In the Garden:
Lower South
February, 2013
Regional Report

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Colorful or variegated foliage such as this 'Lemon Lime' dracaena add eye catching interest to an indoor setting.

Beautiful Houseplants in Low Light Areas

What we refer to "houseplants" are outdoor plants that happen to be best suited to low light areas. Our eyes can adjust to light levels, making it somewhat deceptive how much light an area receives. Yet most of the areas in our home have very low light intensity; too low for most plants to thrive or even survive. Light is what a plant needs to make carbohydrates, which support growth and plant health in general. So as a plant receives less light it will eventually not be able to maintain a full, attractive appearance.

There are a few plants that are especially well suited for lower light intensity, and there are also some steps we can take to help them along. Here are three suggestions to help you have success with the plants inside your home.

  • Choose plants that can perform well in low light interior areas. If you have an area more than a few feet away from a bright window, some good choices include: Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), peace lily or closet plant (Spathiphyllum), golden pothos ivy, heart-leaf philodendron, and mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria).

  • Move plants to more light when possible. Even if it's just for a few hours a day or for a few days, some time spent in brighter light will help plants replenish their stored reserves. I've clustered a group of plants near a window for a few days at a time or when I'm going to be away for the weekend to recharge their batteries. Just remember that a plant that has been in low light can suffer leaf burn if suddenly moved to a location with direct sun.

  • Don't try to replace light with water or fertilizer. It won't work. Plants need light, water, and nutrients, and you can't make up for a lack of one with another. In fact, in low light conditions your plants will need less fertilizing and less watering. If you keep them too wet they will likely succumb to root rots.


Houseplants are a wonderful way to turn a sterile, boring indoor setting into something beautiful and inviting. Why not take a look around and decide where some new plants would provide just the needed touch?


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