House Plants for Low Light Areas

One of the challenges of indoor plant culture is to provide enough light for optimal plant health. Most house plants grown in rooms without adequate light produce weak growth, are more susceptible to pests and diseases, and decline slowly over time. The best solution for low-light situations is to choose plants that are naturally adapted to low light levels. Fortunately, there are several attractive plants, in various sizes and shapes, you can choose to brighten up your home, even in spaces with little available light.

Rubber Plant (Fiscus elastica)

The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is a tall shrub to small tree from Southeast Asia that can reach 6to 10 feet high. It produces glossy, leathery leaves that are colored dark green, brown or maroon, depending on the cultivar. Rubber plants are hardy indoor plants, which tolerate low light very well. They require well-drained soil, even moisture and warm temperatures for optimal growth. Large plants may require support. Their leaves produce a milky sap, which can cause skin irritation.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

The snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a striking plant, native to South Africa, with highly patterned, upright succulent growth. It does well in low-light situations, but can also take partial sun, which may cause the plant to produce fragrant, cream colored flowers. These plants are native to dry, rocky slopes and will tolerate a very wide range of conditions. Snake plants do best in evenly moist, well-drained soil, in shade to part shade. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings, and protect the plants from freezing temperatures. Feed snake plants sparingly with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every three months.

Grape Ivy (Cissus rhombifolia)

Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) is a low-growing, spreading or trailing plant, often planted in hanging baskets. It produces long, woody stems, which are studded with grape or oak like leaves. Grape ivy will grow in full to partial shade, and requires well drained soil and moderate moisture. Allow the soil surface to become dry between waterings to avoid problems with root rot. If the plant begins to stretch in low light situations, you can pinch the tips to promote bushiness.The variety called Mandiann" is a robust, disease-resistant cultivar.

Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

The lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), also called bamboo palm, is a small, dense, clumping palm, native to Southern China, which grows from 8 to 10 feet high. This palm produces dark green, highly lobed, fan-shaped leaves, which grow from multiple cane like stems. Lady palms can be grown indoors, in part to full shade, and need rich, moist soil. They benefit from regular monthly feedings of a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.) are tropical evergreens native to Southern Mexico, and the jungles of Central and South America. These attractive plants produce clumps of smooth, medium green foliage from 1 to 3 feet high. They bear long lasting, white spathe-shaped flowers, which are held upright above the foliage. Peace lilies are well-adapted to low light, and can be grown in part to full shade. They require moist, well-drained soil, moderate humidity and warm temperatures. Feed peace lilies liquid plant food, diluted to half strength once every three months. Over fertilizing, or salts from hard water may cause the leaf tips to turn brown. Dwarf cultivars are available, such as S.wallisii Clevelandii.

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum spp.)

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp.) is an old-fashioned favorite that does very well in low light. Many cultivars are available, which produce the characteristic lacy fronds in various sizes and textures. The cultivar A. giganteum, known as giant maidenhair, is the largest of the species, with fronds up to nearly 2 feet long. Maidenhair ferns require rich soil with constant moisture and regular monthly feedings with balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. These ferns benefit from daily misting with a water bottle and must be protected from full sun.

Keywords: low light plants, house plants, indoor shade plants, low light houseplants

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.