As a houseplant owner, providing your beloved plants with the right amount of light can be a real challenge. This can feel almost impossible in homes and offices that aren’t blessed with abundant natural sunlight. However, the truth is that most houseplants are originally native to tropical rainforests. These plants usually grow on the shady forest floor and have adapted to thrive without direct sunlight. In this article, we’ll show you 40 fantastic plants that don’t need direct sunlight to grow.
- The Role of Light in Plant Growth and Development
- Types of Indoor Light Explained
- 40 Houseplants That Will Thrive Without Direct Sunlight
- 1. Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’
- 2. Aloe Vera
- 3. Anthurium
- 4. Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum)
- 5. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
- 6. Bromeliads
- 7. Cast-Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
- 8. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema spp.)
- 9. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.)
- 10. Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
- 11. Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
- 12. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
- 13. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia spp.)
- 14. Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia x amazonica)
- 15. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- 16. Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
- 17. Leopard Lily (Dieffenbachia seguine)
- 18. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
- 19. Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)
- 20. Neon Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’)
- 21. Nerve Plant (Fittonia spp.)
- 22. Orchids (Orchidaceae)
- 23. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
- 24. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)
- 25. Peacock Calathea (Calathea makoyana)
- 26. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)
- 27. Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
- 28. Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
- 29. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
- 30. Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)
- 31. Cylindrical Snake Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)
- 32. Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii)
- 33. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- 34. Staghorn Fern (Platycerium spp.)
- 35. String of Nickels (Dischidia imbricata)
- 36. Silver Inch Plant (Tradescantia zebrina)
- 37. Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia)
- 38. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
- 39. Zebra Cactus (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
- 40. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
- Plants That Don’t Need Sunlight FAQs:
- The Best Plants for Low Light Homes and Offices
The Role of Light in Plant Growth and Development
Unlike humans, plants can actually make their food within their own bodies through photosynthesis. Plants can absorb sunlight due to the green pigment in their leaves, which is known as chlorophyll. This solar energy is mixed with carbon dioxide and water to create the sugars needed to power the plant’s growth.
Plants depend on sunlight for their growth and development, but that doesn’t mean they need direct sun all the time. The right amount of light varies for each plant. Getting too much or too little sunlight can negatively impact a plant’s growth.
The leaves can burn if a plant gets too much direct or intense sunlight. Too much sunlight also causes yellowing foliage, depleting the plant’s chlorophyll levels and hampering its ability to absorb sunlight. This is especially dangerous for younger, softer leaves.
If a plant doesn’t receive enough sunlight, it won’t be able to absorb as much light to produce the sugars it needs. This lack of fuel can cause stunted or leggy growth. Any leaves that do emerge are likely to be small and weak.
Houseplants that have darker foliage can usually tolerate shade better than other plants. The dark green leaves of these plants contain greater amounts of chlorophyll b. This allows the plant to make the most of the available light in low-light conditions.
Types of Indoor Light Explained
Making sense of the different types of indoor light can be a real headache, especially for novice plant parents. The type of light usually depends on the aspect of the nearest window – basically, how the room faces the sun.
Low-light or Full Shade
Full shade means that very little sunlight reaches nearby plants. Rooms with north-facing windows typically experience full shade. Full shade may occur if the room’s windows are small or sunlight gets blocked by other buildings. Few plants can truly thrive in full shade.
Medium-light is usually referred to as dappled shade or partial shade. This type of light replicates the jungle floor, where most of the sunlight is blocked by taller trees. Medium-light conditions mean that while the plant does receive some sunlight, it also experiences a fair bit of shade.
Bright Indirect Light
Bright indirect light means bright sunlight that has been filtered so that it’s less intense. Rooms with east or west-facing windows get bright indirect light for most of the day. Situating plants further away from the window or using filters like net curtains also creates bright indirect light.
Bright Direct Light
Bright direct light means that a plant is fully exposed to the sun. This isn’t good for most plants because the light is too harsh, causing leaves to fade. South-facing windows typically experience bright direct sunlight.
40 Houseplants That Will Thrive Without Direct Sunlight
Here we’ve listed 40 types of houseplants that will happily tolerate those low light conditions in your home or office.
1. Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’
Aglaonema ‘Silver Bay’ is an ornamental cultivar of the Chinese evergreen genus (Aglaonema). ‘Silver Bay’ has large beautiful green and silver leaves and can grow up to 2 feet tall. Most types of Aglaonema plants are happiest in partial shade and are pretty easy to care for.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe plants are renowned around the world for their medicinal properties. These succulents originate from arid and tropical regions of Arabia. Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years as a skin treatment and is still widely used today.
Aloe vera produces thick gray-green leaves with small white serrated spines on the edges. It works well as an ornamental houseplant. Aloe vera can tolerate shade, especially if you live in a hot climate.
Anthuriums are a large, diverse group of tropical plants in the Arum family. These stunning plants are also known as the flamingo flower or laceleaf. Most Anthuriums perform very well in shady conditions.
Some varieties, like Anthurium andraeanum, have glossy red or pink spathes – specialized leaves that attract insects – and creamy-white flower spikes. Other types, like Anthurium clarinervium or Anthurium crystallinum, possess large, velvety heart-shaped leaves with striking silver or white veins.
4. Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum)
Arrowhead plants (Syngonium podophyllum) are fantastic low-maintenance houseplants belonging to the Arum family (Araceae). Their arrow-shaped leaves come in various colors and patterns but are predominantly green.
Arrowhead plants grow as trailing vines that can reach up to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. These plants grow very well in shaded conditions, although they do best in bright, indirect light. Arrowhead plants are native to the tropical jungles of Latin America.
5. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Most ferns thrive in full shade, and the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is one of the most popular varieties. Boston ferns are native to humid, tropical areas of the Americas, including Florida and Mexico. As houseplants, Boston ferns prefer partial shade or bright indirect light.
Boston ferns produce a mass of long, sword-shaped green fronds with frilled edges. Boston ferns may also help purify the air in your home by removing formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene.
The Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae) contains over 3,500 species of plants, although not all are grown as houseplants. Bromeliads are great low-light plants because they usually thrive in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Most bromeliads produce stunning rosettes of glossy, succulent-like leaves.
Some of the most popular bromeliads include Aechma bromeliads, earth stars (Cryptanthus spp.), and Guzmania bromeliads. Bromeliads can provide a range of benefits such as purifying the air or reducing stress.
7. Cast-Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Cast-iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) are one of the hardiest houseplants known to man. Cast-iron plants could even survive the poor air quality of Victorian homes. What’s more, these plants are extremely low-maintenance and can tolerate a degree of neglect.
Cast-iron plants are native to Japan and produce large, blade-like dark green leaves. These dark leaves mean that cast-iron plants are well-suited to growing in partial or full shade.
8. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema spp.)
Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema spp.) are a group of striking tropical plants from the Arum family. These plants are indigenous to tropical parts of China, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand. Chinese evergreens thrive on the forest floor of jungles and can grow in partial or full shade.
Most Chinese evergreens have green blade-like leaves with various beautiful patterns. One of the most popular species, Aglaonema modestum, scored high marks in NASA’s Clean Air Study.
9. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.)
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.) are a small group of cacti native to parts of south-eastern Brazil. Unlike desert cacti, a Christmas cactus is happiest in humid, shady conditions. In the Northern Hemisphere, these plants flower during the winter, hence the name.
10. Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
Corn plants (Dracaena fragrans) grow on the hillside slopes of tropical Africa. These members of the Asparagus family (Asparagaceae) can tolerate droughts, making them extremely hardy. Corn plants can thrive in most lighting conditions as houseplants, including partial shade.
Corn plants produce glossy sword-shaped dark green leaves with yellow-green margins. These plants have green segmented trunks. Corn plants are also good at purifying the air in our homes, making them excellent houseplants.
11. Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) is one of the most popular trailing houseplants. Native to French Polynesia, these prolific plants have spread across Asia, Australia, and parts of Africa. Also known as golden pothos, Devil’s ivy is a perfect beginner houseplant because it’s incredibly hardy.
Devil’s ivy produces stunning green heart-shaped leaves peppered with light green flecks or streaks. The foliage never loses color, even when grown in partial or complete shade.
12. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
Dragon trees (Dracaena marginata) are closely related to the corn plant and have virtually identical care. Dragon trees are native to Madagascar and grow best in partial shade. They require moist soil and warm temperatures to thrive indoors.
Dragon trees have glossy clusters of slender blade-like leaves. The foliage is typically green but does sometimes have red edges. Dragon trees have slender trunks and make an excellent statement plant.
13. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia spp.)
Dumb canes (Dieffenbachia spp.) is a genus of tropical plants in the Arum family. These plants thrive in the shady jungles of Central and South America. Dumb canes are toxic and may impair the ability to speak if consumed – hence the unusual name.
Dumb canes have large elliptical dark green leaves. Several variegated varieties are available with striking creamy-white patches on the leaves. Dumb canes grow best in warm, humid, shady conditions.
14. Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia x amazonica)
Known as Amazonian elephant’s ear (Alocasia x amazonica), elephant’s ear is a unique, popular houseplant. It’s a cultivar from the Alocasia genus. The large, wrinkled leaves of these plants look similar to the ear of an elephant.
Elephant’s ear plants have dark green, almost black glossy leaves with thick white veins. The leaves have an arrowhead shape with wrinkled edges. Elephant’s ear plants love low-light conditions and thrive in partial or full shade.
15. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
English ivy (Hedera helix) is one of the most common and popular low-light houseplants. These prolific trailing plants belong to the Araliaceae family and are indigenous to Europe and western parts of Asia. English ivy is extremely low-maintenance and is great for beginners.
English ivy can grow well in partial shade but performs best when given bright indirect light. In addition, English ivy can be trained to achieve a stunning ornamental effect as a trailing plant.
16. Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
Kentia palms (Howea forsteriana) are popular members of the palm family (Arecaceae). In the wild, Kentia palms can grow up to 33 feet tall, with fronds reaching over 10 feet long. These palm trees are native to Lord Howe Island – a tiny island off Australia’s east coast.
Kentia palms make excellent statement houseplants and first became popular during Victorian times. Although they prefer bright indirect light, Kentia palms also grow well in partial shade.
17. Leopard Lily (Dieffenbachia seguine)
Leopard lily (Dieffenbachia seguine) is an impressive variety of dumb cane. Like other Dieffenbachia varieties, the leopard lily is native to tropical regions of Central and South America. Leopard lily plants love the shady, humid conditions on the bottom of the forest floor.
These plants boast large dark green leaves with horizontal white streaks fanning out from the center of the leaf. What’s more, Leopard lily plants can grow up to 10 feet tall.
18. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) may not be an authentic bamboo, but it’s thought to bring good luck. As such, lucky bamboo is an extremely popular plant in feng shui. However, it originates from Central Africa rather than China.
19. Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)
The money tree (Pachira aquatica) is another well-known, low-maintenance feng shui plant. Money trees are native to Central and South America and are believed to boost positive chi or energy in the home. They typically grow in swamps and other wetland habitats.
Money trees often have twisted trunks and smooth grayish bark, creating a unique appearance. What’s more, Money trees can grow pretty well in partial shade but do best with bright indirect light.
20. Neon Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’)
The neon prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’) is a gorgeous, vibrant cultivar of the prayer plant. Neon prayer plants have oval-shaped dark green leaves with intense light green patterns and veins. At nighttime, the leaves curl up as if they’re praying before unfurling in the morning.
Neon prayer plants are indigenous to the tropical rainforests in Brazil. These beautiful houseplants can grow quite happily in partial shade, although they do prefer bright indirect light.
21. Nerve Plant (Fittonia spp.)
Nerve plants (Fittonia spp.) are small, striking plants that hail from the tropical rainforests in South America. Peru is the central heartland for these low-growing, spreading plants. Nerve plants prefer partial shade over bright light and grow best in a well-draining soil mix with regular watering cycles and humid environments.
Nerve plants have relatively small leaves covered in brightly colored veins. Common colors include red and white, allowing these plants to add some subtle color to even a tiny space. The most common species is Fittonia albivenis, which offers an array of uses and benefits. For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position nerve plants in the home for optimal care and feng shui benefits.
Whilst nerve plants aren’t considered toxic or poisonous to pets and humans, it’s prudent to wear a pair of protective gloves during any form of plant care as they do have tiny hairs on their stems that may cause mild irritation.
22. Orchids (Orchidaceae)
Orchids (Orchidaceae) are a diverse group of colorful flowering plants. Most types of orchids have beautiful flowers and a range of meanings and symbolism. Most orchid species are native to Asia, Australia, and Indonesia.
The most common types of orchids grown as houseplants include moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), Dendrobium orchids, and Vanda orchids. Although orchids are generally considered somewhat tricky to care for, they can thrive when given the proper care. Most orchids will thrive in partial shade.
23. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Parlor palms (Chamaedorea elegans) are gorgeous houseplants that bring a tropical feel to any room. Parlor palms are native to the rainforests of Guatemala and southern Mexico. Wealthy Victorians used parlor palms to impress house guests by placing them in the parlor, hence the common name.
Parlor palms have beautiful, lush foliage and can grow up to 9 feet tall. These palms are relatively slow-growing and prefer partial shade or bright indirect light.
24. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)
Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.) are some of the most popular houseplants on the market. Peace lilies typically originate from Asia or South America, depending on the species. Spathiphyllum wallisii is one of the most well-known species.
Peace lilies have gorgeous dark green leaves, and breathtaking white flowers called spathes. Peace lilies are happiest in partial shade. These tropical plants are also great at purifying the air and scored well in NASA’s Clean Air Study.
25. Peacock Calathea (Calathea makoyana)
Even among calatheas, the peacock calathea (Calathea makoyana) stands out. Peacock calatheas are also known as the peacock plant or ‘cathedral windows’ due to their spectacular patterns. These calatheas are indigenous to eastern Brazil.
Peacock calatheas have large green leaves with dazzling patterns and a hint of red underneath. Like most calatheas, the leaves curl up at night and unfurl in the morning. Peacock calatheas grow best in partial shade with some morning sun.
26. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)
Heartleaf philodendrons (Philodendron scandens) are incredibly vibrant and hardy houseplants. These philodendrons are native to the Caribbean and parts of Central America. Heartleaf philodendrons love the partial shade and humid, warm conditions.
Heartleaf philodendrons have deep green heart-shaped leaves. They can grow up to 20 feet tall in the wild. As houseplants, they’re equally happy climbing up a moss pole as they are trailing from a hanging basket. Heartleaf philodendrons also make excellent plants for beginners.
27. Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
Rattlesnake plants (Calathea lancifolia) are one of the most beautiful calatheas available. These calatheas are native to Brazil and grow up to 2 ½ feet tall. Rattlesnake plants do best in bright indirect light, but direct sunlight can cause their color to fade.
Rattlesnake plants have wavy, sword-shaped green leaves with darker green markings. The undersides of the leaves have a slight purple tone, making the rattlesnake plant extremely gorgeous.
28. Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
Rubber plants (Ficus elastica) are popular houseplants thanks to their stunning foliage. Rubber plants usually have green and yellow leaves, although the ‘Robusta’ cultivar has pure dark green foliage. Variegated varieties can also be found.
Rubber plants are native to South Asia but have spread to Florida and parts of the West Indies. These plants get their common name from the latex that oozes when the plant is cut. Rubber plants prefer bright indirect light but also do well in partial shade.
29. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
Sago palms (Cycas revoluta) are a popular indoor palm option to add tropical vibes to your home. Sago palms are also known as Sago cycads and are indigenous to southern parts of Japan. These palms have beautiful dark green fronds that fan out from a central trunk.
Sago palms are used a lot in botanical gardens because they can tolerate fairly cold temperatures. Sago palms thrive in partial shade and prefer a bit of morning sunlight.
30. Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)
The dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) is a small member of the Schefflera genus. It’s native to China and Taiwan. It’s a popular evergreen houseplant that likes partial shade or bright indirect light.
Dwarf umbrella trees have glossy green leaves with a slightly leathery texture. In their native habitats, dwarf umbrella trees can grow up to 30 feet tall. Dwarf umbrella trees make great houseplants because they can survive a little bit of neglect.
31. Cylindrical Snake Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)
Also known as the African spear, the cylindrical snake plant (Sansevieria cylindrica) is a popular and unique variety of snake plants. Cylindrical snake plants are indigenous to Angola in Central Africa. These plants are drought-tolerant, allowing them to survive in arid environments.
Cylindrical snake plants have rounded tube-like succulent leaves that taper to points. The foliage is dark green with black or grayish markings. Cylindrical snake plants do best in partial shade or bright indirect light.
32. Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii)
Variegated snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii) are one of the most popular varieties of snake plants. Like most snake plants, this variety is native to parts of western Africa. Thanks to their succulent spear-shaped leaves, variegated snake plants can survive periods of drought.
Variegated snake plants have green leaves with black horizontal markings and yellowish-green edges. These succulents can thrive in either partial shade or bright indirect light, making them very adaptable houseplants.
33. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Few houseplants are as popular as spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum). These forgiving plants are great for beginners because they have easy care requirements. Spider plants are native to southern parts of Africa.
Spider plants have long blade-like leaves that gradually droop down to create a bushy appearance. The foliage is grayish-green with either white edges or inner stripes, depending on the variety. Spider plants love either bright indirect sunlight or partial shade.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the best positions for spider plants to thrive in the home or office.
34. Staghorn Fern (Platycerium spp.)
Staghorn ferns (Platycerium spp.) are a group of 18 ferns found in Africa, Australia, America, and parts of Asia. Platycerium bifurcatum is the most common species and thrives as a low-light houseplant.
Staghorn ferns have unique foliage shaped like elk or stag horns. These plants are usually epiphytes and grow while attached to other trees. You can even display a staghorn fern on a piece of wood rather than growing it in a pot.
35. String of Nickels (Dischidia imbricata)
The string of nickels plant (Dischidia imbricata) is a trailing epiphyte native to the rainforests of southeast Asia. These cute trailing plants cling to a host tree, creating a green waterfall of small pebble-shaped leaves.
The string of nickel plants absorbs moisture from the surrounding air, so it needs to be misted more frequently than watering. Because these plants thrive under the forest canopy, they grow well in partial or full shade.
36. Silver Inch Plant (Tradescantia zebrina)
Silver inch plants (Tradescantia zebrina) are extremely beautiful and popular houseplants. These prolific trailing plants are indigenous to parts of Central America such as Colombia and Mexico. Silver inch plants are perfect for hanging baskets.
Silver inch plants have masses of small elliptical bluish-green leaves with silvery stripes. The undersides of the leaves are purple and have a coating of fine gray hairs. Silver inch plants grow best in bright indirect light or partial shade.
37. Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia)
Watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) are characterful houseplants that grow well in bright indirect light or partial shade. These plants come from parts of South America, such as Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Despite their name and appearance, these peperomias are not related at all to watermelons.
Watermelon peperomia plants have fleshy green oval-shaped leaves with silvery streaks. This gorgeous patterning resembles the flesh of watermelon fruits. Watermelon peperomias are manageable plants and are well-suited for beginners.
38. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Weeping fig plants (Ficus benjamina) are small indoor trees that thrive in partial shade or bright indirect light. When growing outdoors in tropical areas, weeping figs can reach nearly 100 feet tall. Weeping figs are native to Australia and parts of Asia.
Weeping figs have glossy green oval-shaped leaves and smooth, gray bark. These plants can also help purify the air and are especially good at absorbing harmful chemicals like formaldehyde.
39. Zebra Cactus (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
Also known as zebra haworthia, the zebra cactus (Haworthiopsis attenuata) is a spiky succulent that grows well in slightly shady conditions. These succulents hail from South Africa and can tolerate periods of drought. They also grow well in bright light.
Zebra cactus plants have spiky dark green leaves covered in white bumps. This contrasting appearance resembles the stripes of a zebra. Like other cacti, these succulents need a well-draining growing medium to avoid becoming waterlogged.
40. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
The ever-popular ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is an incredibly adaptable houseplant that originates from central and eastern parts of Africa. These plants are also known as Zanzibar Gem and can handle droughts, so they’re good plants for beginners.
ZZ plants produce upright stalks from a large potato-shaped rhizome underground. These plants have smooth, glossy dark green leaves and are extremely hardy. ZZ plants grow best in partial shade or bright indirect light but can handle full shade if necessary.
Plants That Don’t Need Sunlight FAQs:
Can a plant survive in a room without windows?
Although plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, some plants can survive in rooms without windows if necessary. Snake plants and ZZ plants are good choices for windowless rooms.
Can plants grow under artificial light sources?
Plants are more than capable of growing under artificial light sources. Grow lights are an excellent substitute for windows if necessary, but sunlight is always the best option whenever possible.
Do plants in low-light environments grow slowly?
Plants usually grow more slowly in low-light environments because they aren’t getting as much sunlight to fuel new growth. Plants in low-light conditions also use less water, making them grow more slowly.
Can snake plants live without sunlight?
Snake plants are capable of living and growing without access to sunlight, but not for long periods. Even in shady locations, snake plants should still receive some form of light.
Can monstera plants live without sunlight?
Although monsteras can live without sunlight for short periods, their growth rate will be extremely slow. Monsteras grow best in bright, indirect light, or partial shade.
The Best Plants for Low Light Homes and Offices
Even if you live somewhere with small windows and low-light conditions, you can still enjoy having plenty of houseplants. Many plants, such as devil’s ivy, snake plants, or ZZ plants, can survive and even thrive in low-light conditions.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.