Everyone wants to know what plants will do well in their home. Which plants can tolerate lower light levels? Which plants will not mind if I forget to water them or go on vacation for a week? Does this plant require special care? The answers to these questions are all around you if you just keep your eyes open when you go out. Many businesses add plants to their lobbies, showrooms, or office spaces to add some life to their décor. Plants can, after all, help transform the most industrial space seem more inviting and make the people there feel more relaxed. The next time you are out visiting a doctor’s office, a Las Vegas Casino lobby, a bank, a restaurant, or almost any place of business or public building, look around for plants. You’ll see plants that can not only survive, but thrive in low light settings. You’ll see plants that require little care and tolerate longer periods of time between watering. After all, the owners are busy running their business and don’t want to use work hours taking care of plants every day. If they have plants provided by a third-party service, that company may only come by once a week to monitor and care for the plants. They need to be sturdy enough to always look good in that environment.
Typically, you’ll see lots of Snake Plants (Sansevieria trifasciata, or sansevieria trifasciata Laurentii -the one with the golden edge around each leaf). Note that you’ll sometimes see these referred to by their newer taxonomic designation: Dracaena trifasciata since they were officially reclassified. These are among the toughest, most resilient houseplants available. Their thick leaves retain water and their thick tuber-like roots store water and energy to get them through prolonged periods of neglect if needed. Furthermore, snake plants thrive with low light levels. You’ll often see them tucked in the back corner of an office or waiting room, far away from any windows. Over time, these plants can grow quite tall and will send up new shoots to fill out very large pots. The basic varieties will grow 3-4 feet tall over time. If that’s too big for your living room end-table, there are many compact varieties as well. Any Snake plant with the words Bird’s Nest or Hahnii in the name is going to stay relatively small, usually well under a foot tall. Robusta varieties are an intermediate size often topping out at about two feet tall. There are many different patterns available as well: Black and Gold, Moonshine, Whale Fin, Night Owl, Cylindrica and a host of others.
In addition to the hardy Snake Plant, you’ll see different varieties of Pothos plants. These are long, leafy vines that at first glance may look a bit like a philodendron. Pothos plants also come in a number of different varieties. The Jade Pothos is a deep rich green, while the Marble Pothos and the Pearls and Jade varieties feature leaves with varying patterns of white and green for a truly striking appearance. The Neon Pothos Plant has bright green leaves that you have to see to believe. One of the most common Pothos varieties is the Golden Pothos which has small streaks of golden yellow on its green leaves. The Pothos plant is a popular choice because of its full, lush foliage. When you see a long trailing vine with thick leaves almost forming a curtain inside a place of business, it is usually a Pothos vine. With such a leafy appearance, you might think the Pothos would need a fair amount of light. It doesn’t. The Pothos plant naturally grows in the shady understory of tropical forests where very little, if any direct sunlight filters through the tree canopy. In fact, the Pothos does so well in the shadows that it is also referred to as Devil’s Ivy. While not as drought tolerant as the Snake Plant, Pothos plants can accept the occasional missed watering with little effect. Pothos plants also root readily from stem clippings. Basically any spot on the stem from which leaves grow, can produce new roots. A new vine can be coiled around a larger pot and each leaf node with take root to and then send out new branches to fill a very large space over time. When the vine gets too long, it can be clipped and the bottom end can be rooted in water to make a new plant.
The Spider Plant is another plant that thrives in low light. There are several varieties on the market today, the classic Spider Plant has green leaves with ivory-colored stripes down the center of each leaf. The Reverse-Variegated Spider is just the opposite with golden stripes around the edge of the leaf with a green center. There is a completely green variety of spider plant, and a classic variant called Bonnie or Curly Sue that has tightly curled leaves instead of the long straight leaves typical of the spider plant. Spider plants not only do well in low light, but they can also survive poor watering habits. They have thick roots that store moisture for a time of need that can get them through your extended vacation without a house-sitter to take care of them. Spider plants throw out long shoots with tiny new spider plants at the end of each one. These baby spider plants can be rooted to form new plants, or left on the parent plant for an impressive display that looks like green spiders coming down from a trailing web.
The ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) does quite well in low light conditions as well. Its dark green leaves form in tight symmetrical rows directly from the main stem giving it a visually striking appearance. Not only does it do well in low light, but one look at its root system will tell you that it is drought tolerant as well. The stems spring up from large tuberous roots that look like potatoes. These roots store moisture and energy to help the plant thrive through periods of neglect. The ZZ Plant is also called the Eternity Plant and is one of the toughest, low maintenance plants you’ll see in public spaces where high levels of sunlight are not available.
There are many others that thrive in low light, tolerate infrequent watering, or both. We’ll revisit this topic and add more in future posts.