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Top 10 Low-Light Plants to Add Life to Your Apartment



April 10, 2024


When living in an apartment, it’s challenging to get a dash of greenery added to your space. For those in a home, whether it be renting in Chicago or owning in the suburbs of Glenview, they have the benefit of selecting places around the house that have the best light. For most apartment renters, you’re subject to the light that comes in through your window and whatever direction it’s facing – which often means no direct sunlight. But why should apartment renters miss out on incorporating greenery into their space? ApartmentGuide has created a list of the top 10 plants for apartments with low light to help you in enhancing your space.


Our plant and flower experts are here to bring you a treasure trove of tips and tricks for growing hardy plants in less-than-stellar conditions. Before skimming the list and running out to the plant store, read on to learn more about tips in care, considerations, and decorating.

Top 10 plants for apartments with low light


1. ZZ plants

By far the most recommended plants for apartments with low light were the ZZ plants. "ZZ plants (zamioculcas zamiifolia) are versatile and aesthetically pleasing plants, and they serve well in spaces with low light conditions,” shares Michelle Thomas of Michelle Thomas Design. “Their glossy, dark green foliage and upright growth make them eye-catching additions to any room. Beyond their decorative appeal, ZZ plants also offer functional benefits such as air purification and stress reduction. Whether used as focal points, accents, or space fillers, their versatility makes them a popular plant that will thrive in low-light conditions." For Casey of Tioga Gardens Inc., the ZZ is also a favorite. “Also known as EZ ZZ, ZZ’s bring industrial elegance with strong, upright form and shiny, intensely green leaves. Plus, with recent introductions like ‘Raven’ and its gothic aesthetic or ‘Lucky’ with its bubbly charm, there is likely a ZZ to please anyone.”

As for the care needed, ZZ plants are a breeze. “The ZZ plant is known for its ability to tolerate low light and is very drought tolerant,” shares Jennifer Hihn of River Plant Co.


2. Cast-iron plant

Cast-iron plants provide a vibrant shade of green and are perfect plants for apartments with low light. Native to Japan and Taiwan, this plant is often used as training material for the seika form of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement.

Similar in color and care to the ZZ plant, the cast-iron plant is another great addition to an apartment with low light. “Two beloved houseplants in my collection flourish in low-light settings: the ZZ plant and cast-iron plant,” says Melissa Ross of Modest Muse Interiors. “Not only are these plants incredibly resilient, but they also boast stunning beauty. The fresh leaves of both plants emerge in vibrant green hues, creating a striking contrast against the deeper green of their mature foliage and adding captivating depth to their appearance.”

Jennifer Hihn of River Plant also recommends the cast-iron plant, saying, “This plant is known for its ability to thrive in low light and is very hardy.”


3. Snake plant

Native to tropical West Africa from Nigeria east to the Congo, the snake plant has become a household favorite. Also known as sansevieria trifasciata until 2017 when it was recategorized under the genus Dracaena, snake plants have many names including mother-in-law’s tongue, Saint George’s sword, and viper’s bowstring hemp. Emma McCue of White River Nursery believes snake plants are perfect for low-light conditions and are easy to care for. “Snake plants can be kept in rooms with very little light and only need to be watered lightly about once a month,” she says. Jennifer Hihn of River Plant seconds this by saying, “Snake plants are known for their ability to tolerate low light and be very low maintenance.”

Plants in the Dracaena family, like snake plants, make exceptional additions to rooms desiring a larger piece of greenery. David of The Plant Gays recommends, “If you are looking for a larger plant, the Dracaena family make great statement plants for an empty corner.”


4. Bromeliads

New York City interior designer Jarret Yoshida writes that bromeliads are a favorite indoor low-light plant. His grandparents were tropical farmers that raised bromeliads for sale in the shade of an enormous mango tree on the Big Island. Bromeliads thrive in shady environments at the bottom of the tropical forest canopy. They come in all kinds of colors and stripes, some with ombre fades, and their high contrast flair is fashion runway-worthy, making them the perfect accent for any room needing visual oomph. Robert Robertson, owner of Expression Flowers, seconds the idea of incorporating bromeliads saying, “These tropical beauties produce striking, long-lasting flowers and thrive on bright, indirect light.”


5. Peace lily

Native to tropical regionals of America and southeastern Asia, try the popular peace lily, also known as a Spathiphyllum, or "Spath," for a touch more of color with their pretty white flowers.

“It is believed that keeping this plant in your house makes your surroundings calm and positive,” advises Katie and Kerry of Ridgefield Floral & Gifts. “They also purify the air around them and regulate humidity. This plant is low in maintenance and feng shui approved! True lilies are poisonous to cats and dogs, but the peace lily is only mildly toxic to humans and other animals when ingested. If you forget to water once a week, the spath will droop slightly to remind you! They thrive in low-lighted areas.”


6. Anthurium

Anthuriums are also favorite plants for apartments with low light. “Known for its heart-shaped flowers, anthurium blooms in shades of red, pink, or white,” says Robert Robertson of Expression Flowers. Who doesn’t want blooming flowers in their space?

“With their large, shiny, heart-shaped blooms, your home will have a tropical feel,” shares Ridgefield Floral & Gifts. “Anthuriums typically enjoy a moderate, room temperature environment, or one that's a tad on the warmer side. They prefer indirect light, average to high humidity, and a well-draining potting soil to keep them moist. Under those conditions, anthuriums are quite easy to look after.”


7. Begonia rex

If you’re looking more for a plant with flowers and color, the begonia rex is a great choice. Native to Arunachal Pradesh and Southeast China, this plant is perfect for someone looking for vibrance without work. “They are extremely easy to care for,”

says Emma McCue of White River Nursery. “Just put them in a spot that receives a small amount of light and water when the top layer of soil becomes dry.”


8. Calatheas

If you’re in the market for something a little more challenging to take care of, try a member of the Calathea genus. “There are multiple varieties, and their beautifully patterned leaves will bring a burst of energy and visual interest,” shares Ellen Fonesca of Blythe Interiors.

Mariah from Tioga Gardens is also a big fan of calatheas. “‘Rattlesnake’ to ‘rosy’ calatheas bring color and movement, along with rugged durability even in dark and dry conditions. Perfect for the on-the-go apartment lifestyle.” When it comes to care for calatheas, Michael Sheek of Wing Haven has you covered. “Generally, these plants will require watering once a week, but let the top half inch to one inch of soil dry before watering again,” he says. “The key to success is keeping the soil moist, but not overly wet, and make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom.”


9. Pothos

No longer part of the Pothos genus but still referred to as such colloquially, epipremnum aureum are great plants for apartments with low light. “Pothos is a versatile plant that can thrive in low light and is great for hanging or trailing” advises Jennifer Hihn of River Plant.

“For new plant owners and new apartment dwellers, my absolute favorite is the golden pothos or marble queen pothos. These are likely the best plants for any space in the PNW” says Shaun Murphy of Indoor Sun Shoppe.

Pothos plants don’t require much maintenance. In fact, one of the quickest ways to kill this plant is by watering too much and smothering it.


10. Aglaonema

Commonly known as Chinese evergreens, aglaonema is a genus of flowering plants native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and New Guinea. “Aglaonema is great in a low-light environment,” assures Jungle & Loom LLC. “They can adjust to fluorescent light and have lots of variety and color options. They don’t need water frequently so you can go on vacation for a while and this plant will make it out alright.”


How to begin your search:

When you’re just starting to embark on your plant parent journey, it can be daunting to know where to begin. Above all, the most important piece is to ask questions. “Starting your search at your favorite flower shop is a great idea,” says Robert Robertson of Expression Flowers. “It’s a place where you can explore various plant options and get personalized advice. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about plant care. Flower shop staff are usually knowledgeable and can provide valuable insights.”

Start slow when you begin this journey. It can be exciting and you may want to get a ton of new plants all at once, but consider starting with one or two and really learning how to care for them before expanding your collection. And of course, pick plants that resonate with you. These are going to be new members of your household, so enjoy the process of finding who to bring home.

Once you get your new family member home, Jaimi Peach, floral designer for Flowers & Home has some tips for choosing a planter. “When buying a nursery-potted plant, it's best to leave the plant in the container the nursery has used and just add your own non-drainage planter of your style so that it will be easier to control the drainage and have a healthier and longer living plant. Repotting the plant into a new planter is not needed. You can always add moss, extra mulch, or even rocks to the top of the soil to add to the look. As far as adding color to your space, I would use a decorative planter to brighten the look and add a personal touch.”


Tips on care for your new plants:

Caring for your new plants is by far the scariest part at first, in addition to considering how their presence changes your space. If you have pets or small children, which plants you pick becomes a little more choosy. Below are some final tips to help you along in your new journey.

Plants with pets: “Consider pets when introducing plants to a space. Some types can be harmful if digested, but rarely cause more than an upset stomach. Plants add warmth, dimension, and texture to a living space. They are a welcome sight in any home.” - Mike Brandt, owner of Anything Grows.

Water less: “One trick to keep plants happy in low-light spaces is to water less frequently; for most plants, if you stick your finger in the soil and it still feels wet, you should wait to water it. Plants in low light also grow more slowly, and as a result, they need less fertilizer and don’t need to be repotted as often. Basically, give your low-light plants a little patience and remember, you’re not in the jungle!” - Brandon of Underhill Plants.


Use moisture meters: “Using inexpensive moisture meters increases success dramatically by reducing overwatering. Also, make sure each potted

plant is placed on a water-proof saucer otherwise your flooring will be destroyed.” - Robert Bell of Camarillo Nursery.


Plant placement: “Plants are a wonderful way to bring a bit of soul as well as color to a house or apartment, though it is important to make sure that a live plant can actually survive (and hopefully thrive) in the spot where you choose to place it. A good way to think about plant placement in one's home is to get on the level of the plant and look out of the closest window to see how much of the sky the plant can see – hopefully it is a great view! Even for plants that have been dubbed 'low-light tolerant' they still need to photosynthesize to survive, which means they need light. Consider moving plants closer to windows, or amending with grow lights.” - Reba Hamilton, owner of Virgil’s Plant Shop.

Tropical plants and indirect light: “There is a huge misconception that all plants need sunlight. Most tropicals actually don’t want direct sunlight. If you think of where most tropicals grow or come from, it’s the rainforest, where there are millions of trees that prevent the sun from ever getting through. Under the canopies of these trees is where most of these plants grow. As long as you have ambient light and water the plants correctly there are a large number of plants that actually do well in lower light areas.” - Felix Navarro of The Juicy Leaf.

How to select plants for low light with their leaves: “When selecting plants for low-light areas, opt for those with darker foliage, as they are generally more adapted to absorb light efficiently. Regularly checking the soil moisture and avoiding overwatering are crucial care tips, as low-light plants often require less water." - Almanac Planting Co.


Adorn your space with flowers

Plants aren’t the only way to brighten up your space! If you’re looking for something a little more colorful, try incorporating fresh flowers into your room. "Fresh flowers and living plants make a huge difference to bring vitality into a space with limited light,” shares Nate Golter, co-owner of Longmont Florist. “According to a study by Rutgers University, fresh flowers have been shown to have a short and long-term positive effect on mood – I'll add, especially if you live in a space that feels dark or dull. My wife and I have a subscription for two matching flower arrangements in our home delivered every other week, and we get so many compliments! I prefer keeping the arrangements limited to one or two dominant colors to match the seasons.”


If purchasing fresh flowers is challenging due to cost or access, there’s a neat alternative that Ellen Fonseca of Blythe Interiors would like to share. “When it comes to florals, we're big fans of dried flowers and stems,” she says. “They'll bring color and an organic feel to your home while being virtually maintenance-free.”



Using plants elevates the vibe: Whether you’re living in a studio apartment in Chandler or renting in Dallas, learning about and incorporating plants for apartments with low light is a fantastic way to bring a sense of calm and serenity into your space, in addition to improving the quality of your air. According to Kamille of Kubode, “Selecting easy-to-care-for plants for low-light environments can enhance brightness and create a welcoming atmosphere; placing them in bright, reflective pots further amplifies this effect."

Incorporating greenery and florals into your home will add an instant mood boost and calming feel to your space. Plants can also be used to fill out the space in your apartment. “If you have an empty corner in a room, consider an olive tree or ficus (like a fiddle leaf fig) to bring added visual greenery and interest,” recommends Ellen Fonseca of Blythe Interiors. “Plop them in a cute seagrass basket or ceramic vessel for an earthy, homey vibe. Plants and florals should be sprinkled throughout your home to create a cohesive feel and displayed at varying heights for visual balance. Coffee tables, entry consoles, built-in shelves, islands, mantles or hanging from the ceiling are all fun places to add a pop of greenery.”

So if your space is lacking in light, bringing some life into the space is a creative way to brighten up the room.


Additional favorites:

If you’re looking for some additional plants for apartments with low light to explore, Chris H. Olsen of Botanica Gardens and Plantopia has provided an extensive and categorized list of favorite plants that require minimal light, add color, and only need to be watered once a week. Check below for additional favorites. You might see some familiar names!


Upright:

· Chinese evergreen

· Dracena warneckii 'lemon lime'

· Bromeliads

· Fire stick pencil cactus

· Peperomias

· Lyrata ficus


Low Grower:

· Neon and variegated pothos

· Wire vine

· Variegated hoya



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