Thomas J. Story
Low light takers (clockwise from top): Spathiphyllum 'Domino', Aglaonema 'Emerald Star', Rhapis excelsa

10 good choices for low or bright light

Steven R. Lorton  – October 17, 2007

Growing plants indoors is a bit like raising pet fish. While a collection of exotic tropical specimens can be a real challenge to care for, almost anyone can keep a bowl of goldfish alive indefinitely. Here, then, are the goldfish of the indoor plant world―10 house plants that Sunset’s garden staff, professional growers, and interior plantscapers have found to be easy to grow and forgiving, should you miss a watering. Of course, the more attentive you are to their basic needs, the more rewarding they’ll be to have around.

The plants we list should be given a generous container filled with a rich, all-purpose potting soil that provides good drainage. Water often enough to keep the soil evenly moist. Feed monthly with a complete houseplant fertilizer, following label instructions. Clip off dead foliage. Every couple of months, set the plant in the shower and spray the foliage with tepid water to wash off dust. Repot plants with fresh soil every two or three years, unless noted.

Plants that tolerate low light are usually happiest near an east- or north-facing window. Those that prefer bright light do well in dappled sunlight but not direct sun.

Four That Take Low Light

Aspidistra elatior

As its common name implies, cast-iron plant is a real toughie and very drought-tolerant. Bearing glossy dark green leaves, 1 to 2½ feet long and 3 to 4 inches wide, cast-iron plant may eventually reach 3 feet tall. Plants with white- or gold-variegated leaves are available.

Six That Like Bright Light

Dracaena marginata

Prized for its sculptural form, this plant’s erect stems eventually reach 12 feet tall. Spiky leaves, up to 2 feet long and ½ inch wide, are glossy green with purplish red margins; rainbow dracaena ( D. m. ‘Tricolor’) has a gold stripe.