Where you live can make a big difference in what types of plants thrive in your home. And if you don’t pay close attention, you may end up wondering why you have such a black thumb—all without realizing that it’s your climate and light level, and not you, that’s to blame for a houseplant that just won’t stay alive.
So, what houseplants are good for low light? What houseplants do well in direct sunlight? And what does full sun mean for indoor plants anyway? We’re tackling these questions and more, with this quick explainer on how to increase your chances of having happy houseplants based on where your home is and how much light it gets.
4 Types of Home Climates and the Best Houseplants for Each
There are many different climate variables out there, but for our purposes here, we’re looking at the ones that have the biggest effect when it comes to your houseplants: light and humidity (or lack of either).
Light and moisture are two critical factors for a plant’s health. Different plants have different needs, however, so your best bet for successful plant parenthood is going to be to choose the houseplants that are optimized for your environment.
Here’s what to know, plus a few plant picks to get you started.
1. The Best Low Light Houseplants
What plants can grow indoors without sunlight? While there aren’t a ton of plants that don’t need sunlight at all, there are a variety of low light houseplants that don’t require direct and long-lasting sun in order to grow healthy and strong.
The ZZ plant (or Zamioculcas zamiifolia, if you want to get fancy) is virtually indestructible in low-light environments, and it won’t wither in the shade. In fact, this tropical perennial actually prefers low indirect light, with minimal care requirements that include watering every two to three weeks, or until the soil fully dries out.
There are nearly a dozen types of pothos, and all of them are among the best houseplants for low light. They’re also considered one of the ideal starter plants for those who are just testing out their green abilities, growing just as well in high-nutrient soil as low-nutrient soil—and even just water alone. If you do opt for soil, water only as often as it fully dries out, which should be about once every few weeks.
2. Houseplants That Need Full Sun
On the flip side, what plants do best in full sun? There are plants that don’t need sunlight and then there are plants that need a lot of it, the more direct the better. Full-sun houseplants both tolerate direct sun and thrive on it, and aren’t likely to do well if they’re not in front of the sunniest window you can find.
Many types of succulents are wary of direct sun, but not the hardy jade plant, a pretty and petite bloom that’s among the best full sun houseplants. This super low-maintenance plant doesn’t require much beyond lots of light to survive, and prefers its soil to all or mostly dry out in between watering.
A sunny window perch is the perfect spot for a sago palm, a modern houseplant that rarely sheds its leaves and only requires watering when its soil dries out. Do keep in mind however that the sago palm is toxic if consumed, so if you’ve got curious little ones at home (of the child and/or pet variety), it’s not a great choice.
3. The Best Houseplants for Hot, Humid Climate Homes
High humidity isn’t always the most comfortable for us humans, but there are some plants that simply adore it. These high-humidity plants do particularly well in bathrooms, since every time you take a shower you’re giving them more of the moisture they love.
Heat plus humidity equals an idyllic environment for a staghorn fern. For best results, water your staghorn fern once per week in the hottest months and once every two to three weeks in cooler months. Combine that with a once-a-month addition of water-soluble fertilizer (every other month will work in the fall and winter) and you’ll get a plant that can last for decades.
Aside from its soothing properties, aloe vera is much admired for its adaptability, including its ability to thrive in both super high humidity and super low humidity. Care is simple: Water deeply but infrequently, and place your aloe plant by a window so it can take advantage of some direct light.
4. The Best Houseplants for Dry Climate Homes
If you live in a northern climate, your home may suffer from dry air more often than humid air. And when that’s the case, you’ll want to look for dry climate houseplants that won’t mind the lack of moisture—and that won’t wither as a result.
This trendy plant is a popular pick in all types of homes, including those in dry climates. In addition to being an all around difficult-to-kill houseplant, snake plants don’t require much in terms of oversight and care. Water when the soil dries out, and count this among the best houseplants for low light since it can do just fine in both shady corners and bright and sunny spots.
String of Pearls
The string of pearls hails from the dry parts of southwest Africa, and as such, it’s used to surviving in low humidity levels. To further mimic their natural environment, use a sandy soil (such as you would for cacti) and be careful not to over-water—once every two weeks or so should be sufficient.
The Easiest Houseplants to Keep Alive
The most forgiving houseplants are those that aren’t super picky about their environments. That includes some of those mentioned above—aloe vera, jade, and snake plant among them—which you’ll find tolerate both bright light and shade, as well as high humidity and low.
If you’re looking for even more options, here are several additional plants that take the cake when it comes to low-maintenance care.
The Pilea peperomioides, also known as the Chinese Money Tree, the friendship plant, the missionary plant, or, as we prefer to call it, the UFO plant, isn’t a fan of super direct light, but so long as it isn’t right in front of a window it’s almost guaranteed to be happy. Water deeply about once a week, and when little pilea babies pop up (as they’re almost guaranteed to do), cut them and repot the stem so you can share with a friend.
Named for the spider-like appearance of its leaves, the spider plant is often recommended to those who are just starting out with houseplants, since for the most part it’s harder to kill than it is to keep alive. Keep in a bright spot out of direct sun, and water often with the occasional misting in the summer, cutting back in winter when it goes a bit more dormant.
Cast Iron Plant
Much like a cast iron pan, the cast iron plant can last for years under the right conditions, which in this case is pretty much anywhere you decide to put it. Low light, bright light, or partial light are all friends of the cast iron, and it won’t mind much if you go too long between watering sessions every now and then.
If you like some extra color with all that green, consider an anthurium, which flowers at least eight weeks a year for a pretty pop of pinkish-red. Keep it in a draining pot in indirect sunlight, and water enough to maintain consistent dampness in the soil. Note though that this is another that’s quite toxic and so shouldn’t be kept in homes with pets or little kids.
Another flowering, low-maintenance option is the peace lily, which can grow up to 16 inches indoors (and six feet outdoors!) with the right conditions. They prefer bright but indirect sun, and will tolerate inconsistent watering—though overwatering is usually a bigger issue for them than underwatering.
No matter where you live, there should be plenty of plants that will be glad to call your house home. Choose ones that are ideal for your environment and the level of responsibility that you want to put in, and for each one, pick a spot that’s best in tune with its preferences so that you have a higher chance of plant success.