humidity level around it.
Houseplants like Boston Ferns remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from indoor air, contributing to many of our common symptoms of poor indoor air quality (headaches, fatigue, etc.).
According to NASA Scientist Bill Wolverton, who has studied this phenomenon for over 20 years, these toxins are “often more concentrated inside our homes than outdoors.” So fill your home with lush greenery like Boston Ferns, Peace Lilies, and Spider Plants for cleaner air!
Boston ferns will produce tiny flowers near the crown of their stalks. If you pollinate these flowers by hand using a cotton swab or toothpick dipped in water, they will produce berry-like seeds that can be saved and replanted.
Don’t feel overwhelmed while visiting your local nursery or garden center looking for Boston ferns; there are over 250 varieties to choose from!! Most members of the Nephrolepis genus thrive in indirect light conditions, but three popular species of Nephrolepis make up the majority of indoor Bostons:
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis,’ also known as Sword Fern. This is the most commonly grown Boston fern because of its tropical appearance, low light requirements, and ease of propagation.
Nephrolepis biserrate ‘Chocolate,’ a striking variety that features prominently veined, deep purple fronds.
Nephrolepis obliterate, a Nephrolepis exaltata hybrid with a thick tufting base.
If you’re asking yourself, “how do I tell which type of Boston fern I have?” it’s easy! Just look at the shape of their leaves; if they are solid in color with no variegation or holes whatsoever, then you most likely have an exaltata hybrid like our featured plant here today. But don’t fret if your fern has a few holes now and then, as this is normal for Boston ferns!
The Peace Lily has long-lasting white flowers and glossy green foliage. It prefers to grow in low or medium-light, making it an easy houseplant for the bathroom or bedroom. Avoid drafts and heaters as these can dry out the Peace lily’s delicate foliage. If kept wet, the leaves may develop brown tips caused by cold air or drafty conditions.
The Peace Lily prefers to grow in slightly acidic soil with added peat or humus. If yours is kept in low light, it may benefit from being repotted into a new potting mix every other year. Clean your plant’s leaves regularly with water and diluted plant food to prevent dust build-up on the foliage. The Peace lily does not need to be severely trimmed back, but old flower heads should always be removed when they fade. This will encourage more blooms during springtime.
Fertilize your plant about once a month during its growing season (April through September). The Peace lily can be propagated by the division of clumps or seed germination. When dividing plants, make sure each has at least two or more new shoots and plenty of roots.
Our Peace lilies are up on the 2nd floor of our building, where we house them near a large window on top of our desk cabinets. These plants don’t seem to mind the morning light as much as they do the heat from my lamps at night! So keep your peace lily away from drafts during the winter season; remember that these plants prefer humidity and lots of moisture.
Take care not to keep your peace lily indirect light, water regularly with room temperature water, and be sure to let it drain properly after each watering session. Keep out of reach from children and pets! We’ve had ours for two years now, and I can certainly say they’re one of my favorite plants! They brighten up a room and, while it’s autumn time here in Canada, we’re still enjoying our white blooms!
ZZ plants do well in a variety of conditions, including low light. They are also very easy to propagate by rooting the leaves while still attached to the stem. When you notice that a leaf begins to turn yellow or brown at the tips, remove it from your plant and place it in a pot with moist soil.
Keep this pot in indirect sunlight until new growth begins- then transplant it into a larger container for an established plant or direct sunlight outdoors if you live in a warmer climate.ZZ plants are very popular for use in hanging baskets with their cascading stems.
The African violet prefers bright filtered light, so keep them away from windows that receive direct sun exposure all day or none! Water the African violet once the top two inches of soil have dried out, and never allow the pot to sit in water. The key to keeping African Violets beautiful is humidity, so place your plant on a pebble tray filled with water or mist them daily. African Violets can flower year-round, although they are most active from spring to late summer.
The African Violet Society of America (AVSA) has everything you need to know about caring for your plants with additional information on propagation, pests, and diseases.
One of the most popular foliage plants, Philodendrons come in many varieties and colors- all perfectly suited for growing indoors! Usually, an understory plant that grows naturally along stream banks and ponds, this beauty prefers bright indirect sunlight and moist soil- but not wet feet! Let your philodendron’s soil dry slightly between watering and avoid draining any excess water from the saucer beneath its pot.
Also, avoid drafts as they can cause brown tips on your philodendron’s leaves which indicates that your plant is exposed to too much cold air.
Philodendrons prefer moist air- so run a humidifier in your home to keep the air around your plant moist and healthy. If you are growing philodendrons indoors, be sure to rotate them every day so that each side of the plant gets even sunlight exposure.
The best thing about Philodendrons is their adaptability- they’re a tough one and easy to grow! So if you do notice your leaves beginning to droop, don’t worry! This is perfectly normal, and your philodendron will perk back up when it receives enough water.
Your philodendron will not flower indoors, but if you bring it outdoors in the summer, you may get a beautiful display of flowers near its crown, which can mark where these beauties would bloom in nature.
If your philodendron doesn’t seem interested in making flowers, you still have options; cut off any new growth from the top of the stem to encourage your philodendron to develop more shoots.
If all else fails, you can always buy a new plant- these babies are so easy to grow, you could have several in different pots scattered about your home or office! You’ll find that they’re great for decorating any setting with their vibrant colors and large, lush leaves.
Have fun growing your philodendrons! The sky is the limit when it comes to colors, shapes, and sizes- there’s one out there for everyone!
Sansevieria Trifasciata is also known as Snake Plant or Mother-In Law’s Tongue.
This plant can be the easiest of all on this list if you have a low light area and can tolerate neglect! It prefers humid conditions, so misting it with water occasionally will help retain its long and slender leaves- perfect for a vertical space! Avoid any drafts or extreme temperatures, and refrain from exposing it to direct sun unless you live in a warm climate where these types of plants thrive outdoors!
Sansevieria Trifasciata can tolerate dryness for short periods, but remember to water when the soil is completely dry; otherwise, it could cause root rot! Also, avoid using leaf shine products or any chemicals on your plant because it will damage the leaves.
These plants are toxic to pets and humans, so keep them out of reach from curious little paws and hands! This makes a beautiful gift for anyone because these plants are virtually carefree!
Plant in a pot with drainage holes to avoid soggy soil, which can harm the roots. It prefers bright indirect light, warm temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF (15°C – 27°C) during summer while protecting 45 °F (7°C) in winter. It prefers humid conditions, so stand the pot on a tray of wet pebbles to increase humidity around the plant.
The Bellflower is a hardy plant that blooms all summer long with clusters of blue, purple, or white flowers. Place this beauty in low to medium indirect light and water sparingly- let the soil dry out completely between watering! This charming flower prefers cool temperatures through its boom period, which starts in spring and lasts until fall. The Bellflower can also be used in a planter or mixed with other flowers.
Bellflowers are one of our favorite flowers for cutting. They also have medicinal properties that can be used to treat fevers and improve digestion.
The Pothos Ivy is easy to grow indoors as it tolerates neglect quite well! If your plant is wilting or falling over, you most likely need to provide it with more humidity, but if the leaves are yellow with brown tips, your pothos ivy needs more light! Keep these plants about two feet away from any window and water when the top two inches of soil have dried out. You can propagate a new plant by cutting or tearing a few inches from a healthy stem and placing it in moist soil until it grows new roots- then you can transplant it into its own pot!
Pothos is one of the most resilient plants known to man. It makes an excellent houseplant for beginners as it thrives in indirect sunlight and minimal care. Unfortunately, many people kill this plant due to its “scary” appearance, which often creeps out even experienced gardeners!
If you have any other plants you love to grow indoors, let us know in the comments section below and share your advice on growing them so we can all have healthier houses and lives!