Knowing the best houseplants for low light means the secret to a truly green home. One in which even the dingiest corner can be livened up with foliage, that will actually thrive in these conditions. Low lighting levels are something most homeowners have to deal with. Unless you live in a greenhouse, the majority of us are going to have corners of our home or even whole rooms that just don't get that much natural light. And these rooms are notoriously tricky to decorate, so just like you have to be careful with what colors you choose for those spaces, you have to pick your houseplants carefully too.
But fear not. There are loads of options when it comes to the best houseplants for low lighting. In fact, some of the most on-trend houseplants prefer darkness to direct sunlight (Monstera lovers rejoice) and even if you are a total novice, a lot of these plants are ideal for houseplant beginners too.
We asked the experts for their top tips on what plants thrive in low light and how to care for them too.
The best houseplants for low light
'We always say don't fight the light!' says Dom Butler, founder of Plant Drop. 'So first of all, before you buy a sun lover and place it in a dark corner and spend weeks watching the poor thing deteriorate before your eyes, check plant descriptions or look at low light collections of plants.'
Just placing them in the corner isn't enough, though. 'Watering is key,' Dom says. 'As there are lower light levels it is paramount the watering is precise. They just won't require the same amount of water as a plant in higher light levels which is putting energy into photosynthesis and growing vigorously. The other thing that helps greatly is acceptance, by which we mean accepting your plant might not grow as fast in that location and you might even see some brown tips or blemishes while it adjusts.'
1. Monstera Deliciosa
Monstera, a.k.a the Swiss Cheese Plant, is a wonderful houseplant – it's big and bold and really low-maintenance and she grows fine in a shaded spot. They usually grow under the shade of the jungle canopy, so actually prefer the shade or semi-shade. In terms of Monstera care, they do like the damp, so regular watering is necessary and they like a misting every couple of days in between watering too.
'While there are many plants suited to bright indirect light, there are still a good number that can thrive in lower light levels. These often originate in tropical rainforests where they live beneath the canopy and rely on dappled light filtering through.' explains Plant Drop founder, Dom Butler.
'The most famous of these is Monstera Deliciosa, commonly known as the Swiss Cheese plant. They are so popular because they are happy in very low light and require little care other than watering when the soil has become dry.'
2. ZZ plant
Looking for a houseplant that can stand low light and needs very little attention? The super cute ZZ plant is one to definitely add to your collection.
'There are several plants that can tolerate low light levels, the ZZ plant is one of our favorites, particularly the ZZ Raven with its shiny black leaves.' says Jemma Charman from Green Rooms Market.
'This plant will be happy in low light, plus it’s a great plant for the neglectful as it will tolerate long periods without water. As with any shade-tolerant plants, more light will mean quicker growth.'
Jo Lambell, founder of Beards & Daisies adds that, 'The ZZ Plant is incredibly laidback and requires very little care. It doesn’t need too much water or light to survive, and is praised for being hardy. In fact, we’d say it’s virtually unkillable! It’s the perfect choice for new plant parents.' Unkillable sounds good to us.
3. Cast Iron Plant
The Cast Iron Plant is perfect if you are after a more minimal plant that's all about the glossy greenery. They get their name because they are almost impossible to kill and cope well with any conditions, including really low light levels.
'If you are after a tabletop plant in low light, look no further than the cast iron plant, it is thus known because it is virtually indestructible - all light, no light, overwater, underwater - it is a true survivor.' says Dom.
Jemma agrees, 'We love Aspidistra also known as Cast Iron plant for its long, dark green, elegant leaves. These plants, like the ZZ, will be tolerant of lower light levels and happy enough with a bit of neglect, watering once the top inch or do of soil is dry to the touch.'
'It's one of the hardiest plants on the block. It’s an impressive specimen, with large, paddle-shaped leaves, and it works well in dim, shady spots – it’s sometimes known as the Bar Room Plant because of this! ' adds Jo Lambell.
Calatheas are a plant family, all of which can cope with low-light levels. Also known as Peacock Plants or Prayer Plants, they are known for their vivid pink hues and the way they can fold into a 'praying' position.
'Not all plants that can cope with low light have to be green and boring, while variegated plants often require more light to photosynthesize due to the lack of green pigmentation, there are a few vibrant rainforest floor dwellers like Calathea that come in vibrant pink stripes.' explains Dom.
'You also have plants that are super hardy and just adapt well to different light levels like Sansevieria, the snake plant which can do full sun and part shade and comes in many patterns and leaf shapes. There are countless Anglomena and Philodendron which come in every color on the chart.'
5. Parlor palm
The Parlor Palm is a really popular houseplant, its delicate arching stems give an exotic vibe to any style space. And as well as looking beautiful, they are really easy houseplants to care for, they prefer low light and don't need watering too often. They are also pet friendly and one of the best air purifying house plants.
'I love the elegance of a Parlor Palm.' says Livingetc editor (and houseplant expert) Pip Rich. 'You can almost totally leave them to their own devices, so long as you water them weekly in the warmer months and keep them away from very sunny spots they are sure to thrive. They are slow growers too, so you don't need to worry about them outgrowing a space in a matter of months.'
6. Devil's Ivy
Hanging plants look great as part of a shelving display, but often you'll find shelves aren't the sunniest of spots. Alcoves for example can be pretty shady, or if you want to keep your plants within a shelving unit chances are they aren't going to get a ton of direct light. Devil's Ivy is the perfect houseplant to trail down your shelves and they don't need much light to thrive either.
'All plants need some sunlight to grow, but there are some that are very tolerant of low light conditions. Snake plants, ZZ Plants and Devil's Ivy will all survive even when there's not much natural light around.' Richard Cheshire, Plant Doctor at Patch.
A top tip for plants in shady areas; don't kill them with kindness because of their lack of light. As Richard says, 'If your plant doesn't have much light, it won't need as much water, so make sure you drain off any excess and keep an eye out for signs of overwatering, like yellow leaves, root rot or mold on the soil. You should also keep your plant at a comfortable temperature – if you feel fine, your plant will too.'
7. Pachira Aquatica
Pachira Aquatica, a.k.a The Money Tree, has a real exotic vibe with its big glossy leaves and beautiful entwined trunk. It's another jungle plant so can cope with low light levels (although can thrive in indirect sunlight too). You'll probably find it's slower to grow in a shady spot but if you leave them to get on with it they usually thrive in any space.
'The Kentia (Howea Fortesiana) and Pachira Aquatica are equally easy to care for plants that come in tall statement sizes, and can deal with medium to low light, however the more light you can give it the more growth you will see.' explains Dom.
When it comes to how often to water your houseplant, they really don't need much, that thick trunk stores plenty of water so just a little sprinkle when the soil is looking dry is all the Money Tree needs.
8. Asparagus fern
With its soft delicate foliage, the Asparagus Fern is lovely for adding subtle texture to a room. It works especially well in a bathroom, as being a rainforest plant it loves a damp environment and can thrive in the shade too. Pair it with other small houseplants with larger glossier leaves for an eye-catching display with jungly vibes.
'In the wild, the Asparagus Fern grows beneath trees, which means it’s used to shaded light – making it the perfect addition to low-light homes and dark corners. Its gorgeous, fluffy fronds will brighten up any room.' explains Jo Lambell, founder of Beards & Daisies
How do you care for a houseplant in a dark room?
'Sometimes it seems like because low light plants can deal with a dark corner, they can also deal with being neglected in other ways.' says Dom. 'But they like plants in bright spots that need some care and attention as they are growing in a manufactured environment, they don't have their roots in endless soil which will replenish them or in the humid air of the rainforest they came from.'
'They still need us to provide for them still, and this means checking the pot to see if they need watering (based on care instructions as plants differ) and for those from humid environments, giving them a mist, using a humidifier or placing on a pebble tray with water.'
'In saying they shouldn't be neglected, we should also say don't kill them with kindness, as the biggest killer of any houseplant is overwatering and as these lower light plants will on the most part use up less water than their counterparts in bright spots, it is important to get your hands in the soil and feel whether it is dry or moist and then make the decision of whether to water.'
Can you keep a plant in a room without windows?
'The king of shade plants is the Rhapis Excelsa. It is native to Southern China and Vietnam, and can survive in full darkness.' says Dom. 'Its tips do brown a little when there is no light but these can be snipped with some pinking shears. We have installed this large growing bamboo palm under stairways in offices, and delivered to customers who have a spot they want a real plant in but is just not going to get the light needed for any other plant.'
'If you desperately want to bring some life to a windowless room look into adding grow lights. Another option (but not ideal for the health of the plant) is to have plants that you rotate in and out of a windowless room every couple of days, so for a day or so they are in the dark room, then bring them into a light room for a few days. This won’t make for the happiest of plants, but is an option.' suggests Jemma.
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Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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