In this article, we will be discussing houseplants that seem not to mind being in the shade at all time. Not every home has bright enough areas where a vast array of houseplants can be grown. This is either because your windows are north-facing or that you have tall structures or trees that cause your home to be in constant shade.
You know the type of home where the first thing you have to do when entering is turn a light switch on. This could even be in the middle of summer.
So often many plants struggle in dark conditions, and houseplants are no different. Saying that some plants can thrive in dark conditions, but very few will survive.
If it is so dark that you cannot see any distance in front of you, then do not expect houseplant to survive. For a plant to do well at all, you must have lighting levels that make reading text possible. In general, most plants that are grown are leafy plants, as flowering production is generally reduced in poorer light conditions.
Plants are funny things, especially houseplants, as often they need light of a certain brightness to do well but at the same time not too bright to cause the plants’ leaves to get scorched or the bright colours to fade.
What follows are plants that do not mind growing in shady conditions. Although these plants can be grown in the shade, it does not mean it is their preferred way of growing in.
ARAUCARIA HETEROPHYLLA (Norfolk Island Pines)
This is a characteristic fir that has beautiful green frond-like branches. This is one plant that likes a big container to grow in, as it can reach 2m in height. The plant is useful for cool, airy parts of the home, even north-facing windows, out of direct sunlight.
Water moderately in summer, sparingly in winter, If you want to prevent the foliage from shedding, you will need to occasionally mist.
To prevent rapid growth do not be quick to repot and do not fertiliser too much. If it gets too big, you can prune back, but this spoils the appearance of the plant.
ASPIDISTRA ELATIOR (Cast Iron Plant)
This plant needs no introduction as it is well known amongst houseplant enthusiasts. It has glossy green leaves that are lance-shaped and grows to points. The variegated form is more attractive, as it has cream-striped green leaves. The plants only grow up to 30cm in height, so can be kept anywhere.
This is one plant that can be given a cool, draughty, shady position with ill effect.
Although it gets its common name because it can take neglect and ill-treatment. Better care results in better-looking plants. Water sparingly at all times since the plant is a slow grower. It will survive tremendous watering fluctuations from neglect to overwatering.
Feed moderately during the growing season to get the plant to look its best. Use a leaf-shine product and keep dust-free. One plant that does not like to be touched frequently.
AUCUBA JAPONICA (Spotted Laurel)
This familiar plant to outdoor gardens can be grown as a houseplant. It has glossy, spear-shaped, green and spotted yellow leaves. It is a hardy shrub and therefore can be grown in the chilliest or draughtiest places, even in poor light, with no harm. The plant can eventually reach a height of 2m plus and need a big container to grow in. No matter what space it grows in, it must be cool and given space to grow; not suitable for stuffy locations.
Plants can be kept in check by pruning back in spring, If you keep the plant slightly pot-bound and not fertilise too much, then rapid growth can be kept in check. If they get too big for indoors, they can be planted in containers outdoors, so a versatile plant.
Do not allow the plant to dry out completely or leaves may fall. Water moderately in summer, less so in winter. Can be placed outdoors to get a drenching by the rain.
EUONYMUS JAPONICUS (Japanese Spindle Tree)
This small shrub has several dwarf, compact varieties that have dainty, variegated leaves and makes fine houseplants, only growing up to 30cm in height. If you want to keep it compact, you need to keep it checked by not changing pot sizes frequently.
It is a hardy plant that does well in chilly places and can take some shade. Some varieties are known spreaders but in general little space is required. Not a difficult plant to look after and can be usually left to grow with little interference.
To keep it from growing too high, you can prune it in spring. Dwarf varieties do not need much feeding. Keep the compost moist at all times, including winter, so that the roots do not dry out.
X FATSHEDERA LIZEI (Tree Ivy)
This is a houseplant that was bred from crossing a hedera and a Fatsia. It has five-lobed, glossy, cream-green, variegated or monochromatic green leaves. A plant that can be trained as a climber or it can be grown as a bush, where it can reach up to 2.4m in height. This is a hardy plant, which prefers to be grown in a cool, shady position.
An easy plant to grow, where it can be cut back from time to time. Any exposure to sunlight will cause wilting.
Water generously all year round, apart from winter where it should be watered more sparingly.
FATSIA JAPONICA (False Castor Oil Plant)
This is a familiar outdoor plant that has large, glossy palm-like leaves that give homes a tropical feel. A cream variegated form exists to give an even more exotic look. It is a hardy plant, ideal for cold and draughty placed. If you give it a big enough container, it can grow up to 2.5m high or more. The variegated form is more tender and is slow-growing, therefore more suitable as a houseplant.
It is a very easy plant to grow and look after. The plant is slow-growing at first and can be kept relatively small pots for many years. Appearance greatly enhanced by treating with leaf-shine. To keep growth in check, feed moderately throughout the growing season. Water freely in summer, more sparingly in winter.
As you can imagine ferns do like a shady area but they will not be discussed here, as you can read my article on palms and ferns to see which one is suitable.
HEDERA HELIX (Ivy)
There are many forms if the common ivy that makes ideal houseplants, They are attractive foliage plants that can be grown as climbers or trailers. The leaves come in a vast number of leaf shapes, sizes and colours.
Ivies in their natural inhabitant are climbers using strong, aerial root to grip on surfaces and pull themselves up. Because of this trait, they can be trained to grow on a spiral or circular form. The stems should be loosely tied to the chosen frame to climb and grip on properly.
The problem is that where the plant touches it leaves marks, especially on bare walls, which can be difficult to remove.
The best way to show them off is as a trailing plant. Grow them in a hanging basket or on top of a high shelf in a pot to show off the stems.
Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’ and ‘Diamond’ are best to use as trailers.
Ivies are hardy and will happily grow outdoors, so this indicates their growing preference. Grow them in a cold, draughty and poorly lit location that is not to warm. Overheating in winter will cause the plant to deteriorate. This means rooms with central heating can be a problem. So cool conservatories are the best place to put them in.
The only problem is that green forms of ivy can be kept in shady locations, whilst variegated forms revert to green leaves in low light.
If you have ivy in a warm room, you must keep the humidity high by misting or placing the container over a large tray of moist gravel.
This is particularly important in summer. Plants placed outdoors in a shady spot during summer tend to look healthier.
As stems get older they will start to lose leaves at the base. To deal with this, simply remove older stems. You will then need younger stems to develop.
Water normally in summer and less so in winter. Humidity must be kept high in summer and normal for the rest of the year. Feed once a month when in growth and no more to avoid excessive growth.
MARANTA LEUCONEURA (Prayer Plant)
The common name comes about as the leaves fold up like hands in prayer at night. It is a compact plant growing up to 20cm in height, There are three types with neat habits and oval, colourful leaves. ‘Massengeana’ has a herringbone pattern with black spots like a domino.
‘Kerchoveana’ has bold brown-green blotches, ‘Erythrophylla’ has a beautiful rose-pink, vein pattern.
The colour of the leaves is so often boldly patterned with stripes and blotched of browns, yellows, reds and dark green. They prefer to grow in warm, humid and shady conditions.
Bright sunlight fades colours and the plant will suffer if placed in a spot that receives even a small amount of direct sunlight. In winter, prefers to be grown in a lighter position, but still away from direct sunlight,
Keep the compost moist at all time. Humidity must be high in summer and need a dry atmosphere in winter.
Will survive quite low winter temperatures, if it is kept dry. The leaves may turn brown and deteriorate, but new leaves soon appear when returning to normal warmth and watering. Feed well when the plant is in active growth.
PHILODENDRON SCANDENS (Heart Leaf)
A very popular houseplant that can trail or climb, with dark green, pointed, heart-shaped leaves, where it can grow up to 1.8m.
It is best to train these plants up a moss stick support (a stick that is covered with sphagnum moss). These plants must be attached securely and the moss kept moist at all times by spraying the moss stick with water. Liquid foliar feeds can be applied so that the aerial roots can penetrate the moss and be fed at the same time.
In warmth and high humidity, the plant is a vigorous grower. But in other conditions, it will grow steadily, which may be desired.
Can survive in cool or centrally heated homes where the air is dry. Needs a large container to show it full potential but will tolerate shade.
The compost must be moist at all times, which is regulated according to the room temperature.
RHOICISSUS RHOMBOIDEA (Grape Ivy)
This is a climber that has dark green, glossy leaves that are made from three diamond-shaped, irregular-edged leaflets coated with fine brownish hairs whilst the leaves are young. Can grow up to 1.8m in height.
A plant that needs strong support, otherwise the whole plant will collapse. Pinch out growing tips to encourage branching and to discourage fast, upward growth. Large plants can be kept on check by cutting back stems in spring.
Grow it in a cool, airy location in poor light such as halls, stairwells, foyers etc, but nowhere where it gets good light.
Water generously in summer with an occasional misting, only slightly moist in winter.
RUELLIA MACRANTHA (Brazillian Trumpet Flower)
This is a houseplant that has a shrubby habit, with spear-shaped, rough-textured, green leaves. In January to spring, large, rose-purple, trumpet-shaped flowers appear. It can grow to a height of 90cm if it is planted in containers that are large enough (i.e 20cm in diameter).
Grow in a container full of multipurpose compost where charcoal has been added to keep it fresh. Always keep this plant well watered.
Grow it in a warm, humid location in the shade. Does not like chilly, draughty rooms and it does not like dry air produced by central heating.
Not an easy plant to look after unless you provide the ideal growing conditions that can be met all year round. Feed whilst the flowering buds are forming.
RUELLIA MAKOYANA (Monkey Plant)
This is a low-growing houseplant that tends to ramble. It has spear-shaped, olive-green leaves that are purple below. It has contrasting cream-green veins and produces silvery deep-pink flowers.
It requires moderate warmth, humidity and shade, and no draughts. Does not occupy much space and is useful as a top of shelf plant, if it is not sited too high above eye-level when plants are allowed to tumble over the pot edge.
A houseplant compost is ideal, but some added grit is ideal to promote better drainage.
The compost must be moist all year round but in winter it must be only slightly moist.
During spring and summer, feed with a balanced liquid-fertiliser to give the plant a growing boost.
SAXIFRAGA STOLONIFERA (Mother of Thousands)
This is a trailer that only grows up to 30cm high. It has circular, velvety leaves that are green with white veining and are purplish below. On the end of long red stems, little plantlets start to form. The form ‘Tricolor’ has attractive variegated leaves that are yellow, green and pink. It is less vigorous than normal varieties and it is not happy on cold conditions.
Grow it in shady, airy and cool conditions but not below freezing temperatures. Grow it on top of a shelf where the young plantlets can be admired. It cannot thrive in constant shade because this will cause weak growth. Conversely, if it is paced into too much bright sunlight, the leaf colours will be bleached.
Feed moderately throughout the growing season and water generously in summer. In winter reduce your watering back severely.
TOLMIEA MENZIESII (Pigy Back Plant)
This is a very easy plant to look after and to propagate. It is a 15cm tall, clump-forming houseplant with maple-shaped, green leaves that are covered with bristly hair. At the junction of the leaf blade and stalk, tiny plantlets grow, so it can self propagate itself.
If a large container is given, it will soon spread over the surface where the plantlets root when it touches the compost.
If you look after the plant well, long stems of greenish-purple flowers appear in summer. Grow this hardy plant in the cold parts of the house, where the sun will not shine.
Can be grown in pots at shelf level, where the leaves and plantlets can be admired and it does not take too much room. Feed regularly from spring to autumn, whilst keeping the compost moist at all time. Reduce watering rates in winter.
In this article, houseplants that do well in the shade in the home have been discussed. If you want plants to brighten up dark corners of the room, or if you want to grow plants in a north-facing windowsill then these are the plants for you.
Although most are leaf plants, there are a few plants that will produce blooms. So you are not reliant on leaves to bring beauty to your home.
Do remember, when we are talking about plants in the shade, we are discussing growing locations where text can be comfortably read and no darker.
If you have any questions or comments that are casting shadows over you, please do so in the comment box below.
Bring your houseplants to the darker side.