Shade-Loving Indoor Plants

Our houses are spots for warm-climate plants to grow but lack the strong sunlight that causes them to bloom. Even a south-facing window offers weak light levels. Many times, a plant is placed close to an inside wall, exposed to even less light. However, some tropical plants grow beneath the thick shade of overhanging trees and are perfect candidates for our homes.

Peace Lily

The peace lily, or Spathiphyllum, is one of the few plants that flower in indoor shade. While it may have more blooms with some direct sun, it is quite happy to produce its white, oblong flowers while tucked back in a corner. It does need constant moisture and an occasional dose of fertilizer. Don't give it too large a pot; it prefers to be root-bound.


The arching, strap-shaped leaves of Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' have given it the name "corn plant," since it might well be mistaken for a young shoot of corn, making a nice contrast to houseplants with broad, spreading foliage. Other species have narrower leaves, but all share the tolerance for low-light situations. Give the Dracaena good drainage and let it dry out between waterings to avoid root rot.


Philodendrons are vine-like plants with broad, often heart-shaped leaves from several inches to a foot across. Excellent houseplants, they live for years without repotting, asking only for constantly moist soil. You'll find varieties with purple or reddish leaves or with edges deeply cut, almost like a fern.

Cast-Iron Plant

Cast-iron plant, or Aspidistra, has been a popular houseplant since Victorian times. It gets its name from its toughness and adaptability to indoor shade and neglect. Put it in your darkest corners and it will thrive. It has large, oval, glossy leaves that need occasional rinsing to keep them free of dust.

Snake Plant

Snake plant, or sansieveria, is an African plant with tall, narrow, light-green leaves sometimes edged with yellow. Adaptable to most conditions, it needs to dry out between waterings and likes being pot-bound. It looks especially attractive in containers that complement its sculptural lines.

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese evergreen, or aglaonema, has large oval leaves, often variegated with white, and tolerates most indoor conditions. Its leaves will brown in direct sunlight. It prefers temperatures above 70 degrees. Give it well-drained, loose soil and regular waterings, but allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. Chinese evergreen has been found to be effective in removing formaldehyde and xylene from the air, an added bonus for indoor gardeners.

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

About this Author

Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.