Which Indoor Plants Like Shade?


Many people don’t realize that there are a lot of indoor plants that like shade. Knowing which indoor plants appreciate being shielded from the sun can drastically increase your options for growing many more varieties of plants indoors. So, which indoor plants like shade?

The following indoor plants like shade:

  • Silver inch plant
  • Ficus
  • Parlor palm
  • Ponytail palm
  • Peace lily
  • ZZ plant
  • Snake plant
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Cast iron plant
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Areca palm
  • Spider plant
  • Monstera
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Maranta
  • English ivy
  • Calathea
  • Boston fern

With 18 indoor plants on this list, you’ll be able to fill every shady spot in your home and then some. Keep reading for more information on these plants, including how much shade they need and when they require sun (as well as how much). 

18 Indoor Plants That Are Perfect for Shaded Spaces

Silver Inch Plant (Tradescantia zebrina)

The silver inch plant or Tradescantia zebrina has a captivating leaf pattern with rich, creamy white stripes sandwiched between eye-catching maroon ones. In other words, it’s the type of plant with pretty patterning that you wonder how it could ever grow in anything less than direct sun

Well, technically, it can. The silver inch plant, also known as Inchplant, Wandering Dude and Spiderwort, is a versatile houseplant that can handle lots of light or a lack thereof, but this doesn’t come without its downsides.

For example, in harsh sun, the leaves of the Silver Inch Plant will almost certainly burn.

Bright shade is the best lighting condition for the silver inch plant. It needs four to six hours of direct or indirect sun, then give it shade for the rest of the day. 

Ficus (Ficus benjamina)

Some indoor gardeners make the mistake of assuming that just because their ficus tree is a large indoor plant that it means it’s impervious to all damage.

Yet that’s not true.

How much light your ficus tree needs depends on the hardiness zone in your part of the country. Here’s a map courtesy of the USDA that will help make hardiness zones clearer for you.

If where you live is between zones 10 and 12, then you can grow your indoor ficus in a mix of partial shade and full sun. In warmer zones where the sun is very bright and hot, it’s not a bad idea to pull your ficus from a southerly-facing window in the afternoon so it get can some shade.

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

Some indoor plants masquerade as palms but truly aren’t, yet that’s not the case for the parlor palm or Chamaedorea elegans. Knowing that it’s a real palm and that it grows natively in Guatemala and Southern Mexico, you can again assume that this is another light-loving plant.

Yet it isn’t. 

Although its native climate is quite warm, the parlor palm originates in rainforests, which have such thick canopies of trees that light gets in only sporadically. Thus, growing your parlor palm in the shade makes perfect sense.

If you feel like your palm is looking a little limp and lifeless, then you can move it to a spot of bright, filtered light, but never direct sun. The palm fronds will scorch. 

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Remember what I said about some houseplants not being true palms? The ponytail palm is a great example of that.

The ponytail palm or “Elephants Foot“, looks a lot like a parlor palm or another indoor palm species, yet it’s in the Asparagaceae family. One thing that ponytail palms share in common with true palms is they grow in warm parts of the world, in this case, Mexico.

Since the ponytail palm isn’t native to rainforests, it does better with more bright light than the other palms on this list.

However, this faux palm is also adaptable enough that it can grow to enjoy the shade as well. For the health of your houseplant, I would recommend a 50-50 split between sun and shade, or maybe a 60-40 split. 

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

One of the basics of indoor gardening is that if you want to see your plant grow flowers, you have to give it lots of light. Yet if you’ve read this particular post on the peace lily, you should know that its white flower isn’t that at all, but a leaf spathe that turns from green to white then back to green again. 

It could be for that reason why the peace lily likes shade more than other flowering indoor plants. The Spathiphyllum needs light as well, but it doesn’t have to come from the sun.

This plant can thrive if grown in fluorescents and even in windowless rooms

The peace lily is sensitive to direct sun, and its leaves will often turn brown and/or yellow to indicate that it’s unhappy with the quantity of light it’s receiving. The peace lily’s leaves can also scorch, which means saying goodbye to any chances of seeing that trademark white flower! 

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

As a new indoor gardener if there’s one indoor plant on this list that you should buy for a shaded area, let it be the ZZ plant. The Zamioculcas is one of the most forgiving houseplants you’ll ever come across, and its long, fronded leaves decorate an office corner or an empty spot in the living room quite appealingly. 

As looking at its leaves should tell you, direct sun is no good for the ZZ plant since the delicate fronds can burn to a crisp. Indirect light is better, fluorescents are fine, and shade is also good. 

Really, whatever keeps your ZZ plant directly out of the sun is enough light for this adaptable, hard-to-kill houseplant

The Snake Plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

Maybe you’re looking for a versatile houseplant in a more attractive package. The snake plant is the perfect solution for you.

Also commonly referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue, the long and tall fonds of the snake plant make this species a classic houseplant addition to any indoor garden. Even better is that the snake plant likes being left alone in a spot with ample shade.

Do your best to keep your snake plant out of the direct sun for long periods. Just don’t banish it to a dark spot indefinitely, as its leaves won’t grow to their full splendor as quickly as they usually do.

If your snake plant isn’t growing between two and three inches a month, then consider increasing its light just a little bit. Other than that, a snake plant can thrive in a shaded corner of a room you thought couldn’t support a plant.

For an in-depth article specifically on the snake plant, I recommend reading: Snake Plant Care 101: Everything You Need to Know

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

A tidy tabletop plant, the Chinese evergreen from New Guinea and Asia’s subtropical regions is a humidity lover, but not such a big fan of bright sunlight. Its many variegations need more light than usual, but I’d caution you against giving the plant a lot of direct sun.

The Chinese evergreen does much better in filtered light, which means the light passes through a medium first before reaching the houseplant. Even a gauzy curtain works.

For less variegated Chinese evergreens, introduce partial shade, which means no more than six hours of sunlight per day. The plant’s sun exposure should occur earlier in the morning and then later in the day.

Avoid the afternoon hours when the rays of the sun are the harshest. 

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)

The cast iron plant is preceded by the same type of reputation the ZZ plant enjoys. In other words, growing the Aspidistra elatior should be a cakewalk since it’s nearly impossible to kill. Yet every plant has a chink in its armor, and in the case of Japan’s cast iron plant, that chink is direct light. 

Although it can grow outdoors in Florida heat (and indoors as well, of course), the unforgiving direct sun rays are far too much for this houseplant.

The deep shade suits the cast iron plant better, with deep shade referring to a plant that grows under the cover of a large plant such as a tree, a shrub, or an evergreen. 

Philodendron

A favorite of many indoor gardeners because of its tropical flavor, the philodendron can liven up any drab, windowless cubicle or depressing apartment. The traditional philodendron with its arrow-shaped leaves and the adorable heart-leafed philodendron both like shade, which is great news for you! 

This plant is quite adaptable if it gets more shade than usual, although such little light may admittedly affect its growth. Sunlight can be good for the large leaves of the philodendron, but when the sun starts getting its hottest is when your plant needs a break. 

For more information on understanding the signs of your philodendron, I recommend you check out: Philodendron Looks Droopy and Limp? (Here’s Why)

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

How about a shade-tolerant ivy plant for your indoor garden? The devil’s ivy or pothos is a great pick, as it has quite a dramatic appearance. It looks just as cool in a pot as it does in a hanging basket. Even better is that the unvariegated pothos can grow in partial shade with some periods of full sun.

You can even get away with having a golden pothos in a shady spot, but its depth of color might not come through quite as lemon-lime as it would if you grew it in bright conditions. Don’t buy a pothos anymore variegated than the golden pothos either, as the plant’s color will drain in the dark. 

Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)

The areca palm is another of those examples of true palms, but its fronds are light and delicate much like a fern’s. It’s for that reason primarily that you want to do all you can to shield your areca palm from the effects of full sunlight. The leaves will burn if it gets too toasty in your living room or corner office.

Partial shade will make your areca palm happiest, but keep your eyes peeled for brown leaves and tips. These signs indicate that your palm isn’t getting enough light. If the palm’s fronds are yellow instead of green, your houseplant is telling you that its light source is too much. It’s a careful balancing act with the areca palm, but once you get it right, it’s all worth it. 

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

A bad sunburn can leave you hurting for days. The spider plant, just like us people, can feel the painful effects of a sunburn as well if yours is left in a sunny window for too long. Filtered sunlight will lessen the harsh effects of the sun so those long, spindly leaves won’t burn. 

Partial shade is good to slot into the spider plant’s schedule as well, as are more regular periods of shade. The spider plant shouldn’t grow completely in the dark if you want yours to be lush, full, and healthy.

If dim lighting if all you have though, this plant is hardy enough that it can handle primarily shade with some artificial light. 

To learn more about why your spider plant might not be looking its best, I suggest reading: Spider Plant Looking Pale & Limp? Here’s What to Do!

Monstera

Did you know that the cuts and holes in the foliage of the Swiss cheese plant or Monstera deliciosa develop due to the amount of light it receives? Yet this doesn’t mean you have to bathe your Monstera in light like it’s at a tanning salon. Some shade is fine too. 

Your Monstera will have fewer leaf cuts if it’s getting more shade than sun. Another interesting side-effect is that the plant can develop negative phototropism. This phenomenon tells your Monstera to only grow leaves when it’s in the dark. This is like a survival mechanism for the Monstera since it natively grows under the shade of much larger trees in the jungle.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

The lucky bamboo is a bamboo as much as the ponytail palm is a palm tree, but that’s okay, we love it anyway. I think you’ll love the lucky bamboo too once you discover that it doesn’t need as much light as you would have thought. Indirect sun is the best lighting condition for this plant, but some shade works well too.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Here is another ivy to incorporate into your indoor garden, the English ivy or Hedera helix. Since this ivy species can regularly stretch more than 100 feet long when grown outdoors (it won’t get that big inside your home or office, don’t worry), controlling how much light all parts of the plant receive can be a challenge.

Don’t stress too much. The English ivy likes all levels of light, from full shade all the way to full sun. You’ll see more growth in full shade or partial shade. I hope you have a nice climbing wall for your English ivy! 

Calathea

Hailing from the tropical Americas, the colorful zebra stripes of the calathea–especially when combined with its neat size–make this a great houseplant to grow in the shade. Some types of calatheas are naturally more variegated than others.

I think it’s worth mentioning that if you’ve heard people refer to prayer plants, they’re most likely speaking of the calathea. At night their leaves fold up like praying hands and reopen during the day to help absorb the little bit of light they need to thrive.

Calathea, leaves will easily burn if subjected to direct or bright light. I’ve found them to do their best on my lowest shelves.

Grow a calathea away from the sun and positioned behind other plants if possible. Make a natural canopy for them to thrive in allows the colors on their leaves to pop and really come alive.

Too much sun and the colors on the leaves of your calathea will begin to fade, especially the pin striped calathea. Once the colors on their leaves begin to fade it’s usually just a matter of time before they begin to curl, burn and become brown and brittle.

As soon as the color on the leaves of your calathea look, even a little, washed out, take warning and quickly move them to an even more shaded spot.

If you find yourself in trouble with your calathea, be it from too much light or improper watering, I recommend my article titled: How to Save a Dying Calathea Plant (Step-by-Step Guide)

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

The areca palm and Boston fern could be companion plants, as both houseplants feature very thin, fragile, spindly fronds that must be protected if you want your plant to be healthy. Filtered, dappled sunlight should be the only kind the Boston fern receives.

Dappled light is that which a tree canopy can provide. This sunlight is spotty at best. The partial to full shade the plant is otherwise enveloped in is highly preferable for this fern! 

Also known as the sword fern, I’ve found them to thrive in bathrooms with hardly any light but high humidity and basement apartments where many other houseplants would die a quick death.

As I mentioned earlier, consider saving this list of indoor plants that like shade and you’ll always have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to filling your living space with beautiful plants.

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

Join Thousands of Indoor Plant Lovers Just Like You

For Houseplant Care, Tips & More

You have Successfully Subscribed!