Houseplants bring a tonne of benefits. From improving air quality to bringing mindful calm to our every day, it’s no wonder millennials love them.
The retro revival of the humble houseplant might even be our way of coping with contemporary fears of environmental breakdown, the impossibility of homeownership and long-term familial commitment.
But they can be tricky to get right. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your favourite plant slowly die after you’ve lavished love, attention and Mort Garson records on it.
With the help of the fine ladies at Root’d—Sydney’s fabulous rare plant emporium—we’ve come up with the ultimate guide to create indoor greenhouses when you’re lacking in the light department.
Choose From The Low-Light Plant Menu
As a general rule of thumb, the deeper the green, the less light a plant will need. Differently coloured or lighter green plants will have to work harder to photosynthesise, so stick with the darker ones and you should be okay.
If you’ve got little to no light, your go-tos are Epipremnums. These are things like Devil’s Ivy, which are known to survive indoors with only artificial light. They come in a bunch of different colours and will trail across or climb up things so are good for filling spaces.
If you’ve got a little more brightness, Philodendrons like the Rojo Congo work well. The ZZ plant or Zanzibar Gem can take lower light conditions as well if you let them dry out between waterings. Syngoniums are also great low-light plants that come in a wide variety of colours.
Plants like the supremely popular Monstera Deliciosa can also handle low-light. Raphiadora Decursiva is another great low-light plant that will spread out much like the Monstera. Peace Lilies too can adapt to darker spaces.
All of these will survive low-light environments but they may not grow at all. Peace Lilies don’t flower unless they get bright light and you’ll struggle to get those sought-after splits in the leaves of your Monstera too. Bear this in mind when choosing the size of your plant.
Give Your Plants A Holiday In The Sun
If you’ve got a very low-lit space, you can always move your plants around so they get a bit of sun every now and then. Water them less frequently and move them next to a window or a doorway where they can get brighter light on the days you do.
You should do this once a week minimum. If you’re routine about it, the plants will get used to the changes and will be less stressed by this movement, resulting in more growth and healthier plants.
Don’t go moving them from a dark corner into harsh direct light however, as this is a great way to burn the leaves.
Get Yourself Some Grow Lights
If you’re serious about keeping plants in a low-light environment and you’ve got a bit of spare cash to sink into your addiction (there’s always money for plants, right?), grow lights are definitely an option.
You can go full grow-op style and get red-and-blue lights that will increase both growth and flowering, but if you’re worried you might be raided by law enforcement, regular white LED lights can work just as well.
Specialist full-spectrum cultivation LEDs can be bought online but they’re not the cheapest. IKEA had them for a while but they sold out as soon as the plant community clocked onto this (don’t tell anyone but they should be back in stock in February, 2020).
If you can find LEDs with a similar output to IKEA’s (4000k, 800lum, 10w), put a few of them into lamps around your home. Make sure to keep them close to your light-lacking plants. Any more than a few feet away will be ineffective.
This is probably the most extreme option but it can be really effective. Putting a few large mirrors up is a great way to brighten a space but the light you’re reflecting will be diminished in terms of usable quality for your plants.
You could even put a few mirrors outside to direct light into your room and, if you’re feeling particularly mad-scientist, use a few inside to bounce the incoming light around your home. Don’t forget though, the sun moves surprisingly quickly and you will have to adjust the mirrors every half an hour or so.
I mean, you could but... nah. There’s something so dystopian about bringing fake plants into your house. It’s like that Simpsons episode set in the future where there’s a hologram tree to memorialise a real one. Plus, there’s enough plastic on the planet already.
Listen to your plants. If they’re getting long and leggy, with few leaves, or they’re bending toward the light, they’re saying they need more light. As a rule of thumb, if it’s too dark to read a book, your plants are probably going to need some help.
For best results, use a combination of these tips. Choose plants adapted for low light, grab a few full-spectrum LED light bulbs, put your plants in front of a mirror to reflect light onto them, and take your leafy pals outside every now and then.
And remember, plants only need water for photosynthesis. You can have most plants in a darker corner but make sure you adjust the care so you’re not overwatering. It’s super easy to love a plant to death in this way—trust us.
For more plant tips (like a guide to indoor plants for serial plant killers) head over here.
Image credit: Getty