Not every area in your home is well-situated to receive “full sun” — but that absolutely doesn’t have to mean that those shady nooks and crannies have to remain barren! Indoor gardening enthusiasts who would like that shady home office, the hallway, or their guestroom, to be filled with greenery to the brim can absolutely make that happen.
To make sure you can work with, rather than against, nature, however, you do need to make sure to choose plants that naturally love growing in the shade. Luckily for you, many popular and gorgeous houseplants, including some that are especially low-maintenance, originate in the tropics.
While we’re indeed talking about exceptionally warm, humid, and sunny regions here, these plants usually grow below dense tree canopies — which means they crave the cooler shade.
Are you stuck? Is your only hard and fast requirement that the houseplant(s) you pick must be able to grow in the shade? Garden Beast is here to help — and at least one of the amazing houseplants on this list has got to strike your fancy!
How Do We Define Shade-Loving Plants?
Every houseplant has unique care requirements, and those care requirements have to mimic the cultural conditions the plant would encounter in its native growing zone. You might think that you know what “shade” means, but because the botanical definition may differ from your own, we’ll have a quick look at the definition anyway.
- Plants that need “full sun” to thrive depend on a minimum of six hours or daily bright sunlight. Some need more, and you’ll find that information easily, too, including in Garden Beast‘s plant guides. Most plants fall into this category, and that’s exactly why finding shade-loving plants can be a bit of a challenge — especially if you’re hoping to see gorgeous flowers.
- Plants that require partial sun or partial shade to hold onto their mojo don’t just need two to four hours of sun exposure every day — they usually want it in the morning. These are usually plants that may be damaged if they’re exposed to bright sunlight during the sun’s hottest hours, and they want to be shaded during the afternoons.
- Dappled sun means sun filtered through the (often fairly dense) foliage of taller plants or trees. Many houseplants that hail from tropical or subtropical regions require dappled sun, and that often makes them perfect for areas in your home where a large tree is growing right outside the window. Blinds can also, however, achieve a similar effect.
- Plants that come advertised as thriving in full shade do still require at least two hours or sun exposure every day, while some even need four.
Many houseplants have, however, adapted to grow in diverse conditions. They may tolerate partial sun, dappled sun, or even deep shade. When grown in deep shade, these houseplants may not bloom — but if you are growing a houseplant for its amazing foliage, you may just be OK with that!
With that refresher course out of the way, you are probably ready to hear what gorgeous houseplants tolerate shade and definitely deserve a spot in your home! Let’s get to it!
1. Elephant Ears (Caladium)
The elephant ears, or caladium, is known for its incredible foliage with its heart-shaped leaves, which come in a range of gorgeous variegated shades, making this houseplant a popular choice for any plant lover. Caladiums are tropical perennials that belong to the Araceae family. The variegated leaves of the caladium can come in many different shades, depending on the variety, though some of the more common colors are green, white, pink, and red.
With over a hundred different cultivars, there’s certainly going to be one that catches your eye! If you’re interested, some of the more popular caladium variants include:
- Caladium ‘Freida Hemple’, a variety that offers stunning large leaves with a red center that fades into a purple color with green edges.
- Caladium ‘Pink Symphomy’, an utterly beautiful caladium variety with pretty pink leaves that have dark green veins and edges.
- Caladium ‘June Bride’, which has nearly completely white leaves with green veins and will look majestic in any home.
- Caladium ‘Gingerland’, a cultivar that comes with variegated green leaves with big splotches of creamy-white and splashes of red and pink.
Elephant ears love warmer climates because of their tropical nature, but don’t do as well in direct sunlight. In fact, putting a caladium in a spot with lots of sunlight could damage its fragile leaves! When considering where to place your elephant ears plant, try to pick a spot where it will get partial shade or dapple. Plant the caladium in a well-draining and nutrient rich soil for best results. Regularly water it, whenever you notice that the top layer of soil is dry, as failing to water it can cause the leaves to turn a yellow color and even die.
Do be careful when handling a caladium, as this plant does cause contact dermatitis! These wonderful plants are also, unfortunately, toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and children.
2. Flame Violet (Episcia Cupreat)
Episcia cupreat, better known as the flame violet, is a very sweet little perennial with a creeping growth habit that is famous for its gorgeous large ovate leaves. These leaves, which can come in multiple variegated shades of green and may even be orange or purple, are the flame violet’s defining feature — but these South American plants also give rise to bright orange to red flowers. One look at this plant, which belongs to the Gesneriaceae botanical family, will tell you exactly where the name “flame violet” came from!
Flame violets are very popular houseplants that can thrive in a wide range of conditions, but they definitely prefer partial sun to full shade — being happiest when they get two to six hours of sun, preferably in the morning. Besides that, these wonderful houseplants also need:
- A lot of water! These thirsty plants aren’t drought-resistant at all, and will hate you if you forget to water them, but won’t get angry if their soil remains moist for a time. Don’t keep them waterlogged, though, as flame violets aren’t immune to root rot and other fungal problems.
- A watchful eye, as flame violets can sometimes fall victim to aphids and mealybugs.
- Fairly humid indoor conditions, so if your home has especially dry air, the flame violet will benefit from a humidifier.
- A fertilizer program for houseplants, to allow the flame violet to produce an abundant bloom that will brighten up that shady room!
Episcia cupreat does not have to be pruned and is generally a joy to grow and care for.
3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
The peace lily, which belongs to the Spathiphyllum family, is another sought-after houseplant that thrives in shade. Peace lilies sold as houseplants are usually hybrids, and when grown outdoors, they typically grow to be up to three feet (a meter) tall. The best thing about this houseplant is, without question, the fact that the peace lily gives rise to artful white spadix flowers that may make an appearance twice a year. Indoor gardening enthusiasts who are hoping to grow a showy plant that will bloom for much of the year may have a winner on their hands in the peace lily.
When it is grown as a houseplant, the peace lily needs:
- Slightly more sunlight than they would in their native tropical growing zones — six hours of dappled sunlight would be perfect.
- A rich and loose soil that is rich in organic materials and has a slightly acidic pH level.
- A modest amount of watering, as peace lilies are especially sensitive to soggy soil. Err on the side of underwatering, allowing the top inch (three centimeters) of soil to dry out before watering the peace lily again.
- By the same token, it’s exceptionally important for the soil your peace lily grows in to be well-draining, and the tray underneath the pot should be emptied regularly.
- A temperature above 55 °F (12 °C) to survive. This sweet plant prefers a temperature range of 65 to 80 °F (18 to 27 °C), meanwhile, which perfectly lines up with room temperature.
- Slow-release fertilizer pellets once a week during its growing season to encourage the plant to grow strong and healthy flowers.
No matter your aesthetic preferences, there’s a peace lily cultivar that’s just right for you! Indoor plant parents who are looking for smaller flowering plants than grow in the shade should look into getting a Spathiphyllum ’Power Petite’, while the ‘Golden Delicious’ variety is famous for its fresh green foliage.
4. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
This fabulous houseplant is sure to get your spidey-senses tingling! It’s no surprise that the spider plant is a popular choice as a houseplant, because its striking long vibrant green, or variegated, leaves are a great addition to any home. They may have gotten their name from the small “spiderettes” mature plants grow, which resemble spiders — these can even be used for propagation.
Are you a fan of the spider plant? Any eager spider plant owners should know that:
- Spider plants will grow best in dappled sunlight, so a spot next to a window with blinds could be a great place to grow this pretty plant.
- You should water your spider plant regularly, making sure that the soil is moderately moist but not soggy. Overwatering this plant could lead to root rot and kill your beloved spider plant. When watering your spider plant, you should also know that it doesn’t like water with chlorine and fluoride, which can cause its tips to brown. Choose distilled water to be on the safe side.
- Though the spider plant can technically grown in many different types of soil, it does best in well-draining loamy soil with a neutral pH level.
- Keeping your spider plant in a warmer and more humid area will be best for it. Try to avoid any temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
The parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is native to South America and has been a popular choice among indoor gardeners in search of impressive palms for a long time. While these palms won’t live up to their full potential when they’re grown indoors, you can still expect a towering plant that grows to be up to six feet (two meters) tall! The parlor palm should be placed near a north-facing window, where it can get some, but not a lot of, filtered sunlight every day.
Ready to take a parlor palm home with you? To give this majestic palm the care it deserves, make sure that:
- You water the parlor palm only occasionally, as Chamaedorea elegans is especially sensitive and will quickly begin to develop problems if it is overwatered. Allow the soil to dry out before you offer it any more water!
- You can offer the parlor palm the right temperature range. This plant prefers temperatures that range from 65 to 80 °F (18 to 27 °C) and will cope fine with realive humidity levels between around 40 and 50 percent, which are found in most households.
- Feed the plant fertilizer just twice during its growing season. In the winter, when the plant goes dormant, it will not need to be fertilized at all.
- You pick a well-draining soil mix, though the parlor palm isn’t choosy about soil type or pH level.
- You only repot your parlor palm when that becomes absolutely necessary. The intricate root system the parlor palm develops is very sensitive, and repotting always comes with a risk. When you do decide to repot your parlor palm, take great care not to damage the roots.
6. Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana)
Also called Christmas Kalanchoe or Widow’s Thrill, Flaming Katy belongs to the Crassulaceae — which makes it a succulent — and features beautiful intricate orange to red flowers, which can bloom multiple times a year. This shade-loving succulent is a very budget-friendly houseplant that’s easy to take care of. Though many people stop caring for Flaming Katy when its blooms wane, this plant can be your new best friend if you can give it just a little TLC.
To care for Flaming Katy properly, you will need to:
- Place your Flaming Katy in a spot where it will receive partial shade — a few hours of direct sunlight each morning will be more than sufficient for this delicate succulent.
- Make sure that you can give your Flaming Katy the right temperature range; this houseplant prefers a temperate environment of 50 to 70 °F (10 to 22 °C).
- Give it a houseplant fertilizer every few months, because Flaming Katy is a moderate feeder.
- Water your Flaming Katy around once a week, and even less during the winter period. These succulents thrive under a regime of benign neglect and will not die on you even if you forget to water them sometimes, making them quite suitable for beginners.
7. Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
One of the reasons pothos is such a popular houseplant is because it is extremely easy to grow and take care of. This makes it a great choice if you’re not exactly the best at taking care of plants, and you’re looking for a pretty plant that can last — even if you don’t have much time to take care of your pothos. No matter your skill level, the pothos is sure to be a lovely addition to your home.
Some pothos variants can come with striking variegated leaves of all sorts, and most plant enthusiasts admire these ones the most. This doesn’t mean that the regular vibrant green leaves aren’t pretty too, and in fact, some pothos variants have wonderful bright green colors that look like they belong on a tropical frog!
If you are looking for a specific variety with gorgeous leaves, great choices include:
- ‘Neon’, which might not have variegated leaves but its neon green vibrant shades still make it an amazingly beautiful plant.
- ‘Manjula‘, which will offer you wonderful white and green variegated leaves with interesting wavy edges!
- ‘Jessenia‘ grows more slowly compared to other varieties, and has green variegated leaves with white areas.
Pothos will grow well in a variety of light levels, as partial shade, deep shade, or dappled sunlight can all be fine for these winners. Though it is important to note that while pothos can do well in deep shade, too much shade could turn your prized variegated leaves to a solid green color.
This plant will do fine in just about any soil, with a basic well-draining potting soil doing the job. Pothos doesn’t like overly moist soil, and the soil should be left to dry between watering sessions.
Many philodendrons, including the sought-after Philodendron melanochrysum, better known as the black-gold philodendron or melano plant, are ideal houseplants for shady spots. These gorgeous, though unfortunately rather expensive, plants originate from tropical South America, where they are used to the dappled sunlight provided by larger vegetation. What’s more, philodendrons are easy-going plants that even beginners can successfully take care of.
Before you choose to invest in a philodendron (or beg everyone you know for a precious cutting, of course), it’s important to get to know these popular houseplants a little better. Any philodendron will need:
- Indirect sunlight — so place your philodendron in a spot that gets some indirect sun in the morning, but that receives lots of shade or dappled sun in the afternoon.
- A rich soil high in organic matter, which you can supplement with a nice balanced liquid fertilizer to keep your philodendron strong and healthy.
- Quite a lot of water, because as tropical plants with impressive foliage, philodendrons are nearly always thirsty. Despite that fact, philodendrons do not like soggy or perpetually moist soil and should always be placed in a well-draining soil. Do not forget to empty the tray underneath your philodendron’s pot, either, as a tray full of stagnant water can easily lead to root rot.
- Nothing special in terms of humidity requirements — your home is already a great place for your philodendron, and you will not need to add a humidifier to keep a philodendron happy.
9. Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura)
The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) has uniquely striking fleshy variegated leaves that make it especially beloved among indoor gardeners — and the tricolor variety, which has crimson nerves, is at the top of most people’s wanted lists. It may seem like nothing can cause the prayer plant’s strong leaves to falter, but it’s earned that particular name because the foliage folds up (like praying hands) during the night!
Gardeners who only have sunny spots available are out of luck, because the prayer plant’s leaves are easily damaged by the sun’s harsh rays when it gets too much sun exposure. You, on the other hand, are looking for houseplants that grow in shade — and this plant, also called cathedral windows, love indirect sun to partial or even deeper shade!
Just be sure to:
- Water your prayer plant often, without allowing the soil to become waterlogged.
- Keep the prayer plant comfy by offering it temperatures between 60 and 80 °F (16 and 27 °C), with normal household humidity levels.
- Offer the prayer plant a liquid houseplant fertilizer every two weeks during its growing season.
Although prayer plants produce small flowers in the wild, indoor gardeners are unlikely to ever see them — but the gorgeous foliage more than makes up for that!
It’s unquestionably true that most plants thrive in full sun — so outdoor gardeners who are looking for the best plants to grow in their shady areas will have a little bit of a challenge.
Many houseplants that have stood the test of time and remain popular were “selected” for their ability to grow in a wide variety of conditions, though, including in the shade. These great shade-loving houseplants are just the tip of the iceberg, and plant lovers only have to keep on exploring their options to find out what other gorgeous plants can thrive in shady conditions.