A few weeks ago we talked about plants that would do well in an east window. Let’s continue around the house and talk about some plants that will live in a north window. Take into account that I’m talking about north windows with unimpeded views; no trees, awnings, buildings, or window coverings blocking the small amount of ambient light coming in the window. If it is a true north window, it will never receive any direct sunlight. Late in the summer, it may get some west light, but it isn’t much. The plants that will do well, will most likely not produce flowers and will have large green leaves to catch as much light (food) as possible. Let’s get started.
One of the best plants for a low-light situation is the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). I have stated it could probably be grown in a closet but don’t try it. It can grow in low light and also doesn’t need to be watered that often because it has large rhizomes under the potting medium that hold water. I’ve seen some dead ZZs but usually because they were kept too wet. The architectural, dark green, glossy leaves make it an exceptional plant.
This isn’t the easiest plant to find, but you might run across one as you shop, as it is becoming more popular. This plant has big heart-shaped leaves that can definitely take low light conditions. This is a newer plant to me and I love it. It is in my sunroom in the north window and is doing well. I try not to let it dry out completely and it is rewarding me with new leaves and has flowered (looks like an aglaonema flower).
The ubiquitous pothos shouldn’t be overlooked if you have a north window or a place without a ton of light. The golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) will most likely lose its yellow markings in the low light of a north window, but will still do okay. The ‘Cebu Blue’ pothos, on the other hand, prefers low light and is a darker bluish color if it is in lower light. Keep them both evenly moist, not letting them completely dry out, yet not keeping them too wet. Both scenarios can cause yellowing leaves and/or brown tips.
Silver Satin Pothos
I cannot say enough about the silver satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus). It really does well in a low-light situation. Though mine is technically in west window light, it is about 4 feet from a small window and doesn’t get much light. I also have the ‘Jade’ version in my bedroom and it is more than 6′ from a small south window and is doing fine. Their thick leather leaves make them quite drought tolerant and even if they wilt will usually come back with a good drink of water.
Though the aspidistra I’m showing you above would probably do better in more light than a north window has to offer, this isn’t the most common aspidistra you will find. If you purchase the plain green version (Aspidistra elatior), it will live in a north window with no problem. This is also called a cast iron plant and for good reason. This is a hardy plant that will take low light and doesn’t need any special treatment. Don’t keep it too dry or standing in water and it will be fine.
Ferns are used to shady woodlands and some of the tropical ferns are epiphytes on trees in the jungle. They are used to shady areas, so most will do well in a north window. Don’t let any fern dry out completely and keep the humidity high and they should do fine.
Arrowhead Plant or Syngonium
Though I think syngonium plants will do okay in a north window, they will quickly turn and lean toward the light, so turn them often. Don’t let them completely dry out as this could result in crispy leaves and tips. Keep the humidity up with a humidifier or a pebble tray.
Many have problems with calatheas, and even though they can be a bit challenging, the striking foliage makes them a plant to try. Keep the plants evenly moist and use distilled or rainwater if possible as they do not like the fluoride. Keep the humidity elevated.
I can’t say enough about aglaonemas. They range in colors from green to pink to red. The newer colorful versions may prefer more light than a north window will offer. The older varieties will do well as they are mostly green and have been used in low-light interior landscapes for years. Keep them evenly moist.
There are so many peperomias out there to choose from. I visit a local boutique here in Michigan and they have the Peperomia obtusifolia scattered throughout the store and I was surprised by how little light they had and still looked good. It is a succulent so if they are in a low light situation, they will also need less water. Let them dry out almost completely before watering again.
The grape ivy or Cissus rhombifolia is a vine that can work on a trellis or in a hanging basket and would look great hanging in a north window. Keep it evenly moist and be prepared for it to become quite a large plant that will reach out and wrap its tendrils around whatever it can.
There are so many different varieties of dieffenbachia and the more green ones will do better in a lower light situation. The one above with all the white in its leaves would probably prefer a bit more light, but it is easy to find the greener plants. Keep it evenly moist and be aware the dieffenbachia is toxic to animals and humans.
The parlor palm is so called because the Victorians displayed them in their parlors. Those rooms weren’t usually flooded with light and often had heavy draperies closed to keep the rooms warmer. These palms seemed to do just fine. Don’t get the idea that because this palm will take lower light conditions that all palms are the same. Most palms would prefer higher light situations, so make sure you get the Chamadorea elegans or parlor palm when shopping. Keep it evenly moist and the humidity elevated to keep the spider mites at bay.
Prayer Plant -Maranta
There are a few different varieties of prayer plants and they all will grow in the north exposure. Keep them evenly moist, elevate the humidity, and use distilled water or rainwater if possible to avoid fluoride exposure to the leaves if you have city water. This will give the plant brown tips and spotted leaves. Keep it evenly moist.
Though these plants are often used outside in mixed containers in the sun, you may have noticed that often they look a bit yellow. They would prefer a lower light situation. I’ve had one on the back of the toilet tank in my bathroom for a couple of years and it stays a nice dark green color and is doing great with just a bit of light. It isn’t growing in leaps and bounds, but I am fine with that. I let it dry out quite a bit because it has big fleshy roots that hold water. Don’t let them completely dry out, though, or those needles will yellow completely, drop, and leave a mess on the floor. Trust me on that.
I have learned to love marimo balls. These little green fuzzy spheres naturally grow on the bottom of freshwater lakes in Japan and so are used to living in low light. These are perfect plants for a north exposure. Put them in a unique glass container, keep the water clean, and enjoy these unique plants!
Peace lilies (Spathipyllum) are a plant that MAY bloom in a north exposure. Most flowering plants would find a north window would provide too little light for them to produce blooms. The peace lily on the other hand might surprise you with a bloom. Keep it moist at all times to keep it happy and healthy.
I hope if you have a north window or even just a low light area in your home, you can find a plant that will work in that spot, and this list should help. If you want some more low-light plant suggestions you can order a signed copy of my book Grow In The Dark here.
Have a great week, plant friends!