Survival of all plants, whether in the wild or our homes, relies on them being able to photosynthesise. Without the right light intensity, the first stage of photosynthesis can't take place, which hugely impacts the plant's health and lifespan. When choosing a plant for your home, you shouldn't select one purely because of its visual appeal – your choice should primarily be informed by the amount of light you can offer that plant within your home. Most house plants require bright light to thrive, but if you have small windows or they face the wrong direction, there are some plants that are better able to tolerate low light levels than others.
Low light can be found in areas of your home that are permanently shaded due to the direction the window faces or light being obscured by an external or internal object like a building or semi-closed blind. This term also relates to the distance of the plant from a window – the further away the plant, the lower the light intensity.
While there is truth in the fact that some house plants can survive in low light, many of them do better in brighter light. If your plant appears to be declining in health after a few months in low light, experiment by putting it nearer to a window and see if it improves.
If you are looking for a house plant suitable for an area of low light, try one of the following.
More advice on house plants:
- Our favourite house plants
- Growing and caring for house plants with Monty
- Your winter house plant jobs
House plant inspiration
Plants featured in this video
Jewel orchid (Ludisia discolor)
Jewel orchids accept being placed in an area of low light but would appreciate the occasional hour or two of moderate to bright indirect light. It's more likely to flower in a brighter location, but should do ok next to a north-facing window or no further than a few meters back from a south, east, or west-facing window.
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Tradescantia pallida 'Purple Heart' will tolerate all light levels, including low light but will turn the most stunning deep purple in brighter light. The leaves look dark green in low light, with just a hint of purple. It will happily grow beside a north-facing window, or for the best colour place beside an east- or west-facing window, or within around 1m of a south-facing window.
Devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum) is a reliable plant that will grow in almost any light condition, including deep shade. It won't tolerate bright direct sunlight, which can cause the leaves to fade and burn. For best results, position within 1m of a north-facing window or a few meters of an east-, west- or south-facing window.
ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
I recommend trying to find the black cultivar of the ZZ plant, known as 'Raven'. The new growth is particularly striking, due to its lime green appearance, which makes a dramatic contrast to the almost black mature leaves.
Take extra care when watering house plants in low light. Most don't need to be watered as frequently as those which receive bright light. Only pour in water after checking the plant needs it. The best way to do this is to push your finger deep into the soil and feel for moisture, or weigh the pot in your hands; a pot that feels light indicates a lack of water. Only water plants positioned in low light when the soil has completely dried out to avoid overwatering. In winter, most of our rooms become low-light areas, and you may notice certain plants which usually thrive declining in health. Move all plants closer to the brightest windows in winter to help them get as much light as possible.