The Best Houseplants for Low Light

If you find that you have a brown thumb when it comes to growing houseplants, existing light conditions may be the biggest factor standing in the way of you and success. Selecting plants to grow indoors is similar to selecting plants to grow outdoors. But instead of selecting the right plant for the right site, you need to choose your houseplants based on your available light.


Signs Your Plant Needs More Light

Low Light vs. No Light

The amount of windows, the direction they face, and curtains and blinds all have an impact on light levels. And although no indoor plants will grow without light, many are capable of adapting to low-light conditions. Low light areas, for example, interior areas like coffee tables that are well away from windows, can be defined as a poorly lit areas where there is still enough natural light available to read a book or newspaper. In houseplant books, low light plants may be referred to as shade plants.

Duration vs. Intensity

Light intensity requirements vary from plant to plant. Low light plants need between 50 and 250 foot-candles of light intensity. ( A foot candle is the amount of light received by by 1 square ft of surface area, located 1 ft away from a candle.) Under artificial lights, some low light plants can be maintained at as little as 10 foot-candles.The duration requirements among plants (the amount of light available to a plant each day) are more constant. Plants need somewhere in the range of 12-16 hours of light each day to maintain active growth. This can be maintained with natural or artificial lights, but any less, and growth slows.

Plants in a Windowless Office

A lack of windows at the office is all the more reason to fill it with plants, and many low-light plants adapt well to this environment. Not only do they add color and warmth to an otherwise sterile environment, but introducing an element of nature into a stressful environment has a calming and soothing effect on one's nerves. As an added benefit, they clean and purify the air. The plants listed below can be maintained reasonably well in an office environment using only fluorescent lights.

Special Care Needs

These plants are willing to adapt to less than ideal light conditions, but in return, special attention should be taken to ensure that their other growing requirements are met. Finding out exactly what those requirements are will require some research on your part. Care begins with the soil. Use a good quality potting soil and be careful not to over water them. Container plants depend on you to receive their nutrients, so to keep them happy, keep them fed. Most low light indoor plants like reasonably warm temperatures (similar to an average house), but they vary in humidity requirements. Keep plants away from heating vents and protect them from cold drafts. Even though these plants tolerate low light, if occasionally they can be moved closer to a window where they can take in more light and get some fresh air, they'll appreciate it. Don't suddenly place them in direct sunlight. Ease them into it, or the shock may cause them to drop their leaves.

Compensating for No Flowers or Faded Foliage

In general, flowering houseplants and plants with colored foliage grow best in more light.

And while some can be maintained in lower light, blooms are poor (or non-existent) and foliage tends to fade. An easy way to add color and interest is by using decorative containers. Instead of going with a solid color or traditional shape, use pots with bright patterns and containers with interesting shapes. Add whimsical plant stakes or small figurines to pots and planters for a personalized touch.

Plants Known for Tolerating Low Light:

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

August 19, 2005
Q: I am looking for a rather tall indoor plant that requires very little sunshine. Also, what are small indoor plants that do not require too much special attention?

A: I would classify the following plant groups as easy to grow, tolerant of low-light conditions and able to withstand a fair amount of neglect. Within each group you can find shorter and taller varieties.

The Dracaena Group (False Palms): Three in this group will stand up well to low light conditions, a fair amount of neglect and fairly low winter temperatures: Dracaena marginata (Madagascar Dragon Tree), D. draco (Dragon Tree) and Cordyline australis (Cabbage Tree/Grass Palm). These three varieties can also grow quite tall. The Madagascar Dragon Tree can grow up to 10 ft, the Dragon Tree around 4 ft and the Grass Palm 1-2 ft.

Sansevieria- This plant is known to be nearly indestructible. Often called Mother-in-Law's Tongue in Britain (because of its sharp tongue-like leaves), it is commonly called Snake Skin or Snake Plant in America. The only sure way to kill it is with prolonged over watering or exposure to freezing temperatures. Taller varieties grow up to 3 ft tall, while the low growing pot group is perfect for windowsills.

Philodendrons- These plants have been around since Victorian times and are known to be great air purifiers. They come in two basic varieties: climbers and non-climbers. The climbers can be trained to climb as high as 7 ft (e.g. Philodendron imbe), while the non-climbers traditionally make great hanging baskets, but can be kept smaller by cutting back.

Scindapsus (Pothos)- The species of Pothos that is easiest to grow is the Scindapsus aureus. This is similar in look to the philodendron, but has more colorful leaves. This pothos can be easily trained to grow on a moss stick to a height of up to 6 ft.


By MARN (Guest Post)
August 7, 20050 found this helpful


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By Kathy K. (Guest Post)
August 8, 20050 found this helpful

Spider plants are great. Mine keep plugging along no matter how badly I mistreat them.

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By April (Guest Post)
August 8, 20050 found this helpful

I love cacti and succulents for plants that don't require much care. Ivy for a shade plant.

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August 8, 20050 found this helpful

For a tall plant I have a Corn plant, I only water it a little, once every 2-3 weeks. One of the easiest small plants is a Pothos, they come in a few varieties and they hardly need any care and they do great in low light.

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By Steve (Guest Post)
October 19, 20050 found this helpful

Does anyone know where i can buy a Moss Stick for my Devil Ivy? I have looked everywhere and cant seem to find any.... Please help.

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By Steve Jordan (Guest Post)
October 6, 20060 found this helpful

Does anyone know where I can purchase a tall moss stick?


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February 15, 2016

Does anyone know of a plant the will live in low light? My livingroom has very little light and I love plants.


February 16, 20160 found this helpful

There are many plants that do well grown under low light. Just google 'Low Light Plants' and you will get a long list. One that comes to mind is the Aspidistra. It was very popular in the early nineteen hundreds. It was known as 'Parlor Palm'. Few people had electric lights and yet this plant survived quite well in their parlors.

Another name given to the Aspidistra is 'Cast Iron Plant'. This was due to the plant surviving under all sorts of adverse conditions and neglect. Back then, most Aspidistras were a solid, dull green. They have since been bred into some beautiful variegated varieties.

Check out this link

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I absolutely love house plants, but I am now living in a basement apartment with only two small windows at each end and none in my bedroom. Are there any houseplants that would do well with only artificial light from a ceiling fixture?

By Janus from Gainesville, GA


April 8, 20130 found this helpful

'Cast Iron' or 'Bar-room' plant manages quite nicely in low level lighting and is recommended for beginner indoor gardeners as they are very hard to kill. Lol, there is a really good reason they're called cast-iron and barroom plants as they can take a lot of abuse without keeling over from shock.

The proper name is aspidistra. It's broad leaves are wonderful as air cleaners, too. The following is a link to an image search. Be warned that the varigated ones do require more light to maintain the different colours in the stripes. In your light conditions, you'll probably want to choose the solid colour foliage varieties.

Another great, easy-grower low light plant is the 'mother-in-law's tongue', also known as 'serpent's tongue'. The proper name for this plant is sansevieria trifasciata and it also comes with some varigation-again, you'll likely need to choose varieties with less colour.

Caladiums are a little more colourful but can handle low light conditions in the less colourful varieties, and do very well in potted conditions:

Finally, I ran an image search using the term 'indoor plants for low light conditions', browse these for more inspirations:

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