Home plant selection guide Plants for Low Light Areas

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The request we get most often is for plants for low light locations. As a matter of fact, most of the time, the phrase used most often in Google searches is "low light plants." [FYI... Tropical Gardens comes up #1 on these searches most of the time.] This makes perfect sense.  When you think of it, most of the tropical plants we consider as houseplants originate somewhere in the tropical rain forest, usually on the forest floor where they receive lower levels of light. That is why they are so well suited to indoor culture since we almost always have lower light conditions inside our homes.

Before listing plants to suit these kinds of areas, we need to address the concept of ...


Light provides the energy necessary for plants to produce food through photosynthesis. Even though the amount of light inside your home or greenhouse usually depends on the amount of natural sunlight available, it's helpful to understand a bit about plants' light needs.

Plants require certain quantities of light for proper growth. Light is often measured in footcandles. A footcandle equals the amount (intensity) of light produced in a completely dark space by one candle shining on a white surface that is 1 square foot in size and 1 foot from the candle.

Most vegetable plants need at least 1,000 footcandles, but many houseplants can get by with less. As stated earlier, many of our houseplants originated on shady rainforest floors, so are adapted to low light levels. Taller plants tend to require more light than small, bushy ones.

In geographic areas with chronic low light or long winters, you can use fluorescent or other plant lights to supplement natural sunlight. High-intensity discharge lamps such as high-pressure sodium or metal halide are expensive but efficient.

Light meters measure available light using a photo cell and give readings either as simple descriptors ("low" or "medium") or in numbers of foot-candles (the amount of light one candle throws a foot away). While the foot-candle is a more precise measurement and is often mentioned in books about indoor gardening, the "low-" and "medium+" labels may serve your purpose just as well. (More Information on Light)

Click on any link for specific plant care information.


 Plants for "Low-Light" Areas
(More than 100 foot-candles)

Grape/Oak Ivy
Spider Plants
Prayer Plants
Marble Queen
Ficus Pandarata (After acclimation)
Arboricola (After Acclimation)
 Plants for "Very Low-Light" locations:
(50 foot-candles or more)

Cast Iron (aspidistra)
Bamboo Palm
Raphis Palm
Neanthe Bella Palm
Zz Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)