How to grow indoor plants in low light
With outdoor garden space at a premium, more and more homeowners are embracing indoor plants and filling their houses with greenery. The key to successfully growing plants indoors is to match the plant to the indoor location, especially in areas with low light.
Low light tactics
Low light indoor areas are those parts of the house that are away from north-facing windows or that are lit only by south- or east-facing windows. Hallways and bathrooms with small windows may also have low light levels. Plants placed on tiered shelving, such as on a bookshelf, may also receive little light, even in a brightly lit room.
To make the most of the available light, frequently rotate plants from areas of low light to areas of brighter light. If possible, rest plants outdoors in a sheltered spot for several weeks before returning them indoors. Use this period of rest to liquid feed and encourage new growth. Grow lights (lights that provide extra ultra-violet light) can also be used to give plants in dark areas more light.
If plants are failing to thrive, dropping leaves or being attacked by pests, it’s time to move them permanently to a better-lit location. Mealy bug and scale are pests that often attack plants growing in too little light indoors.
Top plant choices for low light
Here are some of the best plant choices for low-light areas in your home or office.
Aspidistra, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) Grown for its narrow dark green leaves and tolerance to low light, this is a slow grower. Often found in hallways.
Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) Of all the ferns to grow indoors, Boston fern is one that happily tolerates dull corners. It has long cascading dark green fronds making it a good choice for a hanging basket.
Devil’s ivy, pothos (Epipremium aureum) This is a trailing foliage plant with heart-shaped green or variegated leaves. Variegations may be white, cream or gold markings. Grow in a hanging basket or allow it to trail from a pot.
Dieffenbachia, dumb cane (Dieffenbachia amoena) A small shrubby plant with cane-like growth and variegated leaves that is grown easily from stem cuttings. Parts of this plant are toxic so not recommended for households with pets or small children.
Dracaena, happy plant (Dracaena fragrans) A cane-like plant with large, shiny green or variegated leaves. In brightly lit spots these plants may flower with cream scented blooms but flowering is unlikely in poor light.
Mother-in-law’s tongue, sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata) This succulent-like plant has tall strappy variegated or patterned green, grey and cream leaves. It is highly tolerant of poor light and dry conditions. For more info on growing sansevieria, click here.
Peace lily, Madonna lily, spathiphyllum (Spathiphyllum wallisii) Clumps of mid green leaves and white flowers (although flowers are less likely in dimly lit conditions). It tolerates low light and dry conditions. A good beginner plant, with variegated leaf forms also available for the collector. Learn more about peace lilies in this article.
Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) This easy-to-grow plant forms clumps of green or striped strappy leaves. Plants send out wiry runners that give rise to new plantlets and look very effective in a hanging basket. Plants may have small white flowers.
Zanzibar Gem, ZZ plant (Zamioculas zamiifolia ‘Zanzibar Gem’) This is one of the most tolerant of all indoor plants for low light. Water sparingly but dust the large, glossy green, cycad-like leaves regularly.