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Plants That Grow in the Dark: 5 Great Choices For Dim Areas

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Yes, you CAN grow houseplants with just artificial light and NO window!  Ok, well they can’t quite grow in the dark…but read on.  I have recommendations below and it is based off of past experience so I know it can be done, and it can be done successfully!

plants that grow in the dark

Let’s get to choosing some office plants that don’t need sunlight.

Choosing the RIGHT plant for an area with no window is key.  You can’t just plop any plant anywhere you want and expect it to thrive.

Choose the wrong one for the location, and it will languish and die a slow death.

Fortunately there are a few options even if you have an office area or room with no window. I have personally grown the following with no windows and using just fluorescent ceiling lights.  

Here are my top 5 desk plants that don’t need sunlight:

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky bamboo is probably the easiest plant that you can grow, ever.  See the picture below.

They are normally sold growing in containers that are filled with only water and rocks.  Of course, you can grow them in soil too, but most of the time you’ll only see them growing in water for some reason. Fine.

Simply keep the pot filled with water and you should be good to go for a very long time.  Distilled water is best (room temperature).

You can use tap water and this is really what I do most of the time but eventually you will get hard water deposits and this will start to build up and potentially harm the roots.

You’ll see a white crust start to form on the canes of the bamboo and on the inside of the pot and on the surface of the rocks.  You can scrape this off gently when it occurs.  If you use distilled water, you will avoid this issue.Also, did you know that lucky bamboo is not a bamboo at all? It is actually a type of Dracaena.

A lucky bamboo can survive for years with no fertilizer but it will not thrive.  It will eventually start to turn yellow and lose its vigor.  You’ll see posts everywhere saying they don’t need fertilizer, and this is just plain silly.

If you love lucky bamboo, check out this lucky bamboo fertilizer.  You will thank me later.

Change the water completely every week or two to keep it fresh and clean.  Your lucky bamboo should thrive for years if you follow these tips.

Parlor Palm

So many different types of indoor palms have been a pain in the read end to grow indoors, except for this one!

Parlor Palm, in my experience, is the absolute easiest palm to grow indoors. It is fairly slow growing, but it can get to a nice size over several years.

I’ve had this one, pictured above, in my home by a window for a long time.   However, I’ve also grown them successfully in window-less areas as well.

As a general rule for most plants, make sure the drainage in the pot is good, and water when the top of the soil starts to feel dry to the touch.  

I wish I could tell you to water once a week, but it really depends on how warm or cold your area is, and other environmental conditions.  

Don’t let your calendar tell you when to water! Just feel the surface of the soil with your finger, and if it’s dry, water it!

What ever you do, don’t subject your palm to extremes in moisture. Don’t let it dry out completely, ever. It will quickly turn to a mess if you do so.

The lower fronds will turn yellow and then brown if you continually keep keep it dry.

And don’t let it get waterlogged either. Never let palms sit in standing water for extended periods of time. They can quickly suffer root rot.

My favorite houseplant fertilizer that I use for the majority of my houseplants is Dyna-Gro Grow and you can purchase it on Amazon.

If you are lucky, Parlor Palms will also bloom for you, but it’s doubtful in a window-less area.  I’ve had the one in the picture above bloom regularly but it is next to a window and also is several years old.  

Regardless, they will make a beautiful foliage houseplant for window-less areas!

Devil’s Ivy or Pothos

This is a fantastic plant and is pictured below from an old office of mine (with zero window), along with my lucky bamboo.  The devil’s ivy, or Pothos, is the vine that you see rambling across my old office bookshelves.

At the point when I took that picture, the plant was still pretty small. I even tied clear fishing string on the walls and trained it up the walls!

Pothos is one of the easiest houseplants that you can grow.

Follow the same watering directions that I described under the parlor palm section and you should be good to go.  

Don’t ever let this plant get bone dry, or the bottom leaves will start to yellow and fall off.  If you are attentive to proper watering, you’ll have a monster vine in no time.

plants that grow in the dark

I had regular random hallway walkers at my workplace comment at how shocked they were that my plants were doing so well with no window.

Remember, it’s about the right plant for the right place.  Not the other way around.

Peace Lily

Peace lilies are everywhere, and for good reason. They make amazing low-light houseplants and few plants can tolerate growing conditions that these plants can grow in.

Mine have even flowered in windowless areas!  

Follow similar watering directions as the devil’s ivy. Peace lilies also despise their soil being bone dry.

When they dry out too much, you’ll notice that their leaves will start to droop.  If you notice this, water it immediately and they will perk back up! There are smaller leaf varieties of this, and there are also ones with huge leaves.

The one pictured below is in my home several feet away from a window, and is thriving.  I’ve grown them successfully under just overhead ceiling lights at work in areas with no windows.

These plants will tend to get dusty because of the broad leaves, so periodically, take a damp paper towel and wipe the leaves off. Your plant will thank you.

Or if you prefer, take your peace lily to the sink, bathtub, or to the shower with you, and rinse off the foliage with tepid water.

In addition, if you take good care of it, you will be rewarded with flowers. Some of them are even lightly fragrant.

Check out my blog post on how to take care of peace lilies. it also includes a lot of common problems and how to fix them.

Aglaonema or Chinese Evergreen

Chinese evergreens are also very widespread and you’ll often see them growing in office buildings and malls. There is a reason for this.

They are among the best low-light plants around.

aglaonema chinese evergreen low light plants

Follow the same watering instructions as Pothos and Peace Lily and you should do just fine. Refer to my Aglaonema care guide for more details.

Other Choices

If you don’t particularly jive with any of the plants above, the following should also do well for you in window-less areas:

Heart leaf philodendron (similar in habit to the devil’s ivy, but most of them are just a plain dark green instead of the beautiful, mottled leaves of the devil’s ivy).

Cast iron plant  As the name suggests, these are tough as nails!  I have one at home that my grandmother brought back from Italy decades ago, and she divided her plant up and gave me a piece.  They have large broad leaves and require frequent dusting of the leaves to keep them clean.

ZZ plant.  Another plant that’s as tough as nails.

Snake Plants or Sansevieria are another great option. These are often labeled as low-light plants, but in fact they do better if you give them a little direct sun. However, they can tolerate lower light conditions, but won’t reach their full potential.

Remember, when a plant is labeled “low light” it doesn’t mean that it NEEDS low light. It simply means that it tolerates it. But if you are to grow plants in spaces with no windows, the ones in the blog post are among the best.

If you have sunless windows, check out my selection of hanging plants that don’t need any direct sun.

There ARE plants that you should absolutely avoid placing in windowless areas.

Plants to Avoid Placing in Windowless Rooms

The list is huge, but here are some of the most commonly grown plants that should absolutely NOT be grown in dark or windowless areas. All of these plants need very bright light.

They may look OK temporarily, but they will quickly decline and you should avoid these unless you have a bright, sunny window:

So remember, all plants will do better if they have more light, but if you do want to grow plants in a windowless area, it is possible, but you must choose right ones!


Tuesday 14th of September 2021

For your Plantcare 101, would you please make a single-topic post on light.

So many indoor-plant growers have no concept of survival versus thriving light levels. They try and apply human perception of light which is not a good metric for plants.

You have bits of lighting info scattered throughout various posts but it would be nice to have a more comprehensive one that I can link to when I'm trying to assist people with plant care.

Thank you in advance!


Tuesday 14th of September 2021

That's a great suggestion. I meant to add that to my Plant Care 101 series, but I will definitely write a post about that at some point for sure! Thanks for the reminder. I do talk about light extensively in my upcoming book, Houseplant Warrior, coming out in March. I put a different spin on the "light" chapter to try to open eyes and minds on the topic.