Best shade loving plants: 7 indoor plants that don't mind the dark

Looking for the best shade loving plants to cheer up a dark room? These indoor plants will tolerate low light

shade loving plants: Pachira aquatica
(Image credit: Wyevale Garden Centres)

Want the best shade loving plants? First of all, the term 'shade loving' should be taken with a pinch of salt: no plant truly 'loves' shade as such, and all plants will need at least some light coming into the room. However, some plants will tolerate a position quite far away from the window, or a room with only a small window. 

Our general advice? Look for non-flowering species (plants need a lot of energy from the sun to produce flowers) and visit a botanical garden to see which plants are thriving at the very bottom of a tropical forest eco-system. They are the ones getting the least light – and they will do well in a shady position in your home. 

We have everything you need to know about house plants in our expert guide. 

1. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia

Zamioculcas is one the best-looking tropical plants for your home, with their distinctive, dark green fleshy leaves. Sturdy and enduring, they require little maintenance, and will be perfectly fine positioned away from a window, so long as they get some natural light. Slow-growing, this plant should live for many years.

How to care for Zamioculcas

Take care not to overwater, allowing the top layer of the compost to dry out between watering. As with other house plants, avoid moving it too often. Plant in well-draining soil that isn't too compact. 

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Zamioculcas Zamiifolia from Waitrose Garden

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

2. Aspidistra

Aspidistra elatior has a common name of 'Cast Iron Plant', which will give you an idea of its survival potential. Once a symbol of staid suburban life, aspidistras are enjoying something of a revival. They have attractive, glossy green leaves, require very little maintenance – and actively dislike bright light, making them perfect for darker rooms. 

How to care for Aspidistra

Aspidistras mainly need a good start – namely, good compost – to flourish. After that, you just need to water them occasionally, but not too often.  

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Aspidistra plant from Waitrose Garden

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

3. Dracaena 

Dracaenas, or 'dragon plant' as they are sometimes called, are another excellent option for darker spots. They do need some indirect light, and we've found they do quite well on the floor somewhere in the vicinity of a window. These nicely shaped plants look a bit like mini palm trees and make great statement plants when large. 

How to care for Dracaena

Dracaenas like being well watered, and, like other tropical plants with blade-shaped leaves, they like having their leaves misted with water. 

Our tip

Avoid buying these plants for households with pets: cats especially love chewing on the blade-shaped leaves, sometimes injuring themselves in the process.

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Dracaena plant from Waitrose Garden

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

4. Maranta Leuconeura 

Maranta Leuconeura is known as the 'Prayer plant' due to its fascinating ability to lift its leaves at night. Marantas are very pretty plants, too, with beautifully veined leaves. When left to its own devices, this type of maranta will develop a trailing/creeping habit (these plants grow as ground cover in tropical forests).

How to care for Maranta

Marantas like plenty of water and humidity, but make sure the plant isn't waterlogged. Mist regularly. In our experience, marantas do perfectly well on bookshelves or coffee tables, and don't necessarily require bright light, just some natural light.

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Maranta Leuconeura from Waitrose Garden

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

5. String of Hearts plant

The String of Hearts (Ceropegia linearis) plant has become very popular in recent years due to its attractive trailing habit and small, heart-shaped leaves in a beautiful sage colour. Not technically classified as a shade-loving plant, in our experience, it does perfectly fine on a shelf reasonably close, but not necessarily next to a window. Also does well suspended from the ceiling in a kitchen. 

How to care for String of Hearts

Water very sparingly, especially in winter. This plant requires compost specifically for succulents/cacti. 

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string of hearts plant from Waitrose Garden

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

best indoor plants for shade: Pachira aquatica

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden )

6. Pachira aquatica

Pachira aquatica, or Guiana Chestnut, is a native of Central and South America where it grows in swamps. It's an all-round attractive plant with elongated leaves, and mature species are often sold with a plaited trunk, which adds interest. It does like a bright spot by a window, but will tolerate some shade, too. As with most exotic plants, so long as there is some natural light coming from somewhere, it'll be ok. 

How to care for Pachira acquatica

True to its name, this plant loves water, so water often, especially in the summer. It's crucial not to let it stand in water, though, as this can cause root rot. 

7. Sansevieria 

Sansevierias may have weird common names ('Mother-in-law's tongue' or 'Snake plant'), but it's a wonderful, tough little plant that will be happy almost anywhere. There are lots of different varieties of sansevierias out there, some with chunkier stems, others with slim ones, but they all have one thing in common: a high tolerance of a variety of light levels, from bright direct light to shade.

How to care for sansevierias:

Avoid over watering; in the winter, water very sparingly, about once a month. Don't water from above. 

Sansevieria bacularis 'Mikado'

(Image credit: Waitrose Garden)

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