The Low-Light-Loving Houseplants That Can Survive Even in a Sun-Deprived Home
We've seen plenty of home decor trends hit us fast and furiously, clogging up our Instagram feeds, enjoying their 15 minutes of fame and quickly disappearing: chevron prints, pineapple wall art and tchotchkes and millennial pink to name a few. But one has always been on-trend and has no intention of leaving anytime soon: the houseplant.
This year, it's been all about the indoor plant — from those that lend a pop of color to your space (like pink princess Philodendrons) to those with patterned leaves (like the Calathea lancifolia). They're the easiest items to pick up at your local nursery and add to a home in dire need of life and movement.
But for those of us living in smaller spaces like apartments, we've learned the hard way that you can't just pick up any ole houseplant. Why? Think about it: Your apartment has very little natural lighting compared to more luxurious, open homes. Before you know it, you have a dying houseplant and yet another trip to the nursery as part of your weekend plans.
"When talking about light, I think it's important to get a sense of what low light means," says Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms. "For us here at Costa Farms, we define it as having enough light throughout the day to be able to read a book or magazine without needing supplemental light.
"If your apartment is really dim and you don't get much natural light at all, you're not out of luck," Hancock continues. "Plants grow just as well under artificial light as they do natural light. Something as simple as an inexpensive shop light hung over a tabletop can provide all the light you need."
But if you want to ensure your plant will truly thrive (and don't want to fork over the extra cash on artificial lighting), ahead, we have a complete list of indoor plants that can survive even in the most sun-deprived apartment.
Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema)
The Chinese evergreen, or Aglaonema, is not only one of the best plants for beginners, but it's also fantastic for those of us who have hectic schedules and don't have a lot of time to keep houseplants alive. Plus, they're small enough to fit on desks and side tables.
"My favorite plant that tolerates low light is Chinese evergreen," says Hancock. "Care is pretty easy: At most, water when the top inch or so of the potting mix dries to the touch, but you don't have to sweat it if you forget. It can typically survive two or three weeks without you."
According to Hancock, the plant will grow without fertilizer, but if you can and are willing, mix in some time-release fertilizer every spring.
Snake plant (Sansevieria)
"The trendiest plant for low light right now is the snake plant," says Hancock. Also known as the sword lily and mother-in-law's tongue, the snake plant is easily recognizable at the nursery due to its stiff, upright, swordlike leaves, usually donning a gray, silver or gold color on them.
You can grow the snake plant in just about any room in your apartment, and caring for this plant is easy. Similar to the Chinese evergreen, just water it now and again, and you're set.
ZZ plant (Zamioculcas)
Travel a lot? In and out of your apartment all day? Need something that requires very little care? Go with the ZZ plant, originally from Eastern Africa.
"It has rubbery dark green leaves that some people think look rather fernlike," Hancock says. "The leaves grow from a thick rhizome [underground stem] that stores water, making this plant delightfully drought-tolerant. In fact, it can still recover even after it drops all of its leaves if watered well."
Nerve plant (Fittonia)
Fittonias are gorgeous, with their bright-pink leaves.
Also known as nerve plants, they grow best in low to medium light. But if you're jonesing to hang these up in your kitchen to give it the pop of color it so desperately needs, it's advised to filter the sun's rays with a sheer curtain. If the nerve plant gets too much sun, the leaves could turn a brown color and become crisp.
"If the plant gets too parched, it will quickly wilt, but it recovers just as fast when you add water," Hancock reassures. "It's not as tolerant of dry soil as the ones above, so keep this one moist, or at most, just let the top inch or so of the potting mix dry."
You'll also want to fertilize the plant a couple of times a year.
"For those who love big, bold and trendy, Monstera is the perfect plant," Hancock says. "This tropical vine features leaves that can get 2 feet across and are dramatically split, giving it a bold texture. In fact, you'll find Monstera leaf as a popular motif in home decor — bedding, clothes, plates, etc."
To care for the Monstera, which also goes by the names Swiss cheese plant and split-leaf Philodendron, water it when the top inch or 2 of the potting mix feels dry to the touch. The plant also tends to get quite large — vining out — so don't be afraid to cut it down when needed.
Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)
Also known as the sweetheart plant, the heartleaf Philodendron is extremely easy to grow, making it a popular houseplant.
These "houseplants are a popular choice not only because they're extremely easy to take care of, but also because they thrive in almost any level of indirect light," says gardening expert for Fantastic Gardeners Australia Jane Clarke. "They look good everywhere: on a desk, bookshelf or hanging planter. All they need is water when the soil feels dry."
Tony Smith, owner and president of Nursery Enterprises, adds that the plant can "survive for years with little care in dappled to full sunlight in an indoor environment."
Madagascar dragon tree
"You've always dreamed of having a palm at home, but you don't have the light to sustain it? There is a great alternative, and it is the Madagascar dragon tree," says Clarke.
Also called the red-edged Dracaena, this is one of the most popular houseplants around. It's easily spottable thanks to its red or pink-branded leaves.
To care for the Madagascar dragon tree, merely water it and prune it to prevent it from getting too wild, Clarke advises. Plus, if you have dark walls or an otherwise dark apartment, this is the indoor plant for you.
Parlor palm (Chamaedorea)
First discovered in Central America, the Chamaedorea — or parlor palm — is adapted to thrive in relatively low light, making just right for your apartment.
"It can handle low light, low humidity, bad air, near-freezing temperatures and some neglect," Smith says. "One more benefit [is] it actually cleans the air a little more than most other plants." A plant that's low-maintenance and purifies the air? Count us in.
To care for this plant, keep it in a spot that gets bright filtered sunlight if possible. Because it can't tolerate being waterlogged, keep the plant slightly dry vs. overwatering.