8 Houseplants That Thrive in the Low-Light
Get the facts and stats on houseplants that thrive in dim conditions.
By Nickole Byrn | Photography by David B. Moore
Every home has a spot where the sun doesn’t quite shine—where a plant has never thrived, or worse, has perished. Whether it’s a bedroom corner, bathroom or even an entire living room, endangering the well-being of a houseplant by placing it in a darkened spot is a risk many botanophiles won’t take.
While there are thousands of species of indoor greenery from which to choose, not all of them love the dark. We teamed up with local plantscape designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Craig Pearson to develop a list of eight low-light-loving plants that will flourish in even the dimmest recesses of your home. From lush climbers to vertical beauties, you will be saying “yes to the dracaena” and “home, sweet sansevieria.”
(Sansevieria Fernwood Mikado)
“The leaves have a slight variegation with a contemporary look that is almost sculptural,” Pearson explains. A display of deep green, spiky and tubular arms makes for a combination that stands out from typical succulents. Not only can a snake plant survive indoors, it also thrives outside in shaded areas. When at its happiest, this sansevieria can sprout pale purple blossoms at the base of its tendrils.
(Sansevieria trifasciata “Black Coral”)
This low-light lover moved up the ranks during the 1950s and ’60s to become one of the most favored plants for offices and homes. “There are many different varieties of sansevieria, but in my opinion, Black Coral is the best.” Pearson notes, “Its deep, rich black-and-green variegated foliage makes it a great fit for anyone looking to refresh or renovate a midcentury house.”
Green Jade Pothos
(Epipremnum aureum “Jade”)
“The solid green leaf has a cleaner look than variegations found on other pothos varieties,” Pearson says. Praised as one of the easiest-to-care-for houseplants, pothos do well in nearly any condition they are grown in.
(Dracaena deremensis “Dorado”)
A cousin of the Lisa corn plant, the yellow-rimmed Dorado is a newer dracaena that has been cultivated with some notable differences. According to Pearson, “This breed is more stylish than some older varieties. It doesn’t have the large canes that we had 40 years ago.”
New to the scene and rising in popularity, the ZZ plant is slow growing to a height and width of only 2 to 3 feet. Its standout features are its unique structure and waxy, reflective leaves. While the ZZ is toxic to pets, the plant is an in-home favorite because, according to Pearson, “it’s a variety that is hard to kill.”
This succulent is naturally found in southern Africa and is fully adapted to dry and sunny environments, but it’s also known for its tolerance of low-light conditions. At maturity, the tubular leaf of the African Spear can measure up to 1 inch in diameter to support its towering vertical height.
(Dracaena deremensis “Lisa”)
A tall fellow, the Lisa dracaena “can grow upward of 3 to 8 feet in height and is an excellent plant for dim corners,” says Pearson. While the corn plant may sound like a tasty treat, if ingested by pets, the leafy giant can be toxic.
Janet Craig Compacta
(Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”)
“This is one of my favorites,” says Pearson. “It’s a very architectural plant that works well in pretty much any setting, but it displays especially well in contemporary homes.” The Janet Craig can tolerate both bright- and low-light conditions, but Pearson notes that it can be a bit temperamental when it comes to watering. “If over- or under-watered, it will acquire brown tips.”
Craig Pearson’s Tips for Finicky Low-Light Plants
- For nearly all plants living in darker conditions, it is important to remember that one of the worst things you can do is overwater. Water is required during photosynthesis because greenery is expending energy. Less sunlight means less photosynthesis and less energy use. Houseplants normally only need water once—maybe twice—a week. Low-light plants require even less moisture.
- If you travel often and have plants that thrive away from windows, attach a timer to a low-voltage light installed above your plant. Allow the timer to activate the light for eight to 10 hours each day to help your flora survive while you are gone.