Author, blogger and proclaimed “houseplant guru” Lisa Eldred-Steinkopf follows a rule that if you have enough sunlight in your home to read, you certainly can grow a low-light plant.
In her recent book, “Grow in the Dark,” Eldred-Steinkopf explains that growers should first determine what kind of light accessibility they have in areas of their home where they want to grow plants. In part, that means figuring out which directions your windows face.
While east and west might be best for low-light plants, you can still grow plants in windows that face north, even though these get no direct sunlight, Eldred-Steinkopf explains. Try a cast-iron or other foliage plants here. South-facing windows allow direct sunlight that can burn low-light plants. If you want to grow them here, hang a sheer curtain or move your plants a few feet from the window.
Eldred-Steinkopf’s book also offers tips on ways to encourage growth in low-light situations, for example by washing your windows and screens. Consider taking your screens out until spring, she writes, because they can cut sunlight exposure as much as 30 percent. Also, wash your plants with a sponge and water. If it’s easy enough, you could give them a shower to wash off pet hair and dust.
Like people, Eldred-Steinkopf writes that plants are affected by temperature and generally are comfortable when you are. They’re not a fan of dryness, though, and often naturally thrive in humidity as high as 80 to 90 percent. You can try a humidifier or a pebble tray filled with water to soak the air around the plant. Although misting can be therapeutic for you, this isn’t really great for plants because it just gets the leaves wet and that can turn into a breeding ground for pests.
The latter part of Eldred-Steinkopf’s book explores 52 different plants for low-light conditions. Here are two of those plants that Eldred-Steinkopf recommends:
Arrowhead VineThese plants appreciate bright light, and they work well in windows facing east, north or west. Southern exposure might cause the leaves to burn.
You might notice this plant tending to lean toward the light. If so, rotate the plant a quarter turn every time you water it.
It does have thin leaves, so to keep the plant from drying out too much — especially if it’s sitting in a windowsill above a heating vent — keep it on a pebble tray or near a humidifier.
Although these plants do prefer medium or bright light, they’ll tolerate low light perfectly well so long as they’re not over-watered.
The soil should be dry before you water again. If you place it in a bright location, be prepared to water it more frequently. Just make sure the plant isn’t sitting in water because that will kill it.
ZZ PlantLike the snake plant, this one prefers medium to bright light. But it’s still beautiful in low-light settings.
“If you have a dark corner in which every other plant has perished, this is the solution for you,” Eldred-Steinkopf writes in the book.
Heartleaf PhilodrendronAlso known as the Sweetheart vine, this one is pretty well-known as a common houseplant. You can place this plant in a northern exposed window, but it’ll probably do best in an east-facing window or a few feet out from a west window. It’ll forgive you if you forget to water it. When you do, note that it prefers to be moist, not wet.
It’s best to keep it away from southern exposure, which might burn the leaves.