Friday, May 4, 2012

Houseplants That Aren’t Afraid Of The Dark

Even if your home only offers low light conditions (windows are too small, too few, facing a low light direction or obstructed by outdoor vegetation or high-rise buildings), there are still some houseplants you can grow successfully. Like the ones below...that are not afraid of the dark...

Aglaonema - Chinese Evergreen

One of the most durable plants on the market, this popular indoor specimen is perfect for those shady spots indoors. With its undemanding temperament, and ability to adapt to conditions that are detrimental to other houseplants, the Chinese Evergreen grows steadily with minimal care. This is the perfect candidate for the inexperienced (or negligent) owner.

Although the preference is brighter light to maintain the decorative foliage that it’s grown for, this lovely plant will adapt to low light areas. And while this highly-tolerant plant does well in a variety of settings, it doesn’t handle the cold well and needs to be grown in a room that is comfortably warm and draft free. Keep the soil evenly moist during the warm months and drier during the cooler ones. With proper care, this lovely plant will grow happily in your home for a long time and even reward you with many offshoots.

Aspidistra Elatior - Cast-Iron Plant

A step ahead of the Aglaonema for durability, the Aspidistra can tolerate poor conditions remarkably well. Along with low light, it can survive (not forever) heat, cold, wet soil, dry air and drought. This attractive plant provides a tropical look to those darker areas of a home and scores extra points for its resilience. And although it can withstand a lot of mistreatment, it is much more attractive when given proper care.

Place the Aspidistra in moderately-lit areas such as up against a north window or in any shady section of your home near decent lighting. The plant will withstand warm rooms but it prefers cooler, fresher temperatures. Wash the leaves now and then to remove dust and possible pests. Keep the soil evenly moist during the active growing season. Allow it to dry out more during the winter months.

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia - ZZ Plant

If all you can grow is artificial plants, consider this durable succulent that practically thrives on neglect and requires very minimal care. Fairly new but increasing in popularity, the durable Zamioculcas Zamiifolia – referred to as the ZZ plant - is not only easy to care for but also very beautiful with its dark green, glossy leaves. This is a perfect choice for beginners searching for a plant that is as close to indestructible as possible, and for individuals that want to grow plants in their dimly lit homes.

About the only thing that will kill this foolproof specimen is over-watering, so be careful with that watering can. Keep the plant on the dry side; too much water will result in yellow leaves and the possible rotting of the underground tubers. With its ability to store moisture in the tuber, the thick leaves and the fleshy stem, it can go for long periods without being watered. Dry air is not an issue and average household temperatures are fine.

Sansevieria Trifasciata - Mother-In-Law's Tongue, Snake Plant

The Snake Plant - with its stiff, sword-shaped, marbled leaves that resemble snakeskin - is one of the easiest plants to grow, able to adapt to almost any condition you throw at it. With the exception of over-watering, which will ultimately defeat it, this eclectic beauty can handle full sun, shade, dry air, cool temperatures, hot rooms, infrequent feeding and extended periods between watering.

It is preferable to grow this Sansevieria in a brighter location but it will adapt to lower light. Use a fast-draining, highly-porous soil and water only when the medium dries out. Be extra vigilant with the watering can during the colder months when susceptibility to rot is high. Humidity is not an issue; the plant prefers to grow in drier areas. Average home temperatures are ideal.

Dracaena Deremensis Janet Craig

Most Dracaenas will put up with shady locations, but the Janet Craig will handle it better than most. This popular plant makes an elegant statement in any room it occupies with its simple but attractive shiny, dark green leaves. Although slow-growing, it is capable of growing as tall as ten feet. A large specimen makes a terrific floor plant with its bushy, vertical growth. This beloved plant is a great choice for rooms that offer only low light.

Keep the medium evenly moist during the growing season; reduce watering and allow the plant to dry out considerably during the winter months. Medium light is preferred but the plant will adjust easily to light shade. Average household temperatures are fine. Shield this plant from cold drafts and cold temperatures; if it’s placed anywhere where cold air hits it, move it. Correct any situations that have the potential to cause cold damage or the plant will deteriorate rapidly. Dry air is tolerated but higher levels of humidity are preferred.

Fittonia Verschaffeltii – Red Nerve Plant

Despite the fact that this is not the easiest plant to grow indoors, I’m going to throw it in anyway. With its ability to tolerate low light very well, and continue to look good, it deserves an honourable mention. This is an extremely attractive plant with its oval, olive green leaves that are veined with shades of pink. What makes this Fittonia challenging is its need for very high humidity, which is often difficult to provide in the average home.

Keep the soil evenly moist at all times during the spring and summer seasons; never allow the plant to dry completely. Reduce watering in the winter when growth slows down. Fittonias need to be kept warm. Avoid cold drafts, temperature fluctuations and rooms that are too cool. With its need for ample humidity, unless you can provide it in another way, consider growing this plant in a terrarium or bottle garden.

Philodendron Scandens – Heart-Leaf Philodrendron

The Heart-Leaf Philodendron is one of the most commonly-grown indoor plants as well as one of the easiest. Its ability to tolerate a wide range of conditions and low levels of light for very long periods makes it a great plant for beginners and for those shady indoor locations. This attractive plant with dark green, heart shaped leaves can be left to trail down from a hanging basket or trained to grow upright.

Water well during the active growing season; keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy. During the colder months of the year, water enough to keep the plant from drying out completely. Heart-Leaf Philodendron can handle almost any level of light except for direct sun, so it will adapt easily to a shady spot in the home as long as it’s not deep shade. Humidity is not critical, although higher levels are appreciated. Average household temperatures are fine. Protect against cold drafts.

Epipremnum Pinnatum – Golden Pothos

This fast grower, often mistaken for a Philodendron, is an extremely hardy and resilient plant, able to endure dry air, droughts and low levels of lights with little or no fuss. Because of its remarkably tolerant nature, it is one of the most popular plants on the market and one of the most frequently grown.

When the plant is actively growing, allow the soil to dry out slightly, then water thoroughly. Let the medium dry out more during the colder months when the plant slows down. Do not keep the soil constantly moist if the plant is not growing or if it’s placed in colder, darker areas. Bright, indirect light is the preference but the plant will grow reasonably well in low light areas. Choose a warm spot and protect against cold drafts. Humidity is not critical but a moister environment is appreciated.

Above are just a few common indoor plants able to adapt reasonably well to the darker areas of a home. It’s important to remember that no plant will survive deep shade for very long, areas that are so light-deprived that even low light plants will protest when grown there. Supplement those overly dark locations with artificial lighting or move the plant to a brighter area.


  1. I have a big planter of heart-leaf philodendron at work. When I trim the edges of it, I put some in a vase of water and put them in the Ladies' Room. They grow roots in the water and that way, I always have greenery there!

    1. Philodendrons are such great plants. And they root very easily in water, so you can just keep making more and more of them.