Home decor doesn't stop at the perfect color scheme, calculated feng shui, or a beautiful area rug. Houseplants bring nature indoors, improve the air you breathe, and add color and comfort to your living space. The logistics can be difficult sometimes since plants need water and sunlight, and the layout of your home might not have convenient windows in each spot you'd like to place a plant. We've done some research and have a list of indoor trees that need little or indirect light to thrive.
11 trees that need little light include:
- Parlor palm
- Corn plant
- Rubber tree
- Dragon tree
- Areca palm
- Dwarf banana tree
- Janet Craig dracaena
- Kentia palm
- Ficus bonsai
- Norfolk island pine
- Umbrella tree
Now that you have a list of trees to keep indoors at low or indirect light, let's go over each in more detail. Though these trees might not need constant direct sunlight, they do still need routine care! We'll answer some additional questions you might have as well. Keep reading!
1. Parlor Palm
Many palm trees made our list because they are great at tolerating a wide range of conditions, including indirect or low sunlight. The parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), also known as the Neanthe Bella Palm, is a slow-growing variety of palm trees native to Mexico. Its reach is relatively tall, growing between 4 to 6 feet once it's fully mature, although some varieties are cultivated to be smaller.
A parlor palm can survive in just about any light, and in fact, got its name from being a popular decoration in Victorian parlors with exceptionally low light. That being said, this tree thrives when it can get about 2 to 4 hours of indirect sunlight. It requires watering about 1 to 2 times a week when the soil is dry. Water it less during the winter. The parlor palm doesn't require extensive humidity. This is a great starter plant, and it is also considered non-toxic to pets, so that's a bonus.
2. Corn Plant
You might not realize that corn plants (Dracaena fragrans) are often grown as small indoor trees. Despite the name, the corn plant won't bear any vegetables but does have some beautiful green and yellow striped leaves. These plants are native to Africa, and many are sold in bundles with two to three stalks of various heights to create a dramatic look. These trees can grow up to 6-feet in height.
In the wild, corn plants grow fragrant flowers but are unlikely to when kept indoors. The corn plant enjoys indirect or filtered sunlight; direct sunlight can cause the leaves to become scorched and yellowed. These plants do well around a west, east, or north-facing window. Regular humidity levels are fine and keep the soil slightly damp in the warmer months and slightly drier in the winter. This tree is toxic to pets.
3. Rubber Tree
Rubber trees (Ficus elastica) are super adaptable plants and can thrive in lots of sunshine or very little. They grow in areas that are hot and moist, like Africa, South America, and Asia. These trees can grow amazingly tall for a house plant--anywhere from 6 to 10 feet indoors and up to 100 feet outdoors! Though they can get quite large, they are easy to prune and keep smaller.
A rubber tree can live happily near a window with indirect light. The soil needs to be damp but not drenched. A humid environment can help it thrive, but you can achieve this by wiping the leaves with a damp cloth when they become dusty. This isn't as necessary in the winter for reasons other than cleaning. Rubber trees are mildly toxic to animals, so they're best kept away from pets.
4. Dragon Tree
The dragon tree (Dracaena marginata), also known as the Madagascar dragon tree, can handle a low amount of light and produces spindly green leaves with cream and red stripes. They grow to be 10 to 15 feet in height that won't be perfectly vertical.
Dragon trees grow best in indirect light but will drop leaves if they don't get enough sunlight. These are a pickier variety than some of the other trees on this list. Do keep these trees near a window so they can stay bushy and beautiful. Dragon trees are toxic to pets, so plan accordingly.
5. Areca Palm
The areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) can be expensive if purchased at maturity. Starting with a smaller one is cost-efficient and lets you watch it grow to its full height of around 6 to 7 feet. These are one of the few palms that can tolerate frequent trimming, so it's possible to keep this plant indoors for its full lifespan.
Keep the soil moist in the summer and allow it to dry between waterings in the winter. The areca palm tolerates low, indirect light, but given enough light, it could produce small, white flowers or purple fruit. The plant isn't toxic to pets, which makes it even more appealing.
6. Dwarf Banana Tree
Dwarf banana (Musa acuminata) trees grow much smaller than standard banana trees. These trees go best near a south-facing window and do need direct light for at least part of the day, so they are a bit fussier than some other trees we've mentioned. They also thrive best in humid environments, so give them a good misting a few times a week, if not daily. Water them every 2 to 3 days when the soil becomes dry.
These trees grow to be 5 to 9 feet tall and have beautiful broad leaves. Wipe them down occasionally with a damp cloth. This tree is non-toxic to people and pets, so it works well in any home.
Need to increase the humidity in your home? Read our article about that.
7. Janet Craig Dracaena
Janet Craig Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis) will burn if placed in direct sunlight, so keeping it in medium, indirect light is best for its constitution. The leaves are long, thin, and fountain-like. Allow the top 75% of the soil to be dry before watering and, as with many other plants we've discussed, water it less in the winter. These plants are toxic to animals. If well-cared for, the Janet Craig Dracaena can grow to be up to 10 feet tall.
8. Kentia Palm
The Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) can live for many years in low light. Out of all the palms we've discussed, the Kentia palm tolerates low humidity the best. However, unlike the palms on our list, the Kentia won't grow much in low light. Expect it to stay around the same size for many years.
Because of this, it's best to buy a Kentia palm around the same size you'd like it to remain. Indirect sunlight is best for these plants. Mist them occasionally and water them when the soil becomes dry.
9. Ficus Bonsai
A ficus bonsai (Ficus retusa) can be kept in indirect light, but it does need 5 to 6 hours of light a day to do well. If you've got your heart set on this type of tree, consider supplementing with an indoor sunlamp to make sure it thrives. These trees are great at tolerating over- and underwatering but grow best with generous watering when the soil is dry. These trees work well in limited space.
10. Norfolk Island Pine
The Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) looks slightly like a small Christmas tree, but they are actually tropical plants and don't tolerate the cold. In nature, they can grow up to 100-feet; but inside, they grow very slowly, so you can keep this tree inside for many years. These trees enjoy direct light if you can place them in a south-facing window but can also thrive in indirect sunlight.
Mist them a few times a week to keep the humidity high. Water them when the topsoil is dry to the touch. These plants are semi-toxic and will cause stomach upset in pets.
11. Umbrella Tree
The umbrella tree (Schefflera amata) needs a few hours of indirect light to really thrive. If well cared for, these trees can grow to be 10-feet indoors. They require higher humidity to help stave off pests, as they're pretty attractive to mites and scale. They need to be watered and misted every 2 to 3 days. In great conditions, these plants might even flower, though it's rare indoors. Keep in mind these trees are toxic to pets.
How to decorate with tall indoor plants?
Tall indoor plants are great for filling up empty corner space. In a corner, they're out of the way and given plenty of space to grow. They also look great in front of large windows or framing a sliding glass door. Indoor plants work wonderfully in any room, as they freshen the air and remove toxins wherever they are placed.
To learn more, read our post, "17 Living Room Plant Decor Ideas."
How do you support large indoor plants?
The best way to support large indoor plants is by staking them. You have the option of placing a wire cage around the perimeter of the plant, though this can take away from the aesthetic you're likely trying to achieve with the plant. Staking doesn't affect the plant's look, and in some instances, can improve the visual appeal. Use garden tape to attach the plant to the stake as it allows the plant to continue expanding, whereas twine doesn't have the necessary give.
Do indoor plants need pots with holes?
All plants need adequate drainage, and indoor plants aren't an exception. It's possible to have indoor plants without drainage holes, although this increases the chance of root rot. The holes in the plant's pot allow excess water to drain out instead of pooling at the bottom and causing many plant diseases.
What can you put in the bottom of an indoor planter for drainage?
If the pot you're using doesn't have drainage holes, you can add some drainage inside the pot by adding a layer of pebbles or stones underneath the soil. This allows an area for excess drainage to rest without causing the roots to rot. Although this can work if plants aren't overwatered, drainage holes are the best way to prevent root rot.
What is the best way to water indoor plants?
It's best to water plants using tepid water in the morning, so they have the day to absorb it. To tell if your plant needs water, put a finger in the soil up to the first knuckle. If it's dry, it's time to water. Some plants that love lots of water need to be watered when the surface is dry, while others, you'll have to use the finger test.
Indoor trees are possible even if you're working with low light. With all the options available, you're sure to find something that fits in with your home decor!