Low-Light Indoor Trees


Small Chamaedorea elegans - Neanthe Bella

Share this post with someone else that loves indoor plants!

If you’d like to grow a beautiful indoor tree but you need one that can survive in low light or shade, this article is for you! Below is an ongoing list of low light indoor trees that thrive in “light-challenged” spaces.

Here are 11 low-light indoor trees to grow today:

  • Rubber tree
  • Kentia palm
  • Yucca
  • Corn plant
  • Umbrella tree
  • Neanthe bella palm
  • Norfolk Island pine
  • Madagascar dragon tree
  • Weeping fig
  • Lady palm
  • Areca palm

In this growing list of low-light indoor trees, I’ll go over each of the species in detail. You’ll learn about the tree’s origins as well as tips on caring for them, so make sure you keep reading! 

Low-Light Trees That Thrive Indoors

Rubber Tree

The Ficus elastica goes by many names, including the rubber bush, rubber plant, and the rubber tree. 

Despite the inconsistencies in its naming, this indoor plant certainly qualifies more as a tree than a bush. After all, it can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet! (Not indoors, thankfully.)

Hailing from Southern Asia, the rubber tree prefers full sun but can grow in low light. The key is not fluctuating too much between lots of light and too little. 

Maintain moist soil and you might still see the large, rubbery trademark leaves of this plant! 

Kentia Palm

Although you would think that a tropical-looking palm and low light don’t mix, that’s not the case with the Howea forsteriana or Kentia palm. This tree can’t stand bright light, so dimmer conditions are preferable.

Originating from Lord Howe Island in Australia, the kentia palm isn’t picky about its soil either. Basic soil, acidic soil, this plant can handle them both. Just make sure the soil drains well above all else. When its top inch of soil has dried, water it. 

As an FYI, compared to other plants, the kentia palm is a slow grower. If yours isn’t sprouting right up as you had expected, don’t lose hope! It just takes time. 

Yucca

Yucca Palm (Yucca elephantipes) being watered by Anya Anthony at indoorplantsforbeginners
Indoor Yucca Palm (Yucca elephantipes)

The Yucca genus includes up to 50 tree species, many of which have long leaves shaped like swords. This plant can sometimes grow white flowers. 

Hailing from the Caribbean and parts of the Americas, yuccas can reach heights of more than 20 feet depending on the species. They won’t get that big in your home though. 

Admittedly, the yucca doesn’t thrive in low light, but it can withstand dimmer conditions. Growth will slow though. 

The ideal lighting for this tree is bright, indirect light. Water sparingly (the yucca is drought-tolerant) and fertilize lightly as well. 

Corn Plant

The corn plant or Dracaena fragrans might not grow corn (sorry), but its long, frond-like leaves still captivate many indoor gardeners. 

Like the rubber tree, this African plant can achieve massive growth of up to 50 feet when grown natively!

If your corn plant has more bright colors in its foliage, then limit exposure to low lighting, as its hues can fade. Otherwise, dim conditions are fine, as is bright light, but not direct sun. 

Keep the soil moist and set your thermostat between 68- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit and your corn plant will be happy. 

Umbrella Tree

The umbrella tree or umbrella plant is a dwarf species known as the Schefflera arboricola

The best lighting conditions for this Taiwanese houseplant include bright, indirect light, but periods of low light are a-okay as well. If your houseplant is getting leggy, then the umbrella tree needs more sun. You should also prune it. 

Provide well-draining soil and water when the soil feels mostly dry but not bone dry. Umbrella trees do not like too much moisture and especially not standing water. 

If you want to accelerate the growth of your umbrella plant, you can fertilize it weekly. Otherwise, apply fertilizer about monthly during its active growing season. 

Neanthe Bella Palm

Chamaedorea elegans love palm
Neanthe Bella Palm

Whether you call it the neanthe bella palm or the parlor palm, the Chamaedorea elegans is a tidy palm that grows natively in Guatemala and Southern Mexico’s rainforests. 

Reaching heights of about six feet, you can easily fit a parlor palm in your living room or your corner office.

Even better is that low light doesn’t trouble this plant much. 

If you can provide medium, indirect light or sunlight that’s even moderately brighter than that, this works best for the neanthe bella. 

Let two inches of its soil dry out between watering it, as this palm is susceptible to root rot! 

Norfolk Island Pine 

From palms to pines, the Norfolk Island palm won’t complain if you’re still trying to get its lighting just right. It prefers indirect to bright light, but in dim light, it won’t die. You just might not see as much growth from this majestic tree.

Also known as the Araucaria heterophylla, the Australian-dwelling Norfolk Island pine prefers fertilizer in the spring through the summer. 

It needs water only when its top inch of soil dries out. You’ll know your Norfolk Island palm is healthy if grows about two feet a year. 

Madagascar Dragon Tree

With its winding, twisted stems and thin fronds, the Madagascar dragon tree will make an impact at work or home. 

The Dracaena marginate will grow eight feet tall, but you’ll have to be really patient to see that growth. It can take 10 years for this plant to reach heights of five feet.

Low light doesn’t bother this plant much. The ideal light for your Madagascar dragon tree though is bright light. 

If your dragon tree has shades of pink and/or red throughout its leaves and those colors begin to fade, that’s a sign that the tree needs more sunlight ASAP.

Since it’s tolerant of neglect, even beginner indoor gardeners can feel like pros when they grow the Madagascar dragon tree. 

I’d recommend the Madagascar dragon tree for pet-free households though, as the tree is toxic to dogs and cats alike. 

Weeping Fig

How about a fig for your indoor tree garden? The Ficus benjamina or weeping fig comes from Australia and Asia. Fun fact: in Bangkok, this is their official tree. 

Why not? There’s a lot to love about the weeping fig, including its rubbery-looking leaves and its manageable size of about eight feet tall indoors. 

In a perfect world, the weeping fig prefers at least six hours of sunlight per day, but this plant tolerates low light as well. 

Pay close attention to the other facets of the tree’s care though, such as keeping its soil moist, using well-draining soil, and fertilizing the tree about every two weeks during the active growing season (using half-strength fertilizer, of course). 

Lady Palm 

The broadleaf lady palm or Rhapis excelsa from Taiwan and China is another low-light indoor tree to add to your list. 

Its fragile-looking fronds are not adept at handling bright light, so time in the shade is great. In conditions even dimmer than that though, you could see some frond loss. 

This is another beginner-friendly indoor tree. The lady palm doesn’t only tolerate low light, but also temperatures colder than its preferences (60 to 80 degrees) and less humidity than it likes. In other words, it’s hard to screw it up.

You can even use a few different kinds of soil for this tree. The best kind has organic matter and is well-draining. 

Areca Palm 

Wrapping up the list is the areca palm aka the butterfly palm or golden cane palm. 

The Dypsis lutescens grows natively around Madagascar. In your living room, it will reach heights of about eight feet.

Its favorite type of lighting is full to partial sun, but in low light, your areca palm won’t be in horrible shape either. 

Choose well-draining soil that’s more on the acidic side. Water the soil to keep up its moisture but don’t drown the plant. Watering too frequently can lead to root rot. 

Provide temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees, which is average room temperature. Don’t forget to fertilize your areca palm from the spring through the fall using liquid fertilizer. 

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

Recent Posts