Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Houseplants for Low Light


Photograph by Kelly Butts
One of the most common questions asked, with regards to houseplants, is which plants will survive in low levels of light.    I think part of my passion for plants comes from not only wanting to make a plant survive... but also being able to make it thrive.  In order for a plant to thrive, we need to duplicate its natural environment to the best of our abilities.  A large part of that is choosing the right plants for the right places in our homes as well as our gardens.


Choosing houseplants for low light spaces can be a bit daunting.  Low light levels are defined as any location in your home 8 or more feet away from a large window with no direct light.  Areas such as hallways, offices, basements, a room with heavy window coverings, or small windows would all be considered low light.  There are still some great choices in plant selection for low light areas.  Here is a list of my top 10, easy to grow houseplants for low light conditions:


Pothos
Epipremnum aureum

Photograph by Paul Gellatl
This low-maintenance vine is often confused with the heart leaf philodendron.  The Pothos has heart-shaped leaves and can be grown as a table top plant, in a hanging basket, or trained upright on a support.  It is a low light plant, however the more light it receives the more variegation will show on the leaves. 


Photograph by Kelly Butts
If this plant gets too long, cut the plant back, place the cuttings in water.  Once the roots have formed, transplant into soil.  Tips for Success:  Low to bright light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep the soil moderately dry
Size:  Trailing plant to 8 feet.


Philodendron
Philodendron hederaceum oxycardium
Photograph by Kelly Butts
The Heart-leaf philodendron is a strong; easy growing foliage plant, very likely the same variety you might remember in your grandparents home.  It has pretty, heart-shape leaves and does very well in low light locations.  Often seen trailing over the edge of a bookshelf or hanging in a pot.


Photograph by Paul Gellatly
If this plant gets too long, cut the plant back, place the cuttings in water.  Once the roots have formed, transplant into soil.  I have given many friends cuttings of this easy to grow houseplant.  Tips for Success:  Low to bright light; 60-80 degrees F.; allow the soil to dry between watering
Size: Climbing or Trailing to 8+ feet.


Snake Plant
Sansevieria trifasciata
Photograph by Kelly Butts
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
This architecturally shaped succulent is one of the easiest houseplants to grow, as it truly thrives on neglect.  There are both tall and short varieties available, making it a versatile addition to your home.  They withstand low light but also do well in brighter locations.  The only problem that may develop is root rot if you over water this plant.  Tips for Success:  Low to bright light; 60-85 degrees F.; allow soil to dry between watering
Size: 6"-4 feet tall (depending on variety)


Zeezee Plant
Zamioculcus zamiifolia

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
This succulent plant is another very easy plant to grow, thriving on neglect, and probably one of my favorite low light plants.  The thick, fleshy leaf stalks are very durable, and shiny.  It is a slow grower, so be sure to purchase a large plant if you want a big specimen.  Tips for Success:  Low to bright light;  60-75 degrees F.; allow the soil to dry between watering.
Size: 2 to 3 feet


Arrowhead Vine
Syngonium podophyllum
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
One of the most common houseplants, arrowhead vine features distinct arrow-shaped leaves.  The colourful leaves keep their variegation, even in low light locations.  Unlike a lot of plants, there are many different varieties to choose from.  Most have variegated foliage; depending on the variety, the leaves are green with white markings, or bronze with traces of pink.  Small plants form a mound up to a foot high, but stems begin to vine as the plant matures.  This plant can be grown upright, or trailing in a hanging basket.  Tips for Success:  Low to medium light;  60-75 degrees F.; keep evenly moist
Size:  Climbing or Trailing 3-4 feet.


Cast-Iron Plant
Aspidistra elatior
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
One of the toughest plants you can grow, cast-iron plant thrives through neglect, low light, low humidity, and a wide range of temperatures.  It is a slow grower so try to buy a plant that is large enough for the space you are looking to accent.  Several varieties have white or yellow variegation on their leaves.  Tips for Success:  Low light;  45-85 degrees F.; keep evenly moist during the spring and summer, barely moist in the fall and winter.  Size:  Up to 2 feet


Chinese Evergreen
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Aglaonema commutatum

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
This plant has great foliage with shades of silver, gray, or different shades of green making this plant a strong choice to brighten low-light areas in your home.  Many shopping malls use this plant around the base of taller tree-like houseplants, due to their hardy care free nature.  Tips for Success:  Low to medium light; 60-75 degrees F.; keep soil evenly moist
Size:  To 3 feet tall.


Dieffenbachia 
Dieffenbachia spp.
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Several closely related species share the common name of Dieffenbachia.  Its large, green and white leaves create a tropical look to any room of your home.  All produce cane-like stems, with large, lush foliage, variegated in green and white.  Grow one by itself for a tree like appearance, or several together in a single container for a shrub like look.  Tips for Success:  Low to medium light; 60-80 degrees F.; keep evenly moist
Size: 2-6 feet tall (depending on variety)




Peperomia
Peperomia spp.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Peperomia puteolata
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Peperomia caperata

 
Peperomias are a diverse group of small houseplants with waxy and often textured leaves.  Varieties commonly available include the ripple peperomia, watermelon peperomia, and silverleaf peperomia.  One of my personal favorites is Peperomia puteolata, although this variety is slightly harder to locate than the others.  Tips for Success:  Low to medium light;  60-75 degrees F.; allow the soil to dry between watering
Size: 4-12 Inches (depending on variety)


Peace Lily
Spathiphyllum sp. 

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Most low-light plants, and all discussed up to this point are only foliage plants.  The Peace Lily offers a stunning large white flower as well as large, dark leaves.  Variegated varieties are also available , however these varieties tend to be smaller plants, with smaller flowers.  The single-petaled flower hovers above the leaves.  It is also known to be one of the top 10 plants for cleaning toxins out of the air in your home.  
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Tips for Success:  Low to medium light;  68-85 degrees F.; Prefers damp soil, and shouldn't be left to dry out completely between watering.  

Size: 3-6 feet


All of these plants are readily available at garden centers worldwide.  If you have a low light area in your home or office that needs some livening up... why not give one of these choices a try?

49 comments:

  1. Thanks. This was a very informative article.

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    1. This information was exactly what I was looking for including the quality pictures. Thanks

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  2. Thanks for the info! We recently moved our small business into an office away from home. It has only artificial lighting but we'd like to have a plant or two to freshen the atmosphere. This is a nice list to help us.

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  3. Good to know. This is just what I needed! Thanks!

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  4. Do you recommend a "corn plant" for a low-light space indoors?

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    1. Corn plants do not need much light. I have a 7 foot corn plant and it stands away from the windows in my living room, which has only north facing windows. Corn plants tend to wither in too much light and you will see it by the leaves getting yellow and droopy. Corn plants are excellent plants for low light conditions.

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  5. very useful - thanks

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  6. Great article, I now have an idea of what to look for!

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  7. Very informative...now I know exactly what plants to get.

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  8. Thorough and concise- just what I needed for my low light indoor houseplant selection.

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  9. Time to go shopping. Thanks so much for the great concise info. Now I can have plants in the rest of my house not just the jungle in the living room window!!

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  10. thank you, this helps a lot. I have a reputation as a vicious houseplant killer even though I read the tabs on the plants at the store..i'll stick to these choices.

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  11. Almost everyone on the list is toxic to both cats and dogs!

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    1. You're right. Take care to provide adequate greenery for you pet(s). Spray the leaves with an oil & hot pepper concoction before bringing the plants into your home and then every time you clean the leaves or have a growth spurt of new leaves. Watch your pet(s) to be sure this is an effective deterrent. Your pet(s) will need plenty of exercise and comfortable places to rest that are out of the area of plants. Soon you should be able to stop spraying.

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  12. Thank you for this list - I'll take it when I shop for houseplants. I love decorating with plants but currently live in an apartment that does not have a lot of light.

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    1. Good to know. Thanks. I don't have any pets just my plants indoors and outdoors and my wild birds that I feed. Just a note to cat owners: please do not let your cat out of the house unless on a leash. Sweet house cats become killing machines when they are let outdoors by well meaning, but less knowledgeable cat owners. They also can get run over by cars, be stolen by vivisectionists or mauled in a fight. The statistics on how many wild birds are killed by cats in the U.S. are mind boggling. Bing or Google it and you'll be amazed.

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  13. I got peace lily in a very low light and they r growing very well. I can't find any zee zee plant in n& q chester

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  14. Paul, thanks for these. Is it correct that most are toxic to cats? We have 2 cats who think they can chew on just about anything. But really miss having plants. Thanks! cj

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    1. You can search for plants that are toxic to cats on the ASPCA website. I looked up a few of my favorites from this plant list, and they were toxic. I'll just have to put some plants on top of bookshelves or hanging in baskets well out of reach. Good to know ...

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    2. You can grow houseplants in a terrarium under glass Someone really should start a web site offering plants that are not toxic to cats or dogs. I sure, many interesting varieties must exist. A special room for plants with sliding glass doors is another option that might work for some cat or dog owners and remember to keep your cat inside so your sweet darling doesn't go on a daily rampage killing wild birds.

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    3. I always heard that the Dieffenbachia is toxic to children, so I imagine it would be bad for pets as well.

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  15. Thank you--exactly what I was looking for.

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  16. Thanks to this post, I now know exactly which indoor plant is right for my low light space. Off to the nursery!

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  17. Does the pepperonia plant stay tall in the middle and droop around the outside? What is the cause of overwatering.

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  18. Thank you so much for introducing me to the Diffenbachia. I am looking for something new (to us); other than the areca palm and the peace lily. We'll seeeeeee.... Thank you!!!

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  19. thanks for this...very informative!

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  20. excellent info. after trying many sights this is the info I needed. Thanks.

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  21. Great information. Thanks so much.

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  22. Quite interesting and different post.. Keep posting..Stay blessed!!
    600mx grow led light

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  23. Arrowhead vine is very easy to grow in low light intensity.

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  24. thanks for the info. We live in a hot and dry climate (Namibia) and have now created an indoor garden in our new house. however, we have put in UV protected windows and the horticulturist has told us that although there is lots of light, the plants will not survive. What is your advice? Should we replace some of the windows with normal glass or will halogen lights suffice? Must the light fall directly onto the plants or will it be sufficient if it just falls into the room?

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  25. I bought the ZZ plant a few weeks ago at the grocery store. The floral lady said it did well in low light and that it liked to dry out between watering, but I didn't know what kind of plant it was. I spotted your great pictures right away and knew I'd found it. This plant has taken off since It got it, there are 6 new shoots coming out and one is a foot tall. I love this plant, it looks so healthy in my apartment. Thanks for the great article.

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  26. I live in a basement and the tiny windows r need the ceiling.. I don't have a lot of space. Anyone have any ideas please email me at munionmelinda101@gmail.com thank u

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    1. If your windowsills are wide enough, set pots of Philodendron, Peperomia ( one of the trailing varieties) and/or Syngonium (arrowhead vine) on them. All of these will cascade down your wall and give you greenery without taking up any floor space.

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  27. Thank you, thank you, just the info I was looking for. We have a low light condition behind our couch that is screaming for a plant. Now I know that we have some great plants to choose from.

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  28. Very helpful. I'm known as the 'plant murderer' since house plants never survive for long in my house. However, it now occurs to me that I'm buying the wrong types. I'll give some on this list a try. Please pray for those plants.

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  29. Exactly what I was looking for. My husband works out of a home office and it needs something to brighten it up.
    Thank you!

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  30. The Cast-Iron Plant is truly a miracle plant. In the Seattle area ( which is a LOW LIGHT area OUTDOORS and in for 2/3 of the year ), this plant can be grown outside either in containers ( so you can swap them out with the indoor ones ) or in garden beds ( to grow them faster and stronger for potting and moving indoors ). These plants are super hardy and will even take sub-freezing temperatures up to a week as long as they get daytime breaks above freezing or close to it during cold snaps. As far as light, they practically grow in the dark!! However, they are VERY slow growers even in ideal conditions. Buy larger plants at your local nurseries. They are worth the extra investment.

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  31. Great article! Thanks for the thorough explanations and clear photos. I'm going to pick up a snake plant for my low light desk area. Thanks!

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  32. Just happened upon your blog...this is great info for me! I want to start growing plants, but I'm absolutely terrible with "green thumb" things. This was a perfect read for me!

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  33. Great article. many thanks. now I know what I need for which part of the apartment :)

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  34. thanks for the information, I just moved into an apartment where every window has a awning and the sunlight is at a minimum

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  35. I am still mourning for a beautiful wild geranium I killed that after I uprooted it screamed at me: Why the hell did you do that? I replanted it and it died within a week slowly curling up and turning brown and brittle. Its tap root was spectacular. I never knew these plants had a tap root. I would have appreciated learning how to transplant geraniums. Sad, that I will have to wait until next spring to plant one like it and that it will take years to grown to that size and health.

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  36. Yes, peace lily is extremely toxic to all pets and is also toxic to humans. I have never been able to grow one without it developing killer fungus and diseased after a few months. I think snake plants and iron plants are much easier low-light plants.

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  37. Cats take a very heavy toll on beneficial wildlife like endangered songbirds that kill mosquitoes and plant flowers and grass and pollinate our favorite fruits and veggies. So, please, get your cats neutered and keep them inside. If cats are spay/neutered, their personalities turn from wild terrors to lovable companions who do not spray, and are not as destructive. It can take several months for them to calm down after being spay/neutered; however, cats do adjust and are much happier and content without the pain of wanting to roam and procreate. It is heartbreaking to see the damage that cats due to our innocent and wonderful wildlife, especially endangered migratory songbirds, and baby animals; very, very sad because cats kill in horribly cruel ways, and animal-loving neighbors are forced to take injured animals to rehabbers and shelters. If a bird or other wildlife gets even a pin prick from a cat, they will die very painfully of sepsis in about 72 hours; very sad. Every other pet is required to be restrained especially large dogs; so please cat people control your cats.

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  38. Those lovebirds are so cute, are they yours ?

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