My Best Low-Light Plant Friends

By Teo Spengler | January 19, 2022
by Teo Spengler
January 19, 2022

Low-light houseplants are my favorites. Although my garden in San Francisco is bathed in sunlight most of the day, many of the rooms of the house have small windows. 

But anyone who likes houseplants will find wonderful low-light plants that double as easy-care houseplants. Here are some of my favorites that are just as happy during the winter solstice as they are in mid-summer. Because of their tolerance, I don’t need artificial plant lights during the dark days of winter.

Qualities of Best Low-Light Plants

Most plants prefer some sun – direct or indirect – every day. The best low-light plants are best described as shade tolerant, since they are as happy in bright rooms as they are in corners with less light. 

For some reason, my low-light plants seem to get top marks in almost every subject. These are among the plants named by NASA as best for cleaning toxics from household air and always show up on lists of best plants for beginners. But I didn’t know this when I invited them into my home; I was simply attracted by their cheerful, bright foliage.

Snakes and Spiders 

Many people don’t like either snakes or spiders, and few of us are huge fans. But don’t let the common names keep you from checking out snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) and spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum). Both are easy care and tolerate neglect while offering unusual leaves of exceptional beauty.

Snake plants are striking plants with thick, leathery, stand-up leaves shaped like knives or pointed tongues, the source of their other common name, mother-in-law’s tongue. They are among the best low-light indoor plants around, living for decades but requiring little care. Their preference is partial shade, but mine grow in the bathroom that gets very little light. They were ranked among the top plants for clearing toxins by NASA.

Spider plants look totally different but are also compelling. The plants have multiple, ribbon-like leaves growing from the base of the plant and hanging softly over the sides of a hanging basket. Each leaf is green with a silver stripe down the middle. They propagate by producing long, soft stems with tiny spider plants hanging from the tip. Once the babies develop roots, you can clip them off and plant them in their own containers.

Pothos and Philodendron

Two more of my best plant friends are also known for their tolerance of low-light situations: golden pothos and low-light philodendron. Both have large leaves that look like they belong in a lush, tropical jungle.

Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) thrives in conditions that seem unlikely to even keep a plant alive, including extremely low light and virtually no water. That doubtless plays some role in its popularity, just like it’s reputation for stripping toxins from the air. But the plant is also extremely attractive with abundant smooth, heart-shaped leaves. 

Philodendrons (Philodendron spp.) have the same style leaves in deeper green but they produce longer vines. They also need no special attention and grow happily in extremely low-light conditions.

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