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Plants are amazing! Whether you’re indoors or outdoors they’re the perfect companions to keep us happy and healthy. Eating plants fills our bodies with vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and immune-boosting phytochemicals. Furthermore, surrounding ourselves with them in the home and garden can provide a great boost to our mental health. Here is a list of the best plants for low light environments.
Indoor plants benefit us in a number of ways. They purify our air and oxygenate the space they occupy. They create a sense of calm and tranquility. They help to balance the humidity in our homes. They can even help us to sleep at night. Not to mention adding a beautiful splash of colour and texture to your interior design aesthetic.
Yet, there are many who assume that because their home is not conducive to plant growth.
Around 38% of Australians live in an apartment or unit that’s four stories high or more. As such, they may not get the access to natural light that we might assume is necessary to grow healthy, happy indoor plants. But just because your house or apartment doesn’t get much access to sunlight doesn’t mean you can’t avail yourself of the joys and benefits of a home full of plants. Many plants have evolved over millennia to be tough cookies that can thrive in conditions that we might assume to be inhospitable. Whatever living space you call home, there’s a plant you can share it with, even with limited light.
Here we’ll look at 10 beautiful plants that can thrive in low-light environments…
We begin our list with a plant that’s aesthetically pleasing and very low maintenance. This charming fan palm boasts large, thick, blunt-tipped leaves that are wider than most other palm species.
The Lady Palm bears rhizome-type offshoots, which eventually flourish into clusters of upright stems. As such, this plant is perfect for those who want to add a lush splash of greenery to their indoor space. Over time, the new stems are enveloped by thick fibres which eventually fall away to reveal bamboo-like trunks. This is why the Rhapis Excelsa is also commonly known as the Bamboo Palm.
The Lady Palm is highly versatile and can grow in a great range of light environments. It is extremely slow-growing and adapts very well to being grown indoors in a pot. If you’re looking for a really low maintenance plant, buy an advanced specimen which will require less care than a younger plant.
Lady Palms are among the least fussy plants you’ll ever meet. They are not demanding in terms of either light or humidity, and are among the most shade tolerant of palms. Studies show that they’re also great at removing pollutants and odours from the air. This, combined with their non-toxic leaves, makes them ideal plants for homes with cats. They can help to banish litter tray smells and won’t make your cat sick when nibbled on. This plant can live in a room that doesn’t have direct light and will be fine.
The Lady Palm’s needs are very simple. Just give her a drink once a week, or whenever you notice that the first inch or so of topsoil is dry. She will grow well on your window sill or in direct light, but positioning her in a room with no access to the sun won’t damage her.
Originating in India and Indonesia, the Rubber Plant is one of the most popular indoor plants, and it’s easy to see why. Their broad rich, rubbery leaves add a wonderful diversity of texture to your home’s aesthetic. And while the upward facing sides of the leaves are a luscious green, the undersides and new growths have stunning hues of pink and bronze. Rubber plants enjoyed a period of great celebrity in the ‘70s and can add a charming retro touch to your home’s aesthetic. The Rubber Plant is another good choice for filtering toxins out of the air. However, it’s important to note that the leaves can be poisonous to pets, so they should be kept out of the reach of dogs and cats. The Rubber Plant’s sap is also where we get latex from. So it’s best to handle with gloves if you’re allergic to latex.
The Ficus Elastica is pretty low maintenance. Keep the soil moist and water whenever you see the topsoil start to get dry. However, be careful not to over-water as this can cause the leaves to drop. Keep it away from cold draughts where possible, and apply a weak dose of fertiliser once or twice a month.
The great thing about ferns is that they add a lovely depth and dimension of texture to your home’s aesthetic as well as a rich splash of colour. And the Maidenhair Fern, with its delicate pale green triangular fronds and wiry black stems, can add some visual diversity to any space, even one that’s shared with lots of other plants.
Because they favour warm and humid environments, these are a great choice for areas like the bathroom and kitchen where conditions would be inhospitable for most plants. They dislike direct sunlight, yet while they can grow in the shade, excessively dark spaces may cause the leaves to lose some of their vibrancy.
While the Maidenhair Fern is not toxic to pets, its leaves may represent a choking hazard. When in doubt, place it somewhere out of reach or inside a terrarium.
The Maidenhair Fern is from South America, so it stands to reason that warm and humid conditions help it to thrive. If the leaves dry and shrivel, this is an indicator that you need to improve humidity. Try using a pebble tray filled with water and misting regularly.
The Zanzibar Gem or ZZ Plant has a great aesthetic beauty : maintenance ratio. It will look gorgeous in any home, and its needs are few. Originating in Africa, its tall, slender stems end in dense, luscious green foliage with zig-zagging dark green leaves. But don’t let its glitzy name, quirky aesthetic and dazzling beauty fool you. This indoor plant is not a diva. In fact, its needs are actually proportionate to the amount of sunlight it gets. The closer you put it to your window, the more you’re likely to need to water it. Furthermore, the Zanzibar Gem actually prefers lower light environments, although it will grow more or less anywhere.
This plant grows up to a meter in height and can be mildly toxic when ingested so it’s best kept out of the reach of pets. That said, it is one of the best air purifiers out there, and has proven adept in filtering harmful volatile organic compounds like benzene, ethylbenzene toluene and xylene out of your air.
A popular choice for home offices, it can help create the perfect environment for calm concentration.
Keep in indirect light and water sparingly. Once every two weeks is more than enough in the summer, and in the winter once a month will usually be fine. As with the rubber plant, the only real way to damage this plant is to keep over-watering it.
The Aspidistra is aptly-names the Cast Iron Plant. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to kill. There are very few conditions under which it can’t survive. So unless you’re thinking of putting it in the freezer, the chances are that it’s a good fit for your home.
But just because it’s tough as nails, doesn’t mean that the Aspidistra isn’t a looker.
The tough, leathery leaves have a beguilingly elegant shape, with delicately fluted new growths. They are very slow growing and tend to top out at about a metre.
Although this is a distant cousin of the lily, it is completely non-toxic to pets. Combine this with its aptitude for filtering toxins out of the air (it’s commonly known as the Bar Room Plant), and its virtually non-existent care needs this is a great choice for literally any home.
I dunno… try not to set fire to it? Seriously, though, this plant will grow just as well on your living room windowsill or in your bathroom. Keep the soil moist with a little misting every now and then but be wary of getting it wet. Watering once a fortnight will usually be adequate in summer. A few drops of liquid fertiliser once a month will be a nice treat in the growing season.
This versatile plant is known by many names. Golden Pothos, Devil’s Ivy, Ceylon Creeper (although its origins are in French Polynesia) and Ivy Arum.
Whatever you want to call it, it is a strikingly beautiful addition to any home’s aesthetic. It can be potted and displayed on any surface in its youth, although as it matures its green and yellow leaves cascade downwards for display in a hanging basket or as a creeper.
However, because its leaves are harmful to pets, many prefer to keep it as a hanging plant. Frankly, that’s where Devil’s Ivy comes into its own aesthetically.
While Devil’s Ivy grows best in indirect sunlight, it will still be able to survive in darker spaces.
This plant is highly drought resistant, so only water when the first two inches of soil are dry. This is a fast-grower and trails can grow as long as 20m. As such, you’ll need to cut it back to your desired length as and when needed. Pinch out the tips for a bushier plant.
Originating in Tropical West Africa, this starkly beautiful indoor plant has earned the unflattering pseudonym “Mother In-Law’s Tongue. As well as its aesthetic beauty, it’s also a prolific air purifier, which is why it’s such a popular choice for home offices and other workspaces.
Its silvery green leaves contain intriguing patterns of dark greens, pale greens and silver. The broad, elegantly shaped leaves can grow up to 60-70cm in height. Not only is it hardy enough to grow in virtually any environment, it creates a beautiful visual contrast wherever you choose to display it. Some choose to accompany it with other, darker sansevierias to make the silvery pale greens really pop.
While this plant will thrive in both bright, indirect light and dim conditions, displaying it in a darker room will also darken the colour of the leaves. Leaves may also crack, but this is not necessarily an indicator that the plant is in poor health.
The natural chemicals it secretes keep it safe from pests and fungi, however, they also make this plant mildly toxic to pets.
The Silver Snakeplant only needs to be watered once every 3 to 4 weeks. Water thoroughly and allow to drain freely. Avoid letting this plant sit in a pool of water as this may lead to root rot. Other than that, this is a low-no maintenance indoor plant.
The aptly named Philodendron is a must for tree-lovers. In fact, its name literally means tree-loving (from the Greek words philos (love) and dendron (tree). This is because they are typically climbers and creepers, although some can be displayed freestanding. There are all kinds of Philodendrons, all of which are as versatile as they are low-maintenance. They thrive in indoor environments, and are highly tolerant of shade.
With so much variation in the height, shape, colour and leaf shape (not to mention exotic names like Swiss Cheese Plant and Monkey Mask, there’s a Philodendron for virtually every home.
However, because they are toxic when ingested, they should be kept out of the reach of pets.
Philodendrons are very easy to look after. They are best positioned out of direct sunlight and away from dry areas like near radiators. Give them a light misting every now and then (especially during summer) as this plant is at its healthiest in humid conditions.
Because Philodendrons have far-spreading roots you should choose a pot roughly twice the size of the plant.
The delicate beauty of the Peace lily belies its hardy nature. Don’t let the elegant, subtly twisting leaves and flued white spathes fool you. This plant is a tough cookie! The Peace Lily is an extremely popular plant because it’s beauty lends itself to any aesthetic. Whether your interior decor errs on the side of the traditional or the contemporary, a Peace Lily will look great in your home.
It’s also extremely low maintenance. The white flowers at the tips will turn brown and die every few weeks, but they will be replaced by fresh new ones. If you notice that the plant is starting to droop, this is just a sign that it needs a little more water, and will quickly recover.
Peace Lilies are best placed somewhere fairly warm and with good access to indirect sunlight. Like most members of the lily family, this plant can be harmful to cats and dogs, so keep well out of the reach of curious pets.
Warm and humid conditions are good for peace lilies. If possible try to keep it in a sweet spot between 18 and 24°C (although they can cope with temperatures as low as 12°C in winter). Depending on where it’s positioned, you can get away with watering a Peace Lily as little as once every two weeks. Although drooping leaves will remind you that it’s time to give the plant a drink.
No list of indoor plants is complete without a succulent! And while there are lots that will thrive in low light indoor environments, few are as strikingly gorgeous and rich in colour and texture as the Mistletoe Cactus.
This explosion of fleshy green stems sprinkled with yellow-white flowers is one of the most visually interesting hanging plants you could display in your home. Native to the warm humid rainforests of South and Central America, these cacti enjoy warmth and moisture, and thrive in kitchens and bathrooms. The temperature sweet spot for the Mistletoe Cactus is around 21-24°C. Keep it somewhere warm and fairly bright with access to indirect sunlight.
Keep the soil moist at all times. Watering once a week and misting regularly should be adequate for this plant to thrive. Make sure this plant has proper drainage. Some choose to let it sit in a pebble tray. Avoid direct midday sunlight.
With so many plants to choose from that thrive in low-light environments, the only real question is… which one should you invite into your home first?