Low Light House Plants: A Beginner’s Guide

House plants provide clean air and a touch of nature indoors. Many house plants are tropical in origin, requiring bright, direct sunlight in a south-facing window, sometimes with the addition of a grow light.

Not everyone who wants to grow some plants indoors has such a setup at their disposal however. In this case, your best bet is to choose plants that thrive with little light.

Any low light house plant will be coveted by an indoor gardener. This due to the fact that not all places in the home afford enough light for many house plants to thrive under.

Some varieties of shade tolerant plant often make good house plants. Even so, there are many indoor plants that still need a good supply of sunlight, even if it is reflected light.

So, what is low light?

Provided you can still cast a shadow, or be able to read, in the chosen area, this is classed as low-light.

If it is necessary to turn on the lights to traverse a room – this is classed as dark, as opposed to low-light.

This can vary across different rooms and areas within the home. For example, hallways or rumpus rooms may receive less light than a living room. Often this is a problem for apartment dwellers.

There are NO indoor plants that love the dark. All plants, even the most shade tolerant types, need some sort of light in order to grow, even if it is reflected sunlight. Grow-tubes also work, up to a point.

What we are mainly discussing here is plants for low light. That is, they don’t need a lot of light in order to survive, but still, they will not flourish. Only by rotation, can you have living plants in dark places. So, let us have a look at that, first.

House Plant Rotation

This only works if you already have some house plants, to place in the rotation. If you have none, go buy some now. Otherwise, your dark spots will only have a living plant in them once a month or less.

Leaving a houseplant in a darkened area for much longer than three days, will severely weaken the plant. So, you rotate this plant with other plants receiving good light. Starting with the one that gets the most light, this one then goes in the dark.

Replacing the one that was in the best spot, with the next closest house plant and continue to shuffle each plant forward one spot. The plant that was in the dark area, replaces an existing plant that was in the the spot with the least light.

Resist the temptation to place the plant that was in the dark, into full light, certainly not full sunlight. If you do, it will probably suffer so much shock and burning, that it will die. This is the reason for the rotation, and placing it in the dimmest area first.

Along with this, it pays to keep in mind that a plant having spent time in the dark, is not going to recover overnight. It will need time to recuperate, therefore, the more plants you have in the rotation, the better off they will all be.

Sounds like a lot of effort? You bet. It all depends on how determined you actually are, to have a living plant right down the end of the hall. A simpler idea would be to buy some artificial plants, or possibly some statuary.

The Toughest Low Light Indoor Plants

This short list was chosen not only for the tolerance to low light, but also because they have proven themselves to be rather tenacious or, hard to kill. This, therefore, makes them perfect for novice indoor gardeners.


Left to their own devices, the Dracaena family of plants can become quite leggy, or straggly. Pruned hard they will become more bushy, throwing out branches with attractive rosettes of strap-like foliage. Easy to grow by cuttings or layering. These plants thrive on neglect.

Dracaena Marginata (commonly known as The Dragon Tree)

This plant puts out few branches and can grow to about ten feet, unless hard-pruned. The normal growth is strap-like, red edged, stiff leaves. The trunk takes on a very gnarled look, as the plant ages.

Dracaena Fragrans (commonly known as Happy Plant, or Fortune Plant)

These long, wide, usually variegated leaves, arc aesthetically as they grow. So easy to grow, all that is needed is to stick a cutting in a bowl of pebbles for stability and, water it.

Neanthe Bella (commonly commonly called the Parlor Palm)

This was a popular plant to have in one’s parlor during Victorian times. Leaves are straight and stiff when first emerging, then opening to a graceful and decorative fan. As a low light house plant, this is the most hardy of the palm family.

Aglaonema (commonly known as Chinese Evergreen)

Able to accommodate low light conditions, but have a preference for moderate light. Will not cope with direct sunlight. Having large, heavily marbled with white, cream or silver and white, dark green leaves.

The Aspidistra (commonly called the Cast Iron plant)

An almost indestructible house plant, and well named. It has long, ribbed, deep green leaves, and also some variegated types.

Holly Fern (commonly known as Japanese Hollyfern)

The name comes from the fronds, looking like Christmas holly. These plants growing indoors, will reach up to 60 cm. Copes with low light well. Will do well in low humidity and a hot dry atmosphere, dry air and drafts. Perfectly suited to apartment living.

Sanseviera (commonly known as Snake Plant or, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue)

You can neglect this plant more than any other, and still have a hard time killing it. Standing upright and evergreen, with light green-gray bands and light yellow edged, dark green, strap-like leaves. The leaves usually growing to approx. 90 cm in length and 6 cm wide, and very hard to kill. Do not plant these outside!


These plants produce brightly colored, spiky-petaled flowers. They come in 5- to 7-inch pots, making them easy to place just about anywhere in the home. They bloom only once, then produce shoots which can be rooted to grow another brilliant bromeliad flower.

Bamboo Palm

This tall plant has long leaves that grow in an upright habit. Unlike other indoor palm plants, it does not spread out in width much as it matures. This makes it a simple matter to find some little corner in which to place the plant.

Grape Ivy

Choose your pot size carefully, as this plant reaches up to 100 feet in height when grown in an outdoor setting. By limiting its size via pot size, you can choose how large a plant you would like to grow. Leaves are somewhat elongated and grow in groups of three.


This is a general category that offers several choices. Although exceptions do exist, most ferns thrive in shady, low light conditions. An example is the maidenhair fern that prefers shady, humid conditions. Try this one on a shelf in your bathroom, where warm temperatures and high humidity levels will suit this plant perfectly.