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The Dark Side

Looking for a houseplant for that low-light area of your home? Gardens Editor Heidi Bertish has the answer

By Heidi Bertish  | January 6, 2021 | Small Spaces

Photo by Joäo Paulo Pereira on Unsplash

Looking for a houseplant for that low-light area of your home? Gardens Editor Heidi Bertish has the answer

People frequently ask me to recommend plants for tricky areas in the home, particularly those with little available natural light, and most recently, newly converted home offices with small or no windows. I have been grappling with similar considerations myself. The dining room table, also known as my desk, has always been the bi-weekly, private domain of me and my plant crushes. I pop them in an assortment of glass containers and dot them about the table around me. Of late, my ‘desk’ has become increasingly unconducive to accommodate us due to the onslaught of other working family members and their digital devices on our turf. It is no longer working for us. My plants and I need our own space.

The best advice I have ever received for selecting plants that will thrive is to go with those that grow naturally in conditions similar to those one wants to plant in. The thinking behind it is this: the plants suited to low-light areas inside your home hail from deep in the jungle. Sunlight there is all but blocked out by a medley of large leaves and dense tree canopies before reaching the jungle floor where our shade-loving plant line-up grow in carefree profusion.

It is these green babies that hold the secret to ramping up the jungle-factor in our windowless office nooks and dank shelves. For first-time plant parents or those on the hunt for a houseplant that is rewarding, even in the face of neglect, the pothos vine (Scindapsus aureus), is your new best plant friend. This undemanding creature with an elegant, trailing habit; heart-shaped leaves flecked with yellow – be careful though, as the lighter leaf variations need a sunnier position – and a well-deserved reputation as an impeccable air purifier; is just what the doctor ordered. Let it trail down the side of a shelf or climb with carefree legginess up a wall, around door frames and even onto the ceiling. Command hooks and picture hangers on discreet, double-sided tape work well to support your adventurous pothos reach great heights.

Clipping it back on occasion will encourage new, leafy growth, making sure to prune just below a node or leaf when you do. Monitor water needs carefully. Most houseplants are more than tolerant of too little water, the most common killer being over-zealous watering. Irrigate only when your soil is dry. Remember, plants that grow in low-light conditions dry out slower and need less water than their sun worshipping sisters. Whilst not essential, fertilising from time to time will go a long way when it comes to keeping your plant bursting with health. Who said a low-light nook was a tricky plant space? My pothos and I move in tomorrow.