The Best Houseplants for Low Light | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Best Indoor Plants for Low Light

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Top Low-Light Houseplants to Add to Your Home or Office

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Plants not only add beauty to our homes and offices, but have been shown to reduce stress and lift our spirits! The trick is to pick the right plants. Here are 12 houseplants that thrive in low-light areas and also fuss-free without needing much watering or care. 

Flowering Houseplants for Low Light

1. Love plants that bloom? The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) have been bred to produce flowers nearly all year long. It’s also a great easy-care option for an office or home because you know exactly when it needs to be watered. As a native to rainforests, it will simply droop when it want water! Similarly, coming from a dense forest means it thrives in low light. Filtered light and fluorescents are fine; direct sun should be avoided. (Yellow leaves are a sign of too harsh light.)

Keep soil moist, not wet, and the environment between 68° and 85°F. You will be doubly rewarded for your care: NASA found peace lily to be one of the top 10 natural air cleaners. (Note: Toxic to cats and dogs.)

Peace plant. Photo by Georgina198/GEtty Images.
Peace plant. Photo by Georgina198/Getty Images.

2. Also, look for anthurium. It’s bright blooms cover the plant 10 months out of the year. They flower more in brighter light, but may still produce a few blooms in lower-light areas. The most common color is red, but the plant also flowers in purple, lavender, pink, and hot-orange . Because of their multi-heading characteristic, there can be dozens of flowers on the plant at a time.


Favorite Low-Light Houseplants

3. The elegant snake plant (Drcaena Trifasciata, formly Sansevieria) is a tough plant that tolerates low light and drying out and just about anything extreme extreme overwatering. Also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue,” is technically a succulent plant from the forests of South Africa.

Snake Plant one of the easiest houseplants to care for and comes in a range of shapes these days—from the wide and flat leaves of ‘Whale’s Fin’ to the thin, pyramidal spikes of ‘Starfish’, there’s a style for everyone. Of course, the classic dark- and light-green snake plant is just as beautiful, too! (Note: Dangerous to dogs if ingested.)

Read more about caring for snake plants.

Snake plant. Photo by Mokkie/Wikimedia Commons
Snake plant. Photo by Mokkie/Wikimedia Commons

4. Numerous common houseplants are easy to care for and can be exotically colorful; in fact, some foliage can be more dazzling in lower light. Take the dieffenbachia, which produces abundant leaves in variegated patterns of cream, yellow, or white. Growing 3 to 6 feet tall, its upright habit makes it ideal for any setting, from kitchen to bath to corner office or office corner. With white-speckled leaves and white stems, ‘Star White’ dieffenbachia is one of numerous cultivars, each equally attractive.

This eye-catcher is related to skunk cabbage (but doesn’t have the smell) and goes by the common name “dumbcane” thanks to its effective defense system. The leaves and stems of dieffenbachia contain irritating crystals called raphides that can cause stinging and burning, so avoid touching your eyes after handling the plant and keep pets and small children away.

DIeffenbachia. Photo by Robert Cicchetti/Getty Images.
Dieffenbachia. Photo by Robert Cicchetti/Getty Images.

5. Ferns are another favorite for low-light settings, and none so much perhaps as the Boston fern. Its discovery was a happy accident: The plant came to the attention of Fred C. Becker, a florist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when, in 1894, a nurseryman in Philadelphia shipped 200 fern plants to Becker. (Victorians loved ferns!) He noticed that one fern was distinctly different from the rest. He began to propagate it, and soon thereafter, botanists identified it and proposed the name.

Light needs aside, the Boston fern can be fussy in winter. In northern climes, it survives best in a room that’s kept cool (50° to 55°F) and has a south-facing window. Water only occasionally until you see new fronds appear (sometime in February), then increase water.

Boston fern. Photo by sdbower/Getty Images.
Boston fern. Photo by sdbower/Getty Images.

Eye-Catching Houseplants for Low Light

6. Another desirable trait—thicker leaves— allows plants to better endure the low humidity in most homes. Alocasias, with their big-veined, heart- or arrow-shape leaves, and crotons, with their eye-catching, fire-hued foliage, thrive in environments that maintain a temperature between 60° and 65°F and a humidity of 25 to 50 percent.

7. Crotons like more light, which brings out their rich colors, but do not put them in direct sun. (However, if the leaves become dull—or worse, fall off—move it to a brighter spot.) Water sparingly; these plants also can go without water for long periods.

8. Aglaonemas or ‘Chinese Evergreens’ are tough plants, with thick, leathery leaves tolerant of low humidity and vividly splattered with hundreds of red, yellow, and gold spots. ‘Red Gold’ requires little light and will thrive in a north window. Unlike many indoor plants, this plant will also do well in dry shade and low humidity; it’s slow-growing and will just happily sit in your home or office without growing out of control. (Note: Toxic for pets.)

red aglaonema
Aglaonema, also known as Chinese evergreen

9. ‘Brasil’ philodendron, aka heart leaf, sports lemon and lime–color stripes on every green, heart-shape leaf. The vining plants make excellent hanging baskets. ‘Autumn’ and ‘Prince of Orange’ have burnt- and brightorange leaves. These philodendrons are self-heading, meaning that there are multiple growth leaders, and their leaves are thick and broad to tolerate low humidity. Other colorful philodendrons in the same class include ‘Moonlight’, a brilliant yellow, and ‘Black Cardinal’, which has deep-burgundy leaves that are almost black. 

10. Calatheas do well in east or west windows with about 50 percent humidity. Spray them daily or place pots on a tray of pebbles and water. Look for ‘Dottie’ calathea. Its round, shiny leaves are a blend of purple and black, but it’s the vibrant burgundy zigzag lines on each leaf that set this plant apart from all others.


11. The spider plant is a mainstay of low-light situations and pretty much can’t be messed up! They’re practically indestructible. As their long, narrow green leaves grow, they produce “plantlets” which are baby spider plants and can be potted up and gifted! The spider plant has a colorful cousin, the ‘Flash Fire’ mandarin plant. This variety does not produce offsets or runners like spider plants do. Instead, the plant grows upright in a whorl of oblong leaves. The main stem and leaf ribs are brilliant orange. ‘Flash Fire’ is happy in an east or west window.

12. Finally, give a cheer for rex begonias: They beautify indoor windows with their stunning mixes of colored leaves. Some are bred to tolerate lower humidity and are even more spectacular in color. Favorite rex begonia varieties to look for are ‘Fireworks’, a plum and silver combination, and ‘River Nile’, noteworthy for wavy, spiral leaves that are 6 inches across and colored chartreuse with ruby markings. In winter, it produces pink flowers to help you make it to spring.

A few other houseplants to consider are: pothos, lucky bamboo, and ZZ plants.

What are your favorite houseplants for low-light areas? Let us know in the comments!

About The Author

Doreen G. Howard

Doreen Howard, an award-winning author, is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day. She has gardened in every climate zone from California to Texas to Oklahoma to the Midwest. She’s especially fond of unusual houseplants and heirloom edibles. Read More from Doreen G. Howard

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