Uplift any room with the look and life of a lush houseplantBy Brittnay Haag University of Illinois Extension Services — March 5, 2023
While common in the corner of a bright room or displayed in the front picture window, houseplants grow well, even thrive, in low-light rooms; the key to success is choosing the right plant for the right place. Boost indoor air quality and create an indoor greenspace with houseplants for low light.
Our cozy homes are filled with low-light areas. The spaces near an east or north-facing window offer low light conditions, in addition to, the spaces several feet from a window with no direct light. While large trees surrounding a house can help cool the home, the shade blocks natural light coming through a window, leaving houseplants with little to no sunlight. Porches, overhangs, window coverings, and nearby buildings can create a similar condition.
Although low-light houseplants are less showy — with discreet flowers and muted colors — they are also less demanding: growing slower and needing less water. However, the slow growth rate makes it more challenging to confirm appropriate light conditions as quickly. If the plant needs more light, it may become leggy or stretched, turn a pale greenish-yellow color, or even drop its leaves.
Houseplants add unique textures and foliage colors to any indoor space. Decorate your home with these beautiful, low-light-loving plants.
This plant is perfect for those who consider themselves “brown thumbs”, who seem to kill houseplants with a glance. The snake plant, also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue,” tolerates neglect and tough growing conditions. The leaf color, variations, and height vary, depending on the cultivar, but typically grow three to four feet tall. It will grow in a room with very little natural light and also thrives in a brightly lit room. Snake plants grow best in drier conditions; the soil needs to dry out completely between watering. Propagate this plant to share with others, simply divide the plant or take leaf cuttings that root in water. Studies have also shown this plant to improve indoor air quality by absorbing chemicals through the air.
One of the most popular houseplants today, ZZ plant is extremely easy to grow and offers dark green, lustrous foliage that almost looks plastic. These plants grow best in low, indirect light, but also grow under fluorescent lighting if the room has little to no natural lighting. Water the plants when they are dry, on average, every two to three weeks. Be aware, all parts of the plant are poisonous; keep it away from pets and children. The best method of propagation for the ZZ plant is division, but leaf cuttings can also produce new plants, they just take a long time to root.
Most tropical palms need bright light to grow well, but the bamboo palm is an exception to that rule. This attention-grabbing houseplant has long arching leaves with an upright growth habit. Palms grow best in warm temperatures—ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit—and high humidity which can be achieved by misting the foliage weekly. Keep the soil moist, watering when the top inch is dry, but never let it dry completely out. Replant palms in larger containers only when the roots fill the pot, they grow best when their root system is restricted.
Other plants to consider for low light areas are peperomia, Chinese evergreen, prayer plant, staghorn ferns, spiderwort, pothos, philodendron, peace lily, cast iron plant, and spider plant.
Brittnay Haag is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties.