The Best Indoor Palms for Low Light


Choosing the right indoor palm for your living space will surely create an outdoor tropical feel indoors. The problem is that palms generally love the the tropical weather and a lot of direct sunlight. But, did you know that there are actually a few select types of “low light” palms that can not only survive but thrive in less light and even shaded areas indoors? So, which indoor palms are the best for low light?

The best indoor palms for low light are as follows:

  • Parlor palm
  • Kentia palm
  • Areca palm
  • Broadleaf lady palm
  • Cascade palm
  • European fan palm
  • Sago palm
  • Majesty palm

The world of palms is an exciting one. Once you see how the following indoor palm trees can excel in dim conditions, you might feel inclined to add to your indoor garden with lots of other shade-loving plants.

Let’s get started!

8 Best Indoor Palms to Grow in Shaded Spaces

Parlor Palm

The first palm on my list is the Chamaedorea elegans or parlor palm. Some people call it the neanthe bella palm as well. This smaller palm tree species hails from Guatemala and Southern Mexico, where it grows natively in rainforests.

Think of the lighting conditions in the rainforest. With a thick canopy of trees covering the foliage throughout, light can peek in through gaps here and there. That’s what the parlor palm is used to.

The best way to replicate rainforest lighting conditions is to put the parlor palm in a shaded spot. A bit of morning light is nice for this palm, but the harsh afternoon sun will burn its spindly leaves.

I grow my Parlor Palms directly behind some of my other plants that enjoy more sun than my Parlor Palms. Placing the palms closely behind other plants ensures that the sunlight that reaches them is broken up by the leaves of the other plants.

It’s a great way to create diffused light in a room without sacrificing the sunlight that other plants need. I guess it’s my own way of trying to recreate the rainforest canopy for them to thrive in.

Kentia Palm

A South Pacific and Australian native, the kentia palm should be reserved for a spacious living room or office, as its width may be up to 4 feet. Although it’s a bit of s space-hog, it’s a great-looking palm.

The kentia palm is a 9 to 11 on the US hardiness zone scale, which indicates warmer climes, but this palm is not a big fan of direct sun. Anything that bright will lead to frond burning.

When choosing a place for a Kentia Palm in your home, try to put in in a spot that receives soft, filtered light. Ideally, try to give it filtered sun for 6 to 8 hours a day.

In low-light spaces, the kentia palm will produce fewer fronds and grow slower, but it won’t die.

Areca Palm

One of the most famous indoor palms is undoubtedly the areca, which some people call the butterfly palm or the golden cane palm. This Madagascar plant species is a favorite due to its lush foliage.

You’ll recognize Areca Palms from movies that were shot in Hawaii or Florida or at least made to look like they were shot in Hawaii or Florida. They have a quintessential tropical vibe. Even better is that the areca palm has a reputation for easy care, right down to its lighting requirements.

Low light isn’t its ideal type of lighting (that would be filtered light), but the Areca Palm can survive in shaded spaces. If you do give your areca some additional light to help it grow, then put it near a westerly, easterly, or southerly-facing window.

Broadleaf Lady Palm

The fun part about growing different indoor palms is how vastly different they can look from one another. Take the broadleaf lady palm, for example, a tree species that really lives up to its name.

The Rhapis excelsa features long, broad leaves that protrude in multiple directions. It almost doesn’t look like a palm tree.

Growing the broadleaf lady palm in low light is a possibility, but do be aware that it carries some consequences. For example, you’ll have fewer lower and inner fronds, as the plant will be more prone to shedding them.

You’ll also have to look for yellowing or thinning fronds and prune them as they appear.

For less of this maintenance work, a bit of indirect, bright light during the daylight hours is best. You’ll have a fuller, lusher lady palm to show for your efforts!

Cascade Palm

The cascading fronds of the Chamaedorea cataractarum have led to it being primarily referred to as the cascade palm, but it’s known as the cat palm as well. This Southern Mexico palm species is on the smaller side but has a very bulky trunk.

Fun fact: The cascade palm grows fruit, but I don’t know if you’d want to eat it.

The ideal lighting conditions for the cascade palm are shade and low light. It’s truly a great palm to grow indoors in a a low light area of your home.

Especially in an area that needs some life or a tropical feel added to it. Partial shade is fine too, as is filtered light from a southerly or easterly-facing window.

Any light brighter than low-light could negatively affect the fronds, as they’re sensitive to the sun.

Crispy or browning leaves or fronds are a sign of a burned Cascade Palm that’s received too much light.

European Fan Palm

If you don’t mind waiting a while for your indoor palm tree to grow, then the European fan palm could be right for you. The European fan palm is known for being a very slow grower.

For your patience, you’re rewarded with a tree that reaches widths of up to 6 feet indoors (outdoors, it’s around 10 feet).

How much light you give your European fan will determine whether your plant bulks up or stays relatively small. Partial shade conditions are ideal to contain growth.

Should you want a somewhat bigger palm, given the European fan partial sun. Not only will its length and width be larger, but its fronds will be as well.

Sago Palm

The cone-producing sago palm or Cycas revoluta is used in its native Japan as a bonsai and as an ornamental plant. The fronds of this palm will remind you more of a tropical island than Japan.

It takes upwards of 50 years for the sago to reach full maturity, but it will never grow wider than 8 feet. You’d have to wait 15 years for its trademark cones to appear as well.

Growing the sago in low light can delay its maturation even further, so you may never see the cones.

The Sago Palm plant is made for full sun, but if all you have for the sago is a shaded corner to grow it in, it will acclimate to the lower light conditions eventually.

Try to give this plant some sun here and there, especially in the morning but even in the afternoon. The Sago Palm is a great example of an indoor palm that benefits greatly from being put outside from time to time.

Majesty Palm

My last recommended low-light palm tree species is the majesty palm or Ravenea rivularis. When grown outdoors, the majesty palm can sprout to an astonishing 90 inches tall, which may be where the majestic part of its name comes from.

Indoors, Majesty Palms rarely reach those heights, especially considering it’s a slow grower to begin with.

Like the sago, the majesty palm likes natural light but can acclimate to low light if the need arises. A few hours of indirect, bright light every day will promote more growth while shade will discourage the fronds from getting too long.

No matter what you do, don’t put the majesty palm out in direct sun or it will burn.

How to Choose the Right Indoor Palm for You

Now that you’ve been introduced to so many great low-light-loving palm trees, you might be having a hard time selecting a few for your indoor garden. You may try every palm on this list eventually, but here are some tips for narrowing down your options right now.

Consider Its Full Size

Depending on how young the palm is when you buy it from your gardening supply store, an indoor palm could be midway through its growth or just getting started.

You have to assume the plant will grow at least somewhat bigger than it is at current, but with some palms, they can grow a lot bigger.

When researching your low-light palm of choice, please don’t use its outdoor growth limitations as your litmus test. Remember the majesty palm? It can reach heights of 90 inches, but only when planted outdoors, not in your home or office!

Here are the Heights of The Best Indoor Palms for Low Light:

Parlor palm2 to 6 feet
Kentia palm3 to 12 feet
Areca palm6 to 7 feet
Broadleaf lady palm 14 feet
Cascade palm6 feet
European fan palm4 feet
Sago palm2 feet
Majesty palm3 to 5 feet

Some of these palms are just as wide as they are tall, such as the majesty palm, which is something to keep in mind as well. If your home or office is rather tiny, you can always buy the sago palm, which is very manageable in small spaces.  

Pick a Growth Speed That Suits You

Some indoor gardeners want to see plant growth like right now, immediately. Others don’t mind waiting a bit longer, but some palms can truly push your patience.

As I mentioned, it takes 15 years for the sago palm to produce cones, and that’s provided you do everything right with its care. The Sago Palm isn’t even considered mature until its 50th birthday.

If waiting that long for your indoor plant to reach maturity is too excessive (and I don’t blame you if it is), then buy a palm tree that grows faster.

I do want to reiterate that, unless your palm prefers dim and shaded conditions, growing the plant without much light will stunt its growth speed. 

Read up on Other Areas of Care

How much light your palm has access too is an important facet of any indoor palm’s survival, but it needs other care as well. For instance, you’re supposed to let the soil of a majesty plan dry midway down before you water it again, doing so about every two weeks.

In low light conditions, you can go even longer without watering this palm.

The broadleaf lady palm doesn’t mind whether its conditions are more humid or less so, but the kentia palm does prefer humidity.

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.

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