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5 Low Light Houseplants That Anyone Can Grow

My last NYC apartment was very small and very dark: 400 square feet with one window that looked at a brick wall. (I’m not saying that’s why I moved, but it definitely had something to do with it.) For a plant lover like me, this was a challenge. I wanted to grow house plants, but my indoor light levels were really low. Sound familiar?

Low light is what you get in a north facing window, or a window obstructed by a large tree or another building. Here’s the easiest, low tech way to tell if you have low light. On a sunny day, turn out all the lights in the room and put a piece of white paper on the window sill. Hold your hand about 12 inches over the paper. If you see a fuzzy shadow, you have low light. A sharp shadow indicates higher light, and if you see no shadow at all, well, my condolences.

The trick to growing houseplants in low light is to choose the right plants for the light you’ve got. You may not have quite as many options as you would in a bright, sunny room, but you still have choices. And houseplants are so worth it. They improve the air quality in your living space, they bring life and vitality into the room, and they’re beautiful to look at. Houseplants make a home feel homier, more cared for, more personal. I couldn’t live without them and you don’t have to, either.

Here are my top five recommendations for gorgeous, low maintenance, easy to grow, low light houseplants. As the days get shorter and the sun hangs lower in the sky, why not brighten up your home with a few of these beauties! 

Satin pothos (aka Scindapsus pictus)


Satin Pothos is a vine with long stems and heart-shaped leaves edged in silver, covered with silver splotches. It’s a graceful plant but tough as nails. Grow it in a hanging basket, letting the vines create a living curtain in your window, or place the pot on your window sill and tie the stems to a trellis. Satin pothos won’t need watering more than once a week.

    Snake plant (aka Sansevieria trifasciata)


    Snake plant is a succulent plant with an upright growth habit, two to three feet tall. A single plant is a living sculpture, and a lineup of three (or more!) in matching pots makes an impressive display. The green leaves of snake plant have a subtle, white pattern on the surface, and the variety ‘Laurentii’ is edged in bright yellow. Snake plants should be watered once every 10-14 days.

      Cast iron plant (aka Aspidistra elatior)


      Cast iron plant lives up to its name. This plant looks great on a window sill, where its broad, solid green leaves, 18 – 24” tall, lean slightly outward, creating a full, lush shape. Cast iron plant tolerates low light and cool temperatures. The one thing it doesn’t appreciate is constantly wet soil, so don’t water yours more than once every 7 – 10 days.

        ZZ plant (aka Zamioculcas zamiifolia)


        ZZ plant is a succulent plant with long arching stems that give it a full, bushy shape. It’s leaves are dark green and super shiny, and just about the only way you can kill this plant is to overwater it. Once every two weeks is plenty. ZZ plant starts out small, but may eventually outgrow your windowsill. In which case, move it to the floor and let it brighten up a dark corner.

          Parlor palms (aka Chamaedorea elegans)


          Parlor palms are the best indoor palm trees for low light conditions. Small pots fit on a windowsill or table, and a larger specimen (up to four feet tall) looks great on the floor, as a specimen tree. Parlor palm leaves have a classic palm shape and the branches arch gracefully. You’ll only need to water every 7 – 10 days.

            If you have a north facing window sill or a corner where the sun doesn’t quite reach, one of these plants is just what you need to brighten up the room. It’s amazing how a little bit of living greenery makes a place feel like home.      


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