peperomia in a small terracotta container on my desk at work

Small Desk Plants That Don’t Need Sunlight

Most people know that growing small desk plants at home or in the office can cheer up any environment. But what if your desk doesn’t get any sunlight? Are there small plants that will be able to thrive on your desk if your desk doesn’t get any natural light?

What are some small desk plants that don’t need sunlight? Small desk plants that don’t need sunlight include the ZZ plant, peace lily, peperomia, bird’s nest fern, spider plant, and Chinese evergreen.

This guide will go over the above small desk plants and many others and discuss what other growing requirements the plants need besides low light. I’ll talk about plant size as well so you can choose the best indoor plant for your cubicle or small home! 

The 11 Best Small Desk Plants That Grow Without Sunlight 

ZZ Plant

Let’s start with the Zamioculcas zamiifolia or the ZZ plant. 

A favorite of many indoor gardeners, the ZZ plant is beloved since it’s so hard to kill. Unsurprisingly then, fluctuations in lighting are not going to phase this plant in the slightest.

Ideally, the ZZ plant prefers bright indirect light or medium light, but low lighting is fine and even windowless spaces are okay. 

To otherwise care for the ZZ plant, water it when the soil feels completely dry, which can sometimes take up to three weeks. Fill its pot with a well-draining potting mix. 

Keep temps between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  

When fully grown, the ZZ plant can reach heights of two to three feet so it can continue adorning your desk even in maturity. 

Peace Lily

That’s right, you can enjoy the beauty of flowering indoor plants even without that much sunlight!

Well, technically, the white “flower” that the peace lily displays is not that at all, but a leaf. It’s still pretty all the same though.

The peace lily likes low to moderate light, and only ever indirect sunlight. Too much sun would burn that pretty faux flower.

Peace lilies thrive in well-draining soil that stays moist. I must make clear that moist soil is not waterlogged though!

In maturity, the peace lily grows one to four feet tall. It will be the star of your office or cubicle, that’s for certain. 


The peperomia genus is beloved for its perfectly circular, shiny, rubbery leaves. That’s why many indoor gardeners affectionately refer to the peperomia as the baby rubber plant!

If yours isn’t overly variegated–which means it has unique patterns and/or colors–then low light is perfectly fine for this plant, as is indirect light. 

The peperomia quite likes bright or medium indirect light if possible.

Keeping your desk peperomia healthy is easy. The peperomia plant requires well-drained soil that’s moist but allowed to dry out before you replenish the plant with water. 

The peperomia also prefers humidity between 40 and 50 percent.

A full-sized peperomia is only 12 inches, so it stays neat and tidy in maturity making it a great choice for a small desk plant

Spider Plant

The long, spindly fronds of the Chlorophytum comosum have earned the spider plant its esteemed nickname. A preferred indoor plant species, you can’t go wrong with a spider plant!

To see the most distinction between the natural pale strips of color the spider plant develops along its fronds and the darker hue of the rest of the plant, provide bright indirect light. 

In lower lighting, the spider plant is still a-okay.

What you always want to avoid is direct sunlight, as exposure can easily burn the spider plant

Provide well-draining soil for this tropical plant from Southern Africa. When the time comes to water the spider plant, do so generously but do not create conditions of standing water. 

The best way to prevent soggy soil is to allow the soil to dry out before you water it again. 

Spider plants can grow fast, but pruning can keep yours small enough to remain on your desk. 

Chinese Evergreen 

Here’s a plant that does more than tolerates low light but thrives in it: the Chinese evergreen.

As part of the Aglaonema genus, the Chinese evergreen is considered very low-effort and easy to grow. 

It’s perfect for those who want to tend to an indoor garden in their office while still doing their day jobs.

Keep the soil moist and maintain temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees. That shouldn’t be hard to do.

All you have to worry about is creating enough humidity, as the Chinese evergreen prefers humidity at 60 to 70 percent. A small plug-in humidifier on your desk ought to do the trick. 

The Chinese evergreen expands three feet wide and three feet high. It will cheer you up on your desk every day for a long time to come. 


An adaptable little plant that’s perfect for your desk is the pothos or Epipremnum aureum from French Polynesia.

The pothos will do best in bright indirect light but adapts easily to lower-light conditions. 

Just don’t expect speedy growth from the plant in the dark. If you want yours to stay small though, then slower growth could be just fine with you.

The pothos is exceptionally easy to take care of. Let the soil dry out before you water it again. It can be weeks between waterings for the pothos, especially if growing yours in low light. 

Set the temps between 65 and 85 degrees and raise the humidity up to 70 percent if you can with a humidifier. 

The pothos can reach widths of three to six feet and lengths of 20 to 40 feet, but that’s not likely when grown in lower-light conditions. 

Still, a bit of pruning here and there will definitely be needed to help you maintain the size of your indoor pothos plant! 

Bird’s Nest Fern

Next is the bird’s nest fern or Asplenium nidus

This lovely fern grows natively in such charming parts of the world as Christmas Island, Polynesia, and Hawaii. 

Many ferns are fragile, and the bird’s nest fern with its ridged leaf edges certainly counts among them. Direct sunlight can burn its delicate leaves.

That’s why the best lighting for this plant is filtered sunlight with plenty of shade. 

The bird’s nest fern is more than shade-tolerant, but it thrives in dimmer conditions.

Keeping the bird’s nest fern healthy outside of its lighting requirements shouldn’t prove too challenging. 

The plant likes moist but never soggy or wet soil. Let the topsoil dry out an inch deep before watering again.

An indoor temperature of 65 to 75 degrees suffices for this fern, as does average relative indoor humidity.

The bird’s nest fern grows between three and five feet in maturity. It will be the centerpiece of your office for sure! 

Peacock Plant

The Goeppertia makoyana or peacock plant is an exemplary addition to this list, as it’s so stunning to look at.

The reason this plant species is nicknamed the peacock plant (as well as the cathedral windows plant) is due to the darker stripes that appear down the center of the leaf on either side of the vein. 

Against a lighter leaf color, these stripes are quite distinct.

The peacock plant sometimes displays red coloration but is usually darker and lighter green.

You can maintain this plant’s coloration by providing moderate to low light, as those are the conditions in which it will thrive. Indirect sunlight is better if available.

The direct sun can burn the leaves and cause their color to become pale! Avoid bright light for the peacock plant.

Keep the peacock plant’s soil wet but not soaking and give the soil time to dry out before you water it again. 

Plug in your humidifier, as you’re going to need it for this indoor plant. The peacock plant also prefers temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.

A mature peacock plant grows four feet tall, so it’s the perfect centerpiece for any cubicle or office desk. 

Snake Plant

Like the ZZ plant before it, the snake plant is not picky about too many of its conditions. You can’t be careless when growing this plant species with the tall, blade-like leaves, but it’s very forgiving.

For instance, the snake plant tolerates any level of lighting, from low lighting to high levels of light. 

You’ll see the best growth in lower lighting, but the growth will be slower, so keep that in mind.

Provide a well-draining but loose potting mix for the snake plant. When the soil feels completely dry, then you should pour more water in. 

The average size of a mature snake plant is six inches to three feet wide by three feet to eight feet tall.  


The Bromeliaceae family has well over 3,500 species of tropical flowering plants, many of which you can grow indoors. 

Since their natural growth conditions expose the bromeliad to both partial shade and full sun, they’re adaptable in either lighting condition. 

If yours is variegated though, low light isn’t best, as the coloration will permanently fade.

For non-variegated bromeliads, growing it in low light is fine.

This desk plant likes good airflow and humidity between 40 and 60 percent. It requires well-draining soil that stays moist but is never soaking wet.

Depending on the bromeliad species you select, your plant in maturity might be an inch tall and up to three feet in height. 

Cast Iron Plant

The last small desk plant that doesn’t need much sunlight is the cast iron plant or Aspidistra elatior.

This Taiwanese and Japanese plant is a common sight indoors. Thus, the plant prefers low light. 

Medium light is okay too, but nothing brighter than that. Direct sun can burn the large leaves of this appealing plant!

Fill the cast iron plant’s pot with well-draining soil that’s slightly acidic or neutral. Allow the soil to dry out before you water the plant again. 

The cast iron plant grows three feet wide and two feet tall. It will certainly put a smile on your face whenever you see it in your office. 

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