What House Plant will tolerate low / no natural light

jamiedolan(4/5)September 26, 2010


I have quite a few different tropical house plants and recently added a huge jade to my collection. I have limited southern exposure window space. The jade and most of my tropicals are by the windows on the west side of the house (in the winter, almost all of them are still outside now, we have not had a frost yet here).

My Jade Plant (I have to show it off, I just got it this past week):

Blog entry that shows the transplant process for the giant Jade:


Now onto my question...

I have a spot in my foyer that has a built in planter. It gets very limited amounts of day light, almost no direct light.

I would love to grow something there, it is about 2' x 2' and can grow up almost as high as the ceiling. I had a rubber plant there for a while that looked nice, but it declined, so I bought the rubber plant outside for the summer and it looks great now, so I don't want to kill it by putting it back in such low light.

What are some house plants that would do better with this lack of light? I've read that lucky bamboo does really well with no direct light. However, all I have seen for sale is pretty small pieces of lucky bamboo, around 16" siz e pieces of bamboo for something like $8 each. At those prices, bamboo would be quite expensive to put in enough to look substantial.

I have around 15 different types of house plants, mainly tropicals, I am going to write up a list with all the plants names, but don't have that at the moment (and don't know all the names). I don't mind buying a new plant for this location as long as I can find it.

Thanks very much;

Jamie Dolan

Neenah, WI

Here is a link that might be useful: Re-potting the Giant Jade Plant

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Search this forum for low light or similar terms from the top of the page.
You will get all kinds of plant listings.
This question has been answered a dozen times.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 5:18PM
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wandering_willow(6 NYC)

Wow! where did you find that beautiful jade?! It's gorgeous!

For low light snake plants and pothos vines are very cooperative, I also have a large draceana marginata that doesn't seem to really care where it gets put, though it will lean towards whatever light source there is...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Aspidistra, 'Cast Iron Plant,' Dracaena 'Janet Craig,' and Sansevierias.

I hope you're not confusing bright light with low light. Some think sun has to blaze through a window all day long for it to be considered bright. Many tropicals live in medium light, w/o streaming rays of sun.
Ficus, Rubber Trees need a good amount of light, but there are other reasons it could have declined. Overwatering is the number 1 plant killer. No matter how bright a window is, it'll never get as much light as it would outside. Soil dries faster, 'especially confined to a pot,' so it'd need more watering when outside, during sunny, hot months.
There are numerous reasons a plant dwindles.

Jades require a good amount of sun. You said your Rubber Tree declined...without sunlight, it'd grow spindly, lose color, until it faded away.

Did you write out a list, yet? Toni

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 11:44PM
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We got hit with an unexpected frost advisory, which I though was more like a week away from happening. I had a significant amount of plants to move inside, it took several hours, as some things had to get re-potted. I just finished wiping up the dirt off the floors, shot a couple photos and sat down to some ice cream for dinner.
Leaving at 7:00 in the morning for a 2 hour drive to look at some Bonsai that are for sale.

Thank You for the compliment on the Jade. I purchased it from a guy in Milwaukee, WI that had it for 35 years. He was around retirement age and the plant had just gotten to be too big for him to handle. So he gave me a great deal on it.

I think that the rubber tree did grow spindly. The problem with this area is it is kind of in a nook and doesn't have much chance for light from any window to hit it at any time of the day. I just dropped this plant in the area tonight;

This is where I had the rubber tree that declined.

This is the Rubber Tree after being outside for the summer:

I've been moving towards faster soils even with my house plants, which makes it really hard to over water. I grew hundreds of plants in pots outside this summer, so I kind of got the hang of that.

I think I may have a draceana marginata.

When I get back tomorrow, I will go through and get the names of these plants written down.

I'll toss in a couple more photos of the plants I had to move into the house tonight before the frost. The growth this summer really was pretty amazing, I am quite pleased with how the majority of them look:

Lemon, Lime, Orange:

I'll stop there, there are more house plants scattered everywhere!

Thanks again for the help, I'll let you know once I figure out what some more of these are.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 1:14AM
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I can't wait to see your pictures when I get home Jamie..

If you can afford one, abosolutely beautiful..
Try a Kentia Palm...


    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 10:09AM
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I think you will have to supplement light if you are to grow that plant in the nook. Is there a place where you could put a floor lamp with a few CFL's to give it light? That might give you enough light to carry the plant until next spring when it could be moved back outdoors.

Your plants are beautiful and look very healthy. Putting plants outdoors provides the light and fresh air that can rarely be duplicated indoors.

Good growing,

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 3:51PM
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Thanks. Yes, I can light it, there is a light over head, but it isn't on a lot, I could leave it on more. What kind of watts would I need and for how long to make a meaningful impact?

I spent $800 on Bonsai trees today, several of which are house plants. I'll get some good photos tomorrow and will post them here.

The palms look really neat, after today expenditure, I need to hold off for a bit, but will put them on the wish list.



    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 10:45PM
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Wow, you are ambitious.

The overhead light is probably too far above the plant. The best light is a CFL (stays cool) but you'd need to get the highest wattage you can find. Home Depot had some that were 32-34 Watt which states equivalent to 150W. But one light is not enough. If you could find a floor lamp that would hold a few CFL's that might work.

How are you going to 'light' the bonsai's? Are they outside trees?


    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Most of the Bonsai are deciduous trees, except for a Ficus Benjamin and a couple fukien tea. I should be able to get them in my southern exposure window.

I see a Phillips 34W - 150W equivalent online. The current fixture in that nook is about 3' above the top of the plant (mini schefflera). I'll see what I can figure out to get a light closer.

House plant list so far:
pothos plant
wandering jew
Spider Plant
elephant ear philodendron
Majesty Palm
Cataractarum Palm
Dracaena Marginata
Christmas Cactus
Meyer Lemon
Mini schefflera
Varigated mini schefflera
Varigated schefflera

And others that don't have tags that I am still trying to identify. If you happen to know what any of the plants are in my photos that I don't have on the list, please let me know. I will take photos of the plants I end up not being able to identify and post those.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 12:15PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Yes, hi,

The pic captioned as the Rubber Tree after it went outside, is not a Rubber tree (Ficus elastica). I believe your pic is that of a Schefflera (of which I grow a variegate).

Nobody else noticed this?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 3:14PM
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:-) Thank your right, I looked it up and see I have been calling it the wrong thing.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Hi Jamie..

I looked at your repotting process and give you a lot of credit for doing that! That is one big beautiful plant...

It sounds like the mix may hold to much moisture for you area...I am in zone 5 and mine would die unless it dried out rapidly...Keep an eye on yellowing leaves and how long it takes for your mix to dry out..Turface will only add more moisture to your mix than make it drain or dry out faster..Rot can develop very rapidly on the very shallow root system..I wouldn't let more than a week go by that the mix is still moist..

If you see this happen, I would think of using a much more grittier mix, or adding perlite, or granite chips instead of turface..

Good luck..What a beauty..


    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 7:32PM
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HI Mike;

Thanks. Are you talking about Turface MVP or one of the finer Turface products?

I've starting using turface with a lot container trees that I am growing outside and it has seemed to work very well, in hot weather, most pots are pretty dried out in a day. I just watered a bonsai outside that was watered yesterday that is in turface, and it was pretty dry. It was a pretty small pot though.

I can't remember what day I had watered the jade last, I will watch it with your week guideline in mind, but I am pretty confident that it will be fairly dried out a week after being watered.

The folks over on the bonsai form were the ones that suggested I put in about 10% compost with the turface for the Jade -- Not saying that I'm sure that is correct, that's just where I came up with the mix.

I have some mixed that I used turface, perlite, compost & or vermiculite. With any amount of compost (more then 10-20%) or with any amount of fine vermiculite, my mixed got too heavy. Also got too heavy with sand in them, though I think the sand may be too fine.

I have tons of grit & perlite here, so I can add it in if necessary, I'm hoping not to have to re-pot it again, but will modify it if necessary of course.

What would have been your idea growing medium mix for a large Jade?

Do you have a preferred soil mix that you use for house plants in general? I have most major soil / and soil-less mix ingredients here, with the exception of bark mulch - I've not found a good source for bark mulch that is ground to a proper size.



    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 8:43PM
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Jades store water in their leaves and branches. Even if they dry out in a week it doesn't need water for a month for that size. Watering a jade once a week no matter the size it will eventually die. Ignore it for month.

If that were my jade I would cut off all branches let them callous over for a few days and then pot them in dry soil.
Do not water until roots start to form or they will rot.
Once you see ariel roots then give it a little water.
I would toss the trunk or you could let it bonsai.
It hasn't been grown in the past in proper lighting.
It looks to me like a piece of trunk was laid on dry soil to root...and it did of course.

Go over to the cacti&succulents forum and read the faq on jades.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Talking about a house plant which tolerates low / no natural light, how can we forget ZZ plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)? :-)

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 10:21PM
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