Can Houseplants Survive In The Dark?
Plants need light to produce energy and food; because of this, they cannot survive in complete darkness for long periods. However, certain houseplants can survive with little light or artificial light.
"Some plants prized for their ability to tolerate low light conditions these plants won’t be able to “thrive” in low light. Normally when a plant is placed in lower light their metabolic activity will slow down, you’ll water less frequently which all causes the plant to grow more slowly or not at all," explains Paris Lalicata, Plant Education + Community Engagement Associate at The Sill .
Some plants prized for their ability to tolerate low light conditions these plants won’t be able to “thrive” in low light.
Plants use light for photosynthesis, a chemical reaction that breaks down carbon dioxide and water molecules, rearranging them to create glucose (sugar) and oxygen. The sugar is then broken down and used as energy to fuel the plant’s growth, and the oxygen is expelled as a byproduct.
"Therefore, while there are great low light plant options out there they will always thrive better in brighter light conditions," adds Lalicata.
If placing in a low light area I would recommend letting the plant get sunlight occasionally. Whether this is weekends when you are away, or days when you are not home most of the time. This will keep the plant thriving while still mainly kept in a low light area," adds Vanessa Jovel Byrnes, Co-Founder of Living With Green.
The Best Indoor Plants To Grow In Low Light
These plants are one of the most adaptable houseplants available. They are named for their spiderettes, the offshoots that resemble spiders, that grow from the bottom of their long green leaves.
Spider plants can be grown in hanging baskets or as trailing plants, and should be watered regularly to prevent the soil from drying out. These plants can survive in less-than-ideal light conditions, including artificial light.
Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
These beautiful ornamental indoor plants are ideal for homes or offices because they can be grown in soil or water. Their most noticeable feature is their braided or sculptural stalk spotted with small green leaves.
Said to bring good luck and fortune to those who possess these plants, they are an excellent choice for houses with little natural light because they thrive in nearly full-shaded spaces. Be sure to keep them away from drafty areas in your home, though, as they do not like cooler weather, and keep them away from pets as they are slightly toxic.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a low-maintenance houseplant and one of the best low-light indoor plants available. It is also suitable for beginner plant parents, as it is virtually impossible to kill. Not only do they need little water, but they also push the low-light limit to the extreme. Technically, they can survive without any natural light, making them popular for office buildings.
"ZZ plants are notorious for being placed in spaces with low light. It is characterized by its waxy green leaves and its large potato-like rhizomes beneath the soil. These rhizomes store water, making the ZZ a hardy, drought-tolerant houseplant that only needs water every few weeks," says Lalicata.
Though they can survive with very little light, they do best in bright indirect light. These plants are drought tolerant, so you should let the soil dry out between waterings. Also, keep them away from kids and pets, as they are toxic.
"ZZ Plants are great for more of a widespread look to a corner. In low light, they tend to spread and overflow a pot much easier since the leaves will start to stretch towards the light," adds Jovel Byrnes.
Epipremnum aureum, also known as Pothos and devil’s ivy, can survive conditions that most others cannot, including very little light and a near-complete lack of water. They are very popular with neglectful houseplant lovers because they are durable and resilient.
"Pothos are great for a lower light spot that you would like to have something vining down, taking up vertical space, or even staging to crawl along wall space," explains Jovel Byrnes.
With long, trailing vines that range from dark green to light green or even variegated versions with silver and white, these beautiful plants are incredibly easy to care for and require very little from their owner. However, they are toxic, so keep them away from pets.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) or mother-in-law’s tongue is another low-maintenance, low-light houseplants. "The Snake plant is also very popular and commonly used for low light spaces due to their resilience. It is a succulent plant characterized by its upright sword-like leaves," explains Lalicata. They do well in dry spells and can handle very little light, though too much shade can cause the variegated varieties to lose some of their markings.
"Snake Plants are great options for narrower areas where you need to take up a bit of vertical space," says Jovel Byrnes.
These long-living plants can survive for decades. "It is popular for its incredibly easy-going nature (it can tolerate low light and drought) and its air-purifying capabilities," says Lalicata. While these tropical plants prefer partial shade, they can also tolerate very shady conditions. Be sure to avoid over-watering them, as this can lead to root rot, killing your plant — "the easiest way to kill this plant is to overcare for it," adds Lalicata.
These popular low-light indoor plants are tolerant of neglect and can survive under many conditions. However, one thing they do need is plenty of water. The shade-loving Spathiphyllum should be placed somewhere they will receive indirect sunlight.
Their beautiful dark green foliage and elegant white flowers add a burst of color to dark corners or your room. Keep them away from children and pets, as they are toxic.
These beautiful trailing plants boast dainty green leaves and are one of the best plants to keep in dark rooms. Their arrowhead-shaped greenery hangs in long vines, making it an excellent plant for hanging baskets in your living room or other rooms that do not get much light.
English ivy does best in indirect light and prefers cooler temperatures, so avoid direct sunlight if possible. They like high humidity, so mist them between waterings to keep them happy.
These easy care indoor plants give tropical jungle vibes. "The Philodendron is the perfect trailing option for shelves and walls that get low indirect light," explains Lalicata. "This low-maintenance plant is prized for its heart-shaped green leaves, easy-going nature, and quick-growing trailing vines."
Though they can handle low-light conditions, they prefer to receive bright indirect light. They will survive with little light but may become leggy and experience sparse foliage. Heartleaf philodendrons like to be watered every two weeks and enjoy regular pruning.
Be sure to repot when needed, as these plants are fast growers. They are toxic if ingested, so keep them out of reach of children and pets.
Aglaonema, commonly called Chinese evergreen, are great low-light indoor plants. Characterized by their glossy green and white variegated leaves growing from short stems, these plants are easy to care for and beautiful additions to any room.
These plants like medium light but can survive in lower light as well. If you have a variegated version, it will need bright indirect sunlight to produce its best color, but avoid direct sunlight as it can burn the foliage.
Keep the soil moist but not soaked. Allow the first two inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Also, keep this plant away from your pets, as they are toxic.
Also known by their common name, Swiss cheese plants, Monstera are popular indoor plants because they grow naturally in shady conditions. These plants are defined by their large, leathery leaves with notable perforations, loosely resembling palm fronds.
Though they do best with bright indirect light, they can survive in shadier conditions. However, avoid direct sunlight as it can burn their foliage. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. When Monstera is grown in shady conditions you won’t have to water as often.
Looking for a few more low-light houseplant options? Consider these honorable mentions. While none of these are as tolerant of low-light conditions as the others on this list, you can get away with rotating these plants through various lighting conditions.
Bird’s nest fern
Calatheas (Prayer plant)
Cast iron plant
Some succulents (echeveria, lance aloe, panda plant, ox tongue, zebra haworthia)
Frequently Asked Questions
What plants are best in bathrooms with no light?
ZZ plants or snake plants do well in bathrooms with no light because they are resilient and easy to care for. ZZ plants do not care about humidity levels, so they would do well in a bathroom where people often shower, and the humidity levels can become high.
Do houseplants grow under artificial light?
Plants need light for photosynthesis, but it does not necessarily need sunlight. Pothos, peace lilies, and Philodendrons can all thrive under artificial lighting, making them popular in offices and homes with little natural light.
Do I have to use a grow light in rooms with no sun?
If you have a room in your space that doesn’t provide natural lighting or doesn’t have windows it’s going to be very hard to keep a plant alive. "That is why grow lights were specifically designed to give plants the light they need where natural lighting lacks," explains Lalicata.
"Grow lights can also be used as a supplement for low light/obstructed windows for bright light plants that need more light, especially during the Fall/Winter months when daylight hours are shorter and light levels are weaker," adds Lalicata.
If you don’t have the means to provide natural or artificial light for your plants Faux plants are a great option since they require no maintenance or light.
"If there is no bright light, overhead lighting on for ~6+ hours of the day, grow lights are definitely recommended to help plants get the energy they need to use up water and grow," adds Jovel Byrnes.
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