Indoor Plants for Dark Spaces 

by Laurel Aiello

Shopping for houseplants can be discouraging if all you have are low-light spots for them to live in. Most houseplants are accustomed to sunny, tropical locations rather than gloomy offices or windowless basements, so the options are fairly limited when it comes to choosing the right plant for a dark space. However, there are several houseplants that need very little light to survive:


Arguably the hardest houseplant to kill, snake plants are tough as nails and thrive on neglect. All they need is a little light, even if it is just a window well or a north-facing window with the blinds shut. Snake plants prefer to go completely dry between waterings and can stay in their pots for quite some time, making them great plants for those “set and forget” places in the house. 


Similar to the snake plant, ZZ plants can handle spaces with little to no light and require minimal attention to survive. Thanks to their bulbous, water-storing rhizomes, they won’t mind if weeks pass between waterings, and they like to stay semi root-bound, so you’ll rarely need to size them up to a larger pot or move them to a bigger (or brighter) space. 


Pothos are another quintessential low-light houseplant, but with draping foliage as opposed to an upright growth habit. They can thrive in a variety of settings, from dark corners to reception desks, effortlessly cascading or climbing up a wall. It’s easy to overwater pothos in low light, so allow the soil to dry out significantly to prevent leaves from wilting and turning yellow. 


If your house is humid, a fern might be the perfect plant for your dimly lit space. Still, ferns require medium indirect light and will need a grow light to tolerate a basement or windowless room. Place them near a humidifier, in a bathroom, or above the kitchen sink to emulate the warm, humid climates they thrive in, and give them water when the soil surface feels dry.


One of the easiest houseplants to care for, the spider plant is another low-maintenance option for shady spots indoors. They’ll be happy with a few hours of diffused morning light, though they may need the help of a grow light in darker areas. Allow them to go halfway dry between waterings, and hang them up to watch their baby “spiderettes” trail over the sides of the pot. 


Almost anyone can recognize a peace lily, with its shiny leaves and white flower spikes. Peace lilies prefer medium indirect light and can make even fluorescent-lit lobbies and stairway 

landings look tropical and lush. Water your peace lily when the top half of soil feels dry, though their leaves will droop to let you know if they have gone too long without a drink. 


If all you have is an east-facing window, or if you have grow lights in a spot with no natural light, there are many other houseplants to consider. Scheffleras, begonias, calatheas, dracaenas, lucky bamboo, dieffenbachias, parlor palms, and Chinese evergreens can all tolerate medium indirect light, though they always appreciate brighter light if possible. 

When in doubt, add a grow light to give your houseplants a greater chance of success indoors. Any plant—even the snake plant—will appreciate some artificial sun rays. 

Originally published on January 4th, 2024.