Low-Light Plants For Your Desk
Hey, we all appreciate the health perks plants bring to our work-from-home spaces. Just watch a ZZ plant leaf unfurl, and there’s no denying its power to inspire creativity and lift our spirits. But, for many, it’s a challenge to find plants that can both fit on a desk and survive a darker office space. In this post, our Groovy Plants Ranch team shares a few compact, low-light favorites plus the science behind their unique adaptations.
First, you might ask how little light can I get away with? Basically, a dimly lit room will suffice, but not a windowless closet or basement. While houseplants need at least 12 hours of light, many have adapted to varying levels of light intensity. Remember those photosynthesis diagrams back in middle school science class? They show how plants absorb sunlight, convert the sun’s energy into food then use it to fuel their growth. Surprisingly, many houseplants manage to thrive in lower light conditions. They grow natively on the shady rainforest floor and have adapted to use light more efficiently. Many have larger leaves, like Chinese evergreens, and even moving leaves, like prayer plants, to catch more sunlight. Others have slower growth rates to handle a shorter light supply.
Check out our go-tos from our store’s collection of 70 low-light plants. We promise there are many more remarkable varieties than those ho-hum ones from the set of The Office.
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): This tough vining plant with its familliar heart-shaped leaves has adorned many office filing cabinets. Strive for more stylish varieties like ‘Neon’ with glowing chartreuse leaves, ‘Satin’ with silvery leaves or ‘Marble Queen’ with two-tone ones.
- Snake plants (Sansevieria): These classic office floor plants are known for their toughness. Check out some of the more compact, desk-friendly forms. Try ‘Samurai’ with alternating blade-like leaf pairs, ‘Fernwood’ with spiky tiger-print leaves or ‘Starfish’ with sculptural sea-creature forms. For bird nest varieties, try ‘Sunny Star,’ ‘Star Power,’ ‘Black Star,’ ‘Black Jade’, ‘Hahnii,’ or ‘Golden Hahnii.’
- Prayer plants (Calathea): These plants’ fancy foliage will definitely dress up your workspace. Try ‘Vittata’ for a nod to the pinstripe business suit days or look for smaller forms like ‘Compact Star’ to fit smartly on a desk corner. See our calathea blog post for growing tips.
- Wandering Dudes (Tradescantia): Customers are crazy for the signature pink and green foliage of 'Nanouk.' Lesser-known ones include fuzzy-leafed varieties like ‘Baby Bunny Bellies’ and ‘Cobweb’ as well as colorful varieties like ‘Lavender,’ ‘Burgundy,’ and ‘Silver.’
- ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): These long-lived houseplants are one of the best for low-light spaces. Look for ‘Zenzi’ -- a new cultivar with a very compact habit and cute dark green leaves.
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema): Bring some tropical flair to your Zoom calls. Try 'Maria' with beautifully pattered leaves, ‘Spring Snow’ with speckled white and green foliage, ‘Golden Papaya’ with lime leaves and pink veins, or ‘Firecracker’ with bright green and pink mottled leaves.