Are you ready to brighten up those shady corners of your home or garden? Look no further! In this article, we’ll introduce you to 30 remarkable plants that don’t need sun to survive. Yes, you heard it right – these botanical wonders have adapted to lower light conditions and will add a touch of greenery to even the darkest spaces.
Whether you’re an apartment dweller with limited window exposure or have a shaded backyard yearning for life, these plants are here to save the day. From elegant ferns and resilient snake plants to colorful calatheas and delicate peace lilies, we’ve curated a diverse collection of shade-loving plants that will transform any gloomy area into a lush oasis.
We’ll dive into the unique characteristics and care requirements of each plant, helping you choose the perfect companions for your sun-deprived spaces. Discover their fascinating abilities to adapt and thrive in low-light environments, and learn how to provide them with the optimal conditions to flourish.
Grow lights are a great option to encourage lush, beautiful growth. Many plants thrive under the whitish-blue light provided by fluorescent lighting. Foliage plants do especially well in these conditions.
To keep your houseplants at their happiest, let the soil dry out before watering, gently wipe the dust off their leaves to allow easy light absorption, and keep an eye out for pests!
1. Begonia Rex | Begonia rex-cultorum
Also known as the Painted-leaf Begonia or Fancy-leaf Begonia
Begonias are naturally suited to low-light. Begonia rex, in particular, tolerates less light than other cultivars. Adored for their beautiful swirling leaves, these vibrant little foliage plants require at least 12 hours of artificial light per day.
Begonia rex has beautiful spiralling leaves, adding interest to desks and tabletops.
Depending on where they’re placed, their care can be a little demanding, but Smart Garden Guide has some great advice on caring for Begonia rex.
2. Nerve Plant | Fittonia albivenis
also known as the Jewel Plant or Mosaic Plant
Nerve plants are ideal house plants that are dainty enough to pop on your desk or side table. These lovely foliage plants don’t need sun to survive; they cope exceptionally well when placed under fluorescent lighting. To keep Fittonia at their best, expose them to some indirect sunlight as well. They are known to faint if their soil gets too dry, but are quickly revived once watered.
The nerve plant will add visual interest to any space; their leaves and veins beautifully contrast in color.
also known as the Baby Rubber Plant, Pepper Elder or Radiator Plant
Peperomia is a large collection of plants from the Piperaceae family. Peperomia plants, such as the watermelon peperomia, make visually interesting tabletop plants. While their cousin, the Chinese money plant, makes a gorgeous little shelf addition. Peperomia is more tolerant of low light conditions than other plants. They’ll flourish when exposed to at least 12 hours of fluorescent light.
The Watermelon Peperomia (left) and the Chinese Money Plant (right) are beautiful additions to shelves and tabletops.
4. African Violet | Saintpaulia
also known as the Usambara Violet
African violets are well-known as attractive, compact houseplants that can survive in the dimmest of locations. They do well under artificial light, thriving when exposed to at least 12 hours of fluorescent light per day. To encourage profuse flowering, increase their light exposure to up to 16 hours daily. African violet varieties such as Saintpaulia ionantha are said to bloom their pretty petalled flowers throughout the year.
African violet varieties have many flower shapes including fluted, cup, star, and frilled.
5. Peace Lily | Spathiphyllum
also known as the Closet Plant
The peace lily is the ideal low-maintenance plant for both home and work environments. They look lovely placed on tabletops and shelves, or in the corner of the room. This attractive, vibrant plant doesn’t need sun for their abundant dark green foliage to thrive, however, the amount of light they receive will determine how often they flower. Peace lilies are content with at least 14 hours of fluorescent light per day.
The peace lily’s “flower” is actually a modified, creamy white leaf that surrounds the flowers.
6. Red Anthurium | Anthurium andraeanum
also known as the Flamingo Flower or Tail Flower
Despite the red anthurium’s delicate, exotic look they are able to tolerate low, indirect light. Anthuriums will grow well under LED lights, requiring about 12 hours of exposure. Their alluring vivid red “flowers” and large dark green leaves add a playful pop of color to any space. Insufficient light will cause stunted growth and fewer blooms.
Red anthurium’s “flower”, just like that of the peace lilies, is a beautiful modified leaf.
7. Air plants | Tillandsia
These trendy little Tillandsia plants don’t need sun to give you a beautiful indoor textural display. Air plants, like all members of the Bromeliad family, prefer indirect light, but they can flourish when exposed to full-spectrum fluorescent lighting alone. To keep their sword-like foliage vibrant, 6 hours of light is sufficient. The amount of light the plants receive affects their growth, color, and shape.
If your air plants are being displayed in a dimly lit room, they appreciate a dose of bright, indirect light every few weeks. Tillandsia ionantha and Tillandsia aeranthos bergeri are low-maintenance, hardy varieties to try.
Tillandsia’s blade-like foliage comes in an array of colors from green, blue, red, pink and purple.
8. Spider Plant | Chlorophytum comosum
also known as Spider Ivy, Ribbon Plants or Hen and Chickens
The spider plant is attractive, resilient, and low-maintenance. They adapt well to a wide variety of conditions including artificial light. Spider plants are satisfied with 6 hours of artificial light per day, but they do look their best when exposed to a mixture of fluorescent and indirect light but are. The Spider plant’s foliage will add life to areas in your home where not much else will grow.
Spider plants spread by sending out offsets (baby spider plants) called “pups”.
9. ZZ Plant | Zamioculcas zamiifolia
also known as the Eternity plant
ZZ plants have gained a reputation for being plants that don’t need sun to survive. They are known to do exceptionally well under artificial light (with no exposure to natural light at all). For them, 14–16 hours of fluorescent light is ideal. ZZ plants earned the name “eternity plant” because they have extremely long lifespans. The ZZ plant’s lush, shiny green leaves add life to dreary, empty corners.
The ZZ plant is forgiving of neglect and tolerant of windowless rooms.
10. Snake Plant | Sansevieria trifasciata
also known as Mother in Law’s Tongue
Another houseplant that doesn’t need sun is the snake plant. They are easy-going, forgiving of neglect and tolerate dim spaces. They survive in artificial light but natural, indirect light is always best. Snake plant’s tall, green and white striped leaves are a spectacular display in any home or office.
The snake plant’s fleshy, pointed leaves stand stiffly upright, giving them a unique appearance.
11. Prayer Plant | Calathea
Prayer plants are perfect for indoor areas and dimly lit buildings. They require about 10 hours of indirect or artificial light per day to keep their leaves vibrant and happy. Not only are there an abundance of varieties, they all have stunning foliage that gradually, but constantly, moves throughout the day (their leaves close at night and reopen in the morning).
Prayer plants have beautiful ornamental leaves that close in the evening.
12. Cast-Iron Plant | Aspidistra elatior
also known as the Bar-room Plant
Cast-iron plants are hardy, as their name suggests. They are slow-growing, low-maintenance, and drought-resistant – pretty much worry-free! These distinctive plants are nearly indestructible (as long as they’re kept away from intense sunlight). A bit of fluorescent light is sufficient to grow the cast iron plant.
Cast-iron plants have long, glossy evergreen leaves
13. Chinese Evergreen | Aglaonema
also known as the Pewter Plant
When it comes to plants that don’t need sun, the Chinese evergreen is found among the most popular choices. They’re attractive, hardy, and notoriously easy to grow, making them perfect for beginners. The greener-leaved varieties, such as Silver Queen, tolerate lower-light indoor locations very well. Young plants are the perfect additions to desks and shelves, while larger, mature Chinese evergreens make stunning floor displays.
Aglaonema’s foliage ranges in color with interesting variegated leaf patterns.
also known as Dumb Cane or Leopard Lily
Dieffenbachia grows well indoors. Their large, patterned leaves make them a wonderful choice for corners, passages, and recesses. They prefer filtered or fluorescent light (12–18 hours per day). They are one of the taller houseplants. However, insufficient light will significantly slow their growth.
Dieffenbachia is toxic. If ingested temporary speechlessness may occur earning the name “dumb cane”.
Dracaena is a large collection of striking, strappy leafed plants.. The varieties range in color and size, suiting tabletops and floor standing pots alike. Their foliage can be variegated or solid in color. They thrive on bright, indirect light but cultivars such as Dracaena Gold Star tolerate low artificial lighting well.
Dracaena is a large genus, all varieties have beautiful, striking foliage.
16. Parlor Palm | Chamaedorea elegans
also known as Neanthe Bella Palm, Good-luck Palm or Victorian Parlour Palm
The parlor palm is a must-have for house plant enthusiasts. They add a touch of elegance and color to dimly-lit areas. These tall, refined plants have arching, feather-like leaves that come from a single slender stem, giving them an airy feeling. They will be happiest in medium, indirect light, or artificial (fluorescent or incandescent) light.
Parlor palms have lush, attractive foliage that fans out.
17. Dwarf Umbrella Plant | Schefflera arboricola
also known as Umbrella Plant or Heptapleurum
These slow-growing tropical bushes don’t enjoy bright direct sunlight and are easy to care for as houseplants. Their palm-shaped foliage of splayed leaves adds quirky character to any room. If they’re situated in an area with little to no natural light, your dwarf umbrella plant will require at least 14 hours of fluorescent light per day.
The dwarf umbrella tree has glossy green compound leaves that may be variegated or non variegated.
18. Money Tree | Pachira aquatica
also known as Malabar chestnut or Saba nut
The money tree became a popular choice due to their beautifully braided trunks. The braid is made up of about five trees, giving the plant a fuller, tidier appearance. They are very tolerant of artificial light and low levels of indirect natural light. Rotate the plant regularly for even light distribution and growth. This long-lived, easy-to-care-for plant is an excellent gift as the money tree is said to bring luck to the owner. A charming addition to homes and offices alike, as small bonsai desk plants or indoor trees.
The money tree has palmate foliage giving them a tropical feel.
19. Fiddle-Leaf Fig | Ficus lyrata
Also known as the Banjo Fig
Found all over the world, the indoor fiddle-leaf fig makes a bold statement. Their huge violin-shaped leaves add a sculptured element to the room. This large houseplant can grow up to 3 m high in the right conditions. They can be a bit fussy as they don’t like to be moved. To keep the fiddle-leaf fig at its happiest, bright indirect light is best. They can thrive under fluorescent or LED light, with at least 6–8 hours of exposure.
Fiddle leaf figs have large, rounded leaves resembling a fiddle.
20. Monstera | Monstera deliciosa
also known as Delicious Monster or Ceriman
These tropical looking plants don’t need sun to add a touch of drama to the dimmer areas in your home. Monstera’s big, wide, deep green leaves thrive in bright, indirect light (including artificial lighting – Monsteraguide.com will lead you in the right direction). If you’re looking for a slightly smaller alternative, Monstera adansonii (Swiss Cheese Vine) is equally beautiful and interesting.
Monstera deliciosa (left) has split leaves while Monstera adansonii (right) has smaller leaves that develop lacy holes as the plant matures.
Philodendrons are exquisite trailing plants with lush green leaves. They can be trained to climb or left to cascade from hanging baskets and shelves. They bring life into workplaces and living spaces. The heart-leaf philodendron, in particular, can tolerate low light well and requires minimal care. A popular choice for offices as they do well under fluorescent lights. If your philodendron begins to develop long gaps between their leaves, this is a sign that more light is required.
One of the most common houseplants found in homes, the philodendron is easy to care for.
22. Pothos | Epipremnum aureum
also known as Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos
Often mistaken for the philodendron, pothos is just as well-loved. They’re another family of low-light tolerant plants that don’t need sun to grace your space with long vines and lush leaves. There are many varieties of pothos, and they all look beautiful in hanging baskets and potted on tabletops. The greener varieties, such as the Jade pothos, will survive well under fluorescent lighting (even if it’s their only light source).
Pothos have lush medium to dark green leaves with creamy “gold” blotches on them.
23. Wax Plant | Hoya
also known as Wax Vine or Wax Flower
Hoyas are attractive, low-maintenance, long-living plants. Their waxy leaves grow in a vine-like nature, they look stunning when trailing from a hanging basket or when trained to grow up a trellis. They prefer bright, indirect sunlight, but have been known to flourish in the fluorescent lighting of your kitchen. Non-variegated species of Hoya do better in dimmer locations. Avoid placing them in cold areas.
Hoya has roots that grow from their stems making them easy to propagate.
24. Christmas Cactus | Schlumbergera
Schlumbergera is just the plant to add a splash of color to your home. Often mistaken for the Zygocatus (or Thanksgiving Cactus), the Christmas Cactus has a softer appearance with rounded edges to their intriguing “leaves”. They adapt well to dim conditions, but will more readily produce their striking pink blooms in bright, indirect light. They can successfully grow with artificial light, however, strong artificial light for extended periods of time will reduce flowering.
Schlumbergera profusely blooms stunning, delicate, vibrant flowers.
25. Goldfish Plant | Nematanthus wettsteinii
also known as Columnea
The goldfish plant is a spectacular hanging plant, especially when in bloom. They produce masses of attractive, colorful flowers that resemble goldfish. They prefer bright, indirect light, but they will also flourish under fluorescent lights. Depending on the species of goldfish plant, their leaves may be thick, variegated, or even hairy.
When in bloom, the goldfish plant produces an abundance of flowers that look like leaping goldfish.
26. Swedish ivy | Plectranthus verticillatus
also known as Swedish Begonia or Whorled Plectranthus
Swedish ivy (Plectranthus verticillatus) has beautiful trailing tendrils of rounded, shiny leaves, adding a vibrant pop of green to dim spaces. They’re easy-going plants that will happily grow under artificial light if there is a lack of natural light in the space. If they receive sufficient light, they will bloom delightful little trumpet-shaped flowers in white or lilac sporadically throughout the year.
Plectranthus verticillatus (left) has glossy bright green leaves, while Plectranthus coleoides (right) has matte variegated leaves.
27. Sword Fern | Nephrolepis cordifolia
also known as Ladder Sword Fern or Fishbone Fern
This popular, luscious fern is an easy-to-care-for plant that can be grown under fluorescent light (normal bulbs will produce too much heat). These plants don’t need sun to survive — they tolerate fluorescent light well but appreciate a bit of bright, indirect light every now and then.
The sword fern is a luscious ornamental fern with upright or drooping fronds.
28. Bird’s Nest Fern | Asplenium nidus
also known as Crow’s Nest Fern
Bird’s nest fern has a lush, upright crown of beautiful, rippled, seaweed-like fronds. They grow best in medium to low indirect light – their leaves flatten out and lose their crinkle when they don’t receive enough light. Artificial light is said to be more than sufficient for your bird’s nest fern’s happiness, making them ideal houseplants.
Bird’s nest fern creates a striking display with their wavy fronds.
29. Blue Star Fern | Phlebodium Aureum
also known as Hare Foot Fern or Golden Polypody
Blue star fern is adored for its blue-green colored fronds. They can be grown under fluorescent light, giving them periodic trips to brighter areas. Perfect additions placed in the centre of the room away from direct sunlight. Harsh sun will cause fronds to yellow and drop.
The blue star fern has a beautiful blue-green coloration making their fronds stand out.
30. Maidenhair Fern | Adiantum
If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, the Maidenhair fern can be fussy in terms of moisture but will reward you with beautiful, lacy fronds given the right conditions. These delicate ferns add a touch of elegance to any room that has bright, indirect light, or receives at least 12 hours of strong artificial lighting.
The maidenhair ferns’ soft, delicate, lacy fronds give them a beautiful airy appeal.
Your plants will communicate with you, giving you signals as to whether they need more or less light. If your plant’s leaves turn pale and their growth slows or stops, you’ll know they need more light. If their leaves become brown and crunchy along the edges, as if they’d been burned, they are receiving too much light. Watch for the warning signs, and if necessary, move or adjust their positions (or grow lights). Before you know it, you’ll be tending to beautiful botanicals in every room of the house!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.