Low-light houseplants are a solution for enjoying indoor plants without direct sunlight.
While grow lights can be an option, they increase electrical bills and may inhibit how many plants you can keep because of limited shelf and light space.
Low Light Houseplant Tips
Although most houseplants are from tropical or desert climates where they have access to bright, full sun exposure, there are many plants that do just as well in low to moderate lighting.
Plants needing little light are understory plants that come from jungle environments. They are well-shaded by dense tree canopies, suiting the plants with lower light levels in indoor environments.
These jungle plants tolerate bathroom environments because of the warmth and high humidity from showers.
Low-light houseplant species have various needs, so a one-size-fits-all care sheet is not feasible. However, most plants share basic needs that, when met, will keep them happy and thriving for years.
Understand your plant’s watering requirements and establish a consistent watering routine.
Tropical plants tend to require more frequent watering – once a week or when the top one to two inches of soil is dry to the touch.
Succulents and cacti require less frequent watering and are often content with once per month waterings.
Provide Adequate Lighting
While not all plants need bright light, all plants need some light to photosynthesize, so understand your low-light plants’ basic lighting requirements.
Most low-light houseplants require medium indirect light, or the plant can get leggy. You can achieve medium indirect light by placing the plant near the indirect sunlight from a window.
Some low-light plants can survive on fluorescent light. Make sure your plants do not get too much light, or else they will dry out too fast or even have their leaves burn.
Ensure Proper Drainage
The quickest way to kill a houseplant is by overwatering it. Be sure to use a draining substrate and use pots with drainage holes in the bottom. Do not allow your plants to sit in waterlogged soil.
Brighter light will dry out your plant faster, so keep an eye on the soil moisture and maintain a watering schedule.
Dry air will also suck moisture from the soil. You can maintain adequate humidity with a humidifier or mist the plant with a spray bottle.
Check for Pests
While not as common as in outdoor gardens, pests find their way onto houseplants from time to time if you bring new plants into your home on a regular basis.
Check your plants for signs of pests, including webbing from spider mites and discolored or deformed leaves.
If you find pests, you can spray your plant with a gentle soapy water mixture or use a natural pesticide like neem oil.
Although low light houseplants are low maintenance plants, some need feeding more than others.
Some plants, like certain types of peperomia, enjoy regular feedings, while other plants, like lucky bamboo, can tolerate fertilizer in minimal quantities.
Know which plants are heavy feeders and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when fertilizing your plants.
More tips for caring for your shade-loving plants:
- Avoid cold temperatures – most low-light houseplants are tropical in nature and do not tolerate cold temperatures at all.
- Opt for natural light – make sure your shades and blinds are open enough to bring in natural light, although some artificial light will help keep them stabilized.
- Keep out of direct sunlight – low light plant species cannot handle direct sunlight and can cause leaf drop among other issues.
- Provide humidity – a humid environment is key for a happy low-light houseplant. You can accomplish this by misting the air around your plants.
- Keep soil evenly moist – moist soil will keep your plant healthy and growing. Achieving evenly moist soil when watering is essential for all the roots to get adequate moisture.
Now that you know how to take care of your low light houseplant, it’s time to look at the best plants that require low, indirect light.
29 Best Low-Light Indoor Plants for Beginners
While many beginner houseplants are well-suited for low light conditions, we’ve compiled a list of our top 29 favorite plants to grow in low to medium light environments.
These plants are treasured for their foliage, blooms, and interesting shapes. All of these plants are low maintenance and have simple care requirements.
Calathea plants have vibrant colors and vivid patterned foliage. This plant is pet safe and requires little maintenance.
Caring for your Calathea requires consistent watering and thrives in low to medium light. Although happy in low-light homes, Calathea needs brighter lighting conditions to encourage flowering.
The plant needs more light if the leaves start to crinkle.
Prayer plants are often at the top of everyone’s favorite plant list, which is popular among houseplant lovers. A type of Calathea, Prayer plants have striking patterned leaves in pink, white and green.
The name “Prayer plant” alludes to its ability to move with the changing sunlight, with leaves that turn upwards in the evening as if they are “praying” their evening vespers.
As with other Calatheas, Prayer plants are non-toxic and safe for homes with small children and pets.
How to Care for Your Prayer Plant
Preferring consistent watering schedules, Prayer plants are happy in low to moderate light; however, bright indirect light encourages them to bloom tiny purple flowers.
For happy plants, pot your Prayer plants in well-drained soil and maintain moderate humidity levels with misting or a humidifier.
Sansevieria (snake plant)
Sansevieria (also pictured at the top of this article), also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, is one of the most popular low-light plants.
The genus Sansevieria contains a bunch of different species (like my personal favorite, Sansevieria cylindrica) and is easy to care for as long as you keep in mind that it really doesn’t need a lot of water at all, especially in low-light conditions. The most common cause of death for this plant is probably overwatering and ‘loving it to death’ in general.
Provide your Sansevierias with well-draining soil and be sure to use pots with drainage holes. When it’s time to water, thoroughly soak the soil and drain any excess water. To prevent the roots from rotting, wait until the soil has dried out quite a bit before watering again.
You can buy Sansevieria online here!
|Adult size||Large (most cultivars)|
|Soil type||Succulent soil|
With its mass of wild, curling leaves atop a knobby trunk, the whimsical Ponytail Palm looks like something straight out of a children’s book.
Originating from a semi-desert region of Mexico, Ponytail Palms are succulents related to agaves and store water in their trunks.
Because of their water-storing abilities, Ponytail Palms are easy to care for, require minimal watering and thrive in low to bright, indirect light environments.
Bright-colored Bromeliads might not seem like plants that tolerate low light conditions. However, many Bromeliad varieties thrive in the shade.
Bromeliads are known for their vibrant foliage and big, bold blooms with bright red or yellow flowers. They are easy to care for and do well in moderate to high humidity conditions.
Bromeliads prefer bright indirect light. Make sure the soil is dry to the touch before watering.
Tradescantia Zebrina belongs to the spiderwort family and has purple, silver, and green foliage. With long and trailing vines, Tradescantia does well hanging and is a low-maintenance plant.
These low light indoor plants prefer low to bright, indirect light situations. Pothos Tradescantia is an excellent plant to keep if you enjoy sharing propagated plants with family and friends.
While many may consider English Ivy an outdoor plant, it can do well as a houseplant.
With long and trailing foliage, English Ivy does well in terrariums but is sensitive to root rot, so ensure soil is dry between waterings.
Known for being an incredibly resilient plant, English Ivy is an excellent choice for beginners. English Ivy is toxic when ingested and should not be in homes with small children and pets.
English Ivies are low-light indoor plants that prefer bright indirect light.
Also known as dwarf umbrella plants, Schefflera are low maintenance plants that do well in low to medium light. In solid green and variegated colorings, Schefflera are slow growers but can reach up to ten feet tall as mature houseplants.
Allow Schefflera soil to dry to the touch, and then water the plant evenly.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant)
The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is loved for its easy care, low light requirements and decorative looks. In fact, it’s a popular office plant for exactly those reasons!
Like Sansevieria, this species does best when left alone for most of the time and is much more suitable to withstand neglect than excess watering. However, to keep your ZZ plant looking its absolute best some care requirements should be kept in mind.
During Summer, you can water once a week or once every two weeks depending on how moist the soil is and how much light the plant is getting. During Winter even less water is needed. Be sure not to overwater: this plant does not appreciate wet soil. Always check whether all water from the previous watering has been absorbed before pouring more into the pot.
If you’re not seeing any growth at all on your ZZ plant, the amount of light in its current location might unfortunately just not be adequate. Moving the plant or using grow lights will most likely fix this problem.
Heartleaf Philodendrons have long, trailing foliage that grows fast.
These low-light indoor plants are well-suited for hanging baskets. Heart-leaf Philodendrons are known for their glossy, heart-shaped leaves.
Pinch the Philodendron vines from time to time to keep stems looking lush and full. They prefer medium to low light conditions.
Watermelon Peperomia is jungle-dwelling species that originated in South America.
The plant got its name from its unique green leaves that resemble the striped appearance of watermelons. These flowering plants send up pistons that spread pollen.
Growing low beneath the jungle canopy, these Peperomia do well in partial shade but can tolerate bright light too. Watermelon Peperomia should be fertilized occasionally with crushed eggshells or bone meal for healthy leaf formation.
Arrowhead plants get their name for their sharp-pointed green leaves that come in various colors. You can find these plants in vibrant, bright greens, pinks, and muted browns.
Well-adapted to indirect light, Arrowhead plants have a tendency to grow unruly and may benefit from staking or the occasional pruning.
After pruning, place cut Arrowhead stems in water, and you’ll find that they propagate fast, leaving you with an abundance of arrowheads to share with friends.
With large, showstopping blooms in red, white, and pink, it’s no wonder that Anthurium has earned the nickname “flamingo flower.”
Capable of growing in low to medium light situations, Anthuriums are frequent bloomers with long-lasting flowers that look vibrant and fresh for eight weeks.
Anthurium plants are not pet-safe and should not be in homes with small children. Allow the plant to dry to the touch before watering.
Chinese Evergreen is an excellent low-light houseplant. The plant has an unusual leaf pattern with swirls of pink and green.
Chinese Evergreen needs fertilization just twice a year.
They do best when soil is dry between waterings.
First discovered in Africa in the mid-1800s, Corn plants have become popular houseplants and look like the foliage around an ear of sprouting corn.
Corn plants have moderate watering requirements and thrive in low-light situations. While they are slow-growing plants, a mature Corn plant can grow up to six feet tall indoors.
These plants should be kept out of reach of children and pets as they are toxic when ingested.
Known for its bright-colored, fuzzy leaves with swirls of purple and red, Rex Begonia is a showstopping plant.
Rex Begonias do well in low to medium light but can be prone to root rot, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
Under the right conditions, Rex Begonias will bloom with delicate, pink blossoms.
The Peace Lily is a classic plant valued for its charming white flowers.
Under the proper conditions, a Peace Lily will rebloom several times in a single year. However, they are prone to wilting when the soil is dry, so maintain a consistent watering schedule.
The Peace Lily, like other lilies, is toxic to cats and should not be kept in homes where furry felines are present, as even the pollen from Peace Lilies can spell trouble.
Peace Lilies have dark green foliage that will brown if the plant gets too much sun.
Dieffenbachia’s contrasting leaves add interest to any houseplant collection.
These plants prefer low to medium light environments and do best when soil is dry between waterings.
If added to a bright window, block Dieffenbachia from the sunlight by using curtains or screening to filter direct light.
While striking plants, they are toxic to pets and children, so they are best avoided in homes where curious creatures are afoot.
Monstera (Split Leaf Philodendron)
Monstera is a tropical jungle plant that reflects its natural habitat with its large dark green leaves and sprawling branches. Growing up to fifteen feet tall indoors, Monsteras tolerate all lighting conditions; however, they will grow slow in low light.
Also known as the Swiss Cheese plant due to splits in its leaves, Monsteras are propagated in water and purify the air.
Because of their large size, Monsteras are often grown with stakes or trellising to support their long, spreading branches.
Cultivated as a houseplant since the Victorian Era, Parlor Palms are charming additions to indoor environments and have lush, feathery foliage.
Well-adapted to indirect light environments, Parlor Palms are excellent for beginners.
When mature, Parlor Palms can grow up to six feet tall and look stunning when framing low light windows and doors.
While many ferns are well-suited for low light conditions, the Staghorn Fern is a striking option with its thick, lush dark green foliage.
Staghorn Ferns are air plants that grow on trees and thrive without soil. They do best with minimal moisture around their roots.
The fern prefers high-humidity environments, making them excellent additions to bathrooms and kitchens.
For the creative-minded, Staghorn Ferns can be mounted into frames and wooden plaques for DIY hanging houseplant displays.
Bird’s Nest Fern
The Bird’s Nest Fern has bright green foliage with wavy edges and is an attractive low light indoor plant. Bird’s Nest Ferns are air plants that prefer to grow on the surface of other plants.
This fern prefers medium indirect light, and their frons will get more crinkled with the less sun they have.
Bird’s Nest Fern can grow up to four feet in diameter if given the proper space. Water this plant by spraying it with a fine mist.
The Nerve plant is a low-maintenance plant that has deep veins running through dark green leaves. These veins give the Nerve plants their name.
Nerve plants are a spreading green perennial and do well in small pots indoors.
They can tolerate a range of light conditions but prefer low light. Avoid direct sunlight. The plant does well when misted on a regular schedule.
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia sp.)
Its sturdy patterned foliage and easy care make Dieffenbachia a perfect beginner plant. Not just are members of this genus beautiful, they’re also undemanding and don’t require a sunny windowsill to thrive. In fact, they’ll do just fine a few feet away from the window as long as they do get some light.
There are a number of different Dieffenbachias available, all of them with different leaf patterns. If you like foliage and are looking for some fresh greenery in your home, this is definitely the plant for you.
Plant your Dieffenbachia in well-draining soil with a moisture-retaining element like sphaghnum moss; pre-mixed African violet soil works just fine. Keep the soil lightly moist and don’t forget to apply some fertilizer during the growing season, as this is a pretty enthusiastic grower.
If you’d like to know more about this Central/South American native, have a look at the guide on caring for dumb cane.
Tip: Keep in mind that Dieffenbachias are pretty toxic. You should even make sure to wear gloves when you handle yours!
|Soil type||African violet soil|
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Epipremnum aureum, better known as Pothos or devil’s ivy, is one of those plants you always see in malls and restaurants. And for good reason!
This plant is decorative, very easy to care for, easy to propagate and, most importantly, it will grow fast even when lighting conditions aren’t ideal. A good watering when the top of the soil gets dry and at least some light is all it needs to thrive.
Its vining nature makes Pothos a very versatile choice. It works well for hanging baskets, which comes in handy when you don’t have spacious windowsills to work with. Alternatively, you can allow the plant to grow upwards on a plant totem or attached to the wall, which will result in larger foliage and a totally different look. If that doesn’t work for you either, you can even keep pothos cuttings alive indefinitely in a vase or glass of water.
Don’t forget to have a look at the list of beautiful Pothos cultivars with all their patterns and colors.
|Adult size||Depends on growth method|
Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Another super easy low-light plant is Aspidistra elatior, better known as the cast iron plant. Like most other plants on this list the cast iron plant isn’t loved for its flowers but for its lush green foliage (or green and cream colored, if you happen to stumble upon a variegated specimen).
Although this plant is usually grown outdoors in gardens, its hardiness and ability to withstand low light conditions also makes it a great houseplant option. Watering-wise, it isn’t fussy: just let the soil dry a bit between waterings during Summer and reduce the amount and frequency during the Winter months.
Like the ZZ plant the cast iron plant is known for being a very slow grower, especially in low light conditions. Don’t let this discourage you! Unless the plant is putting out no new growth at all even during the Spring and Summer months, it’s probably fine.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Spider plants, much like Pothos, are appreciated for their ability to withstand low light conditions, super easy propagation and suitability for hanging planters. They are great beginner plants that don’t require a lot of care to thrive. Though bright, indirect light is preferred, a little less light shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Water as soon as the soil has had some time to dry, never allowing it to become soggy to prevent root rot. Don’t forget that plants in lower light conditions need less water. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly if you choose to grow your spider plant(s) away from a window.
Spider plants can be propagated by planting the “spiderettes” they lend their name from. These baby plants (pictured below) hang from the mother plant like spiders and can just be snipped off and planted into well-draining potting soil. After planting, keep the spiderette well-watered and roots should soon start to appear.
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
Though often marketed as such and sold rooted in water in vases and small pots, Dracaena sanderiana/braunii or lucky bamboo is not actually a type of bamboo.
Loved for its quirky appearance, easy care and ability to withstand low light conditions, lucky bamboo can be much more than a temporary way to brighten up a room a little until it eventually dies from neglect. If well cared for, these plants make a great permanent addition to your collection.
When growing lucky bamboo in water, be sure to regularly do a water change. Bottled water is preferable, as all Dracaena varieties are relatively sensitive to the fluoride added to tap water.
When growing lucky bamboo in soil, water regularly during Summer but avoid standing water as this can quickly cause root rot. Be sure to always use a pot with a drainage hole to prevent your lucky bamboo from getting its feet too wet!
|Soil type||All-purpose + perlite|
Blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum)
Like many other fern types, Phlebodium aureum or blue star fern is a good choice for spots with a little less light. Because they naturally appear on forest floors or places that are otherwise shaded by higher trees and plants, they don’t do well in direct sunlight. Light shade is preferred and their papery leaves can actually burn when exposed to overly high levels of sunlight.
Blue star ferns are decorative and relatively easy to care for. They just need a humid environment (or regular misting) and moist (not wet) soil.
Because blue star ferns are naturally epiphytic they don’t appreciate being planted in potting soil. An epiphyte soil is a better option, or you can even opt to mount your blue star fern on a piece of bark.
A full caresheet for blue star ferns can be found on Houseplant Central here.
Keeping your plants at least 3 feet away from a direct sunlight source will be low enough light.
Sunlight that beams through a window is not indirect light. The sunlight must pass through a medium, like a shade or tree leaves, for it to become indirect.
No, you must have a proper LED grow light with the lightwaves that plants need to make photosynthesis. A standard LED light does not provide the right wavelengths.
It is possible to grow plants in a windowless room. Some indoor plants are ultra-low-light species. They will still need some artificial light.
Low Light Houseplants Conclusion
Whether you choose the large, sweeping fronds of the parlor palm or the bright blooms of anthurium, you will find low-light houseplants well-suited to your needs.
For added interest in your collection, try combining different shapes, colors, and sizes of low-light houseplants.
Under the proper conditions and without the need for grow lights, you’ll have a lush, indoor jungle growing in your home.