If you’re looking for some greenery to liven up a dim office space, basement, or bathroom, you don’t necessarily need to head to the craft store for the silk dust-collectors! There are quite a few real, living, breathing plants that can not only survive but downright thrive in low light environments.
While all plants need some light in order to photosynthesize, some species can get what they need from artificial light (fluorescent, especially), north-facing window sills, or exposure to indirect light from any window in the same room.
Also known as Devil’s Ivy, pothos is a simple trailing plant with bright green heart shaped leaves that is possibly the easiest plant to care for and, since it doesn’t like direct sunlight, it’s a perfect choice for a bathroom, behind the tub, as a hanging plant, or to set upon a shelf.
It could also liven up a workroom with minimal effort. Pothos can be grown either in soil (and it really doesn’t mind if you forget to water it), or with its roots hanging in a vase of water (be sure to change the water regularly.)
2. Spider plant
This plant is one of the most common on our list, and it’s another gem that’s easy to care for. The spider plant likes a bit more water (though in well-drained soil) than the others here, and while it can grow in low light environments, it would love a north facing window as it thrives in indirect sunlight. If you have a corner in need of a resilient hanging plant, this one would be a great choice.
Here are some beautiful and easy-to-find varietals that can really spruce up those darker spaces in need of energy and life:
Also known as the “swiss cheese” plant (a name earned because of the wide, flat leaves with holes), this philodendron is definitely having its moment of glory. From real estate staging experts to Instagram taste-makers, people just love its dramatic, design-forward, tropical vibe.
This would be a great floor plant in any room, as it loves to grow and climb (give it a pole or trellis to scale). Plant in soil with good drainage and a clay pot so soil can dry out, and while it will tolerate low light, it will do best in a room with some indirect sunlight. Keep the large leaves dust free so it can breathe easy.
4. Snake plant (Sansevieria)
The snake plant is considered a succulent as the leaves are thick and robust, and thus not only does well with low light, but also minimal watering (bonus: it’s got a chic, vertical, “Arizona” vibe.) This one grows upright, so if you’re looking for a floor plant or one to rest on a plant table or the corner of your desk, the snake plant would be a great choice.
Plant in well-draining soil meant for succulents, and allow it to dry completely before you even think about watering it. When you do, water thoroughly, and drain completely.
5. Peace lily
This gorgeous plant with waxy green foliage and white, paper-like lilies is a great plant to bring to any low-light room. If you want the flowers, it will need at least some indirect sunlight, but if you don’t mind it without, this is a great choice for your work cubicle, dark hallway, or any other space begging for plant life.
Plant your peace lily in soil with good drainage, and keep the soil moist. If low-maintenance watering is important, you’re better off with one of the plants listed above. Make sure that the roots are not sitting in puddled water as they are prone to rot.
If some color and pizzazz is more your thing, one low-light friendly option is the begonia. You can find begonias in all different shapes, sizes, leaf colors, and flowers. You’ll need to choose a varietal that can grow indoors, and while these plants need consistent watering, be sure to allow the soil to dry beforehand, and keep the roots out of standing water.
Overwatering, though often well-intentioned, kills begonias. They love humidity too, so spritzing with water or having still water in a tray beneath it (lined with stones so the pot itself is elevated above the water, not submerged) will make it very happy. While the begonia can survive with north light, east and west will make it the happiest.
7. Cast Iron plant
This may be one of the most “old fashioned” plants on our list, but it’s a classic for a reason. This plant can survive in very low light conditions, and looks robust and hearty all the while. It can tolerate cool temperatures, low light, and minimal watering so it’s perfect in bathrooms, basements, or workspaces with a few small windows.
In fact it’s one of the most common choices in offices because of how much green it offers for such minimal light. It can be watered regularly during spring/summer if it’s near a window and growing, but cut back on watering in winter to allow it to go dormant.
Low-Light Plant Tips
What if I have no natural light?
If you are planning on keeping living plants in a room without any exposure to natural light, they can still do well if you leave artificial lights on for 12 hours at a time. In order to grow, plants need blue wavelength light for leaf growth (cool light), and red wavelength light for flowers and fruit (warm light.)
Find full-spectrum light bulbs and you’ll have both of these covered. Incandescent light tends to be warmer, so choose “cool white” lightbulbs which are closer to natural light. LED plant lights are also a possibility. Another option is to rotate the plants in rooms without windows with those in rooms with low/moderate indirect exposure (north/east/west.)
What if I have pets?
For those living with pets, please note that according to the ASPCA, a few of these plants can be toxic when ingested by dogs and cats. In particular, the Snake plant, Pothos, Monstera, Peace Lily and Begonia should be kept out of the mouths of your pets, while the Spider plant and Cast Iron plant are listed as safe. Here are a few more pet-safe plant options.
With the right attention (or inattention, for some of our more low-maintenance plants), you can successfully grow and enjoy real greenery in even the darkest of places and spaces. Maintain moderate/warm room temperatures, keep their leaves clean of dust, add some humidity for those that enjoy moisture, and see how easy it can be to breathe some life into those places in your home that need it most.
Read next: 7 Medicinal Plants You Can Grow At Home20