Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Finding the perfect plants for your apartment can be challenging, especially if your home doesn’t get a lot of light. There are still plenty of plants that will thrive in your low light home.
The best low light plants for an apartment are tropical plants that grow below the rainforest’s canopy, such as the Peace Lily, the Dieffenbachia, and the Monstera. Other good matches include the ZZ plant, Snake plant, and multiple types of trailing plants.
Read on to learn about 14 of the best low light plants for your apartment. We’ll discuss their general care needs, which plants are good for small spaces, and how much light they need.
1. Snake Plant
The Snake Plant, also known as “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue” and Dracaena trifasciata, is a flowering succulent that is native to West Africa, in areas from the Congo to Nigeria. There are many varieties of Snake Plants, though there are few that flower in the home.
These plants have tall, stiff leaves that stand boldly upward. They grow slowly, and their vertical growth patterns make them perfect for apartments. They store a large amount of water in their thick leaves, and the gradual growth means that these plants rarely need to be watered. These plants prefer to dry out between watering.
Snake plants are known as being hardy. They can survive in homes with next-to-no light. However, considering these plants grow so slowly, it’s a good idea to buy the plant’s size that you want, because the plant won’t be growing very much.
2. Devil’s Ivy
This flowering plant is native to Southern Polynesia islands, where the warm temperatures and high humidity allow this plant to flourish. The ivy grows quickly, draping in long tendrils with wide, spade-shaped leaves.
There are many different versions of Devil’s Ivy, which are often named for their variety of colors. Silver Pothos, Golden Pothos, Marble Queen Pothos are all brilliant varieties that can survive happily in your low light home.
Devil’s Ivy is called such as it is nearly impossible to kill, making it the perfect first house plant. It enjoys high humidity, so placing it in your bathroom or kitchen will make it even happier, but it will likely survive anywhere in your home.
This plant does trail, so if you want an impressive plant for your upper shelf or entryway, the Devil’s Ivy is perfect for you. Just remember to water it at least once a week, and you’ll have a no-fuss house plant.
3. Spider Plant
Spider Plants are plants that explode in green foliage, having large, sprightly ribbons of leaves that grow outward. These plants grow freely in southern and tropical parts of Africa, where soil and moisture are abundant.
A spider plant often grows in semi-shaded areas in nature, which makes them perfect for a low light apartment. However, this plant is thirstier than the two prior. It requires slightly more care and would benefit greatly from being watered once or twice a week.
When spider plants are happy, they will flower, sprouting small white blooms that can extend on long branches that can reach up to 75cm (30in). The plant will need a little more than low light to succeed in blooming.
4. Dragon Tree
The Dragon Tree is a drought-tolerant plant that prefers medium to low light environments. It is found throughout Madagascar natively, but it has since spread throughout the world as a houseplant. In temperate outdoor climates, this tree can grow up to 20 feet tall but is easily size restricted by keeping it in a smaller pot.
This tree would live happily in your apartment in a corner near a window where it can grow slowly. The leaves of this plant are bright green with red edges and sprout outward cheerily. The miniature tree trunk is thick and stores a lot of water, which makes this plant so drought-tolerant.
5. ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant is the real plant that is so easy to care for. You might think it’s fake. The leaves sprout in zig-zags off the long branches, growing thick and rubbery, also giving it the appearance of a fake plant.
These plants prefer not to be touched or disturbed very much, and they do better with dry soil than with wet. The ZZ plant and the Snake Plant are both prone to being overwatered, and you aren’t sure the soil is dry, it’s better to wait a few days and check again.
Another slow grower, these plants also thrive in semi-arid areas. The thick leaves store water during times of drought, which means they are hardy plants for the busy urbanite. A weekly, biweekly, or even monthly care day for this plant will be enough.
6. Peace Lily
Peace Lilies are broad-leafed green beauties that grow bountifully in tropical rainforests throughout South America. They grow below the rainforest canopy along the forest floor, in shaded, humid areas. Even though they love high-humidity, they need well-draining soil to allow the water to move away from their roots.
Peace Lilies can grow rapidly in the spring and summer, but their growth will be highly limited by being kept in a low light situation. Their deep green leaves add a level of texture and color to your apartment that won’t be diminished by a lack of light.
Closely related to the pothos in both genus and appearance, the ivy-like Philodendron grows rapidly in its native tropics. The plants grow quickly, climbing up tree trunks and trailing along their branches. In your apartment, these plants can grow along the edge of a mantlepiece and trail lushly down from a high shelf.
If you don’t want a hanging plant, these plants are easily propagated. You can trim back the stems and leaves of the Philodendron and place the stems in a glass of water for a few weeks. The stem will proceed to regrow roots. When the roots are a few inches long, they are ready to be planted.
Plant the new roots in small pots to give to friends, or replant them in the same pot as their parents to create an extremely lush low light plant.
The Dieffenbachia plant is another low light tropical beauty that adds a lot of color to your apartment. These bush-like plants are very leafy, with mottled patterns on the blades. The leaves have dark green edges, while the leaves’ center is patterned with a cream and emerald pattern.
These may love a tropical rainforest, but they are prone to overwatering. In a low light environment, all of your plants will need much less water than they would in the outdoors, where they get proper air circulation and their soil drains quickly.
Your Dieffenbachia is a good test plant- if the top layer of soil is not drying out between waterings, your apartment may be too cold. You can counteract this excess moisture by purchasing a dehumidifier and placing it near your plants. This machine will draw moisture from the plant’s soil to help them dry out. You can always add more water, but it’s harder to take it away if it sits on the plant’s roots.
9. Dwarf Umbrella Tree Plant
The Dwarf Umbrella Tree Plant is a vibrant little plant with round arrays of leaves that burst out in umbrella-like patterns. The leaves can be one consistent shade of green or variegated light green and dark green.
Full-sized Umbrella Trees can grow up to 50 feet tall in the wild, but the dwarfed varieties only reach about 1-2 feet tall in the home. The Dwarf Umbrella Trees are popular for bonsai hobbies, being trimmed and shaped over time.
The Peperomia is a plant that looks like a succulent bush. It has thick, waxy leaves that are slightly curled inward and often have yellow edges. The leaves’ inner part varies from light to dark green and has slightly darker veins in the center. While not technically a succulent, these plants store a lot of water in their thick leaves.
The plant is often called the baby rubber plant because of its fleshy leaves. The leaves of the plants are always thick, but there are many different ways the plants grow. Some varieties grow upward, with alternated levels of leaves. Some grow outward with climbing branches. There are also trailing bushes with small leaves that grow thick and can trail up to 5 feet long.
11. Staghorn Fern
You’ll often spot this elegant fern in DIY projects and eclectic design scapes. Staghorn ferns are often mounted to driftwood or cork and then hung on the wall. The plants are epiphytic, meaning they have shallow roots that help them hang onto a tree trunk and absorb nutrients from the air instead of being buried under dense soil layers.
These ferns prefer indirect light, and while they would rather it be bright, they can survive in low-light situations as well. They are named for the oblong leaves with multiple dips and curves in them like a stag’s antlers. These ferns act not only as a rare houseplant but as a living work of art on your wall.
You can also mount your Staghorn directly in your shower if your bathroom has a window. The plants will thrive off of the room’s moisture, with their epiphytic roots reaching for the bountiful nutrients. You’ll hardly have to think about them in this location– just enjoy them every time you shower.
12. Bird’s-Nest Fern
The Bird’s-Nest Fern is another fern named for the shape of its leaves. The leaves are thin and wide, growing in slightly crimped patterns. The mess of scraggly leaves sprouts outward, resembling the erratic appearance of a bird’s nest. They also have the wavy appearance of seaweed, except on land.
As for low light, the plants prefer it. Bright light can easily burn the delicate leaves, and they seek the coverage of trees above them. Like Staghorn ferns, the Bird’s-Nest Ferns are Epiphytes, growing on the trunk of another plant and pulling their nutrients from the air.
13. Monstera Deliciosa
The Monstera Deliciosa is considered an invasive species in many areas of the world. These plants grow extremely quickly, with leaves unfurling every few weeks. Of course, they won’t produce as quickly in a low light environment, but you can expect them to survive quite happily.
“Monstera” in the name is for the plant’s massive scale that can reach over 9 meters tall, with three-foot-wide leaves. The “deliciosa” in the name is for the edible fruit that grows on the plant in the wild. In the home, these plants don’t produce fruit, but they can still grow large.
Monsteras are known for their split-leaves, which appear when the plants are mature. The slits in these leaves are something of speculation, with many different theories behind their occurrence.
Some plants create splits to help the leaves survive against the wind and the rain in tropical storms. Others may make splits to allow water to reach the plant’s roots below, which makes a lot of sense for the Monstera specifically, who’s leaves are so massive.
14. Marimo Moss Ball
The Marimo moss ball is a unique little plant that will be unlike any others in your home. “Marimo” is a Japanese word that translates to “seaweed ball.” These plants are round spheres of algae naturally found in the freshwater lakes of Scotland, Iceland, Australia, Japan, and Estonia.
It is thought that the gentle rolling of the algae along the floor of the lake is what forms the sphere of the “plant.” As you can imagine from the fact that they live on the bottom of lakes, they are uniquely adapted to low light environments. Unlike the other plants on this list, they also survive well in the cold.
Caring for your Marimo moss balls will be nothing like caring for your other plants. For starters, you won’t need any soil at all. Instead, your Marimo balls will live in a small glass fishbowl. As long as your tap water is safe to drink, your Marimo balls will be more than happy to be submerged in it.
Every few weeks or months, you will need to clean the bowl for your moss balls. A mild soap is enough to clean any cloudiness that may collect on the side of the bowl, and you can simply refill it with tap water. As you clean the bowl, you may want to clean the soiled water out of the moss balls, too.
Remove the moss balls from the bowl and gently squeeze the water out of them. You can rinse them a few times with room temperature water. Once the bowl has been cleaned and refilled, simply place the moss balls back into the bowl. If the balls float, they will simply need time to reabsorb their water, and they will sink back to the bottom over time.
Since your Marimo balls won’t be floating around the bottom of a lake, they may lose their round shape. You can gently roll the ball between your palms to reshape the algae balls. You can also pull them apart and reshape them to “propagate” them in a way. The balls only grow a few millimeters a year, however, so you should buy the size of the plant that you prefer.
Caring for Low Light Plants
Low light plants are called such, not because they require no light, but because they can survive in low light situations. All of the plants on this list need some sunlight to grow, and placing them near a window will help. If you truly want to brighten up a dark corner of your room with a plant, then investing in a plant light will go a long way to keeping any plants in that area happy.
Another thing to remember is that plants grow through a process known as photosynthesis, which requires light, water, and carbon dioxide to be completed. If your plant is not getting as much light, it won’t use up as much water. A plant in a low light situation is at a high risk of root rot if you overwater it.
You’ll need to keep watch over your house plants when you first introduce them to your apartment. For plants that usually need to be watered every few days, they might only need to be watered every week in a darker situation. For plants like the snake plant and ZZ plant, this could be even lower, like once a month.
Some of the best low light plants for your apartment come from the tropics, but there are others from cold lakes and arid deserts, too.
Marimo moss balls are unique and perfect for small spaces. Snake plants and ZZ plants prefer to be left alone and rarely need to be watered. Devil’s Ivy or a Philodendron will live long and prosper for the lover of a trailing plant. If you want to keep your plants off of your apartment floors, then the epiphytic Staghorn or Bird’s-Nest Ferns are perfect.
- The Spruce: Dracaena (Dragon) Tree Plant Profile
- Gardening Know-How: Tips for Caring for a ZZ Plant
- ProFlowers: Peace Lily Care
- Better Homes and Gardens: Philodendron
- Gardening Know-How: Growing Dumbcane Dieffenbachia – How To Care For A Dieffenbachia Plant
- Architecture Lab: Dwarf Umbrella Tree 101
- Costa Farm: Peperomia
- Pistils Nursery: Staghorn Fern Care
- Gardening Know-How: Bird’s Nest Fern Care
- Wikipedia: Monstera Deliciosa
- The Sill: The Hole Truth: Monsteras
- Japan Atlas – Nature: Lake Akan and Marimo
- Garden Therapy: Hello, Marimo
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Photosynthesis
- Wikipedia: Dracaena Trifasciata
- Wikipedia: Epipremnum Aureum
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Growing Spider Plants
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