Best Indoor Plants for Difficult Spaces

The internet has a way of making plants look amazing in all kinds of spaces: bathrooms, bedrooms—even basements. Instagram accounts and trendy plant stores make it look easy, but these perfectly placed plants may not actually stay there once the cameras get turned off.

Maybe you’ve made the mistake of buying a plant you adored only to find that you couldn’t find the right place to put it—or the opposite happened, and you can’t seem to find a plant for a certain room. Have no fear, this article will give you tips on the best plants for difficult spaces, and not just for the camera.

Bathroom

plant on bathroom sink

The majority of tropical indoor plants love humidity, but many of them are finicky and want conditions to remain constant. High humidity levels that fluctuate in the bathroom mean that not every houseplant is going to be happy in there. Plants like cacti, and many succulents prefer dry conditions.

Bathrooms are also notorious for lacking windows, or they are frosted, so there’s often a lack of light, as well. The best plants for bathroom spaces are the ones that like humid spaces, aren’t fussy about change, can handle various light conditions, and won’t fall victim to diseases like powdery mildew or root rot due to excess moisture in the air.

One of the best plants for any of these situations is the crispy wave fern plant. It loves humidity and prefers low light—two winning bathroom combinations. It’s easy to take care of, and looks great in bathroom spaces as the “waves” of its upright foliage add texture and color to tiled spaces.

Another excellent plant for the bathroom is the spider plant. It’s very versatile, loves humidity, and doesn’t need a lot of sunlight. It will need some, though, so if your bathroom doesn’t have any windows at all, try a snake plant. It easily tolerates the changing humidity levels, and does just fine in low lighting.

Air plants or tillandsia are neat species that don’t need any soil and love moist environments. They demand a lot of bright, indirect light, so don’t try them if you don’t have any south or west-facing bathroom windows. Otherwise, they will love soaking up that humid air and won’t need any extra misting from you.

Lucky Bamboo is another versatile and interesting looking plant that adorns bathroom spaces nicely. Not actually bamboo, but more related to garden asparagus, the long, twisty stalks can be grown in water or soil and tolerate low light conditions. It loves water, which makes it ideal for the bathroom.

Boston ferns are popular hanging plants for shaded outdoor garden areas in the summer, and they love high humidity. They will do great in bathrooms, but when brought inside they will need enough indirect light to keep their fronds looking nice and green.

The plant is bushy and would do great on its own stool or hanging from a basket. DO NOT put them in the shower: hot water and plants don’t mix.

Orchids also love humidity but need a bright bathroom with lots of indirect light—perfect on or near a sunny window with frosted glass, or on a shelf near a sunny window. They don’t like drafts, however, and prefer conditions to remain fairly constant. This is one plant you never want to over-water, either.

Medium Light

maranta plant

You probably see “prefers bright, indirect light” on a lot of indoor plant tags, because most of them need a fair amount of filtered sunlight to thrive. It can be hard to find plants that don’t need to be close to a south or west facing window that receives a lot of sunlight. Plants that like moderate light are common, though, you just have to know what to look for.

Monstera is one of our favorite plants that does well in medium lighting, meaning you can place it in a living or dining room that doesn’t have any south or west facing windows and it will do just fine. They also liven up drab spaces, or ones that need a little pizzazz. Rooms with white walls look great with the monstera’s trendy dark green foliage on display.

Prayer plants will tolerate moderately lit areas, and are actually much fussier about temperature and water. You’ll want to set them in a spot where they can stay put and receive frequent waterings, and a consistent temperature. Prized for their beautifully patterned foliage, marantas look great on kitchen tables or on TV stands—any spot where you won’t forget to tend to them, and can marvel at their beauty.

Dieffenbachia or “dumb cane” is a fast-growing plant that will thrive in rooms with filtered light. It doesn’t just tolerate it; it thrives in it. When they’re small, they can sit pretty on shelves, or bedroom end tables, but as they mature, they make excellent floor plants. Don’t over-water this easy-going plant, and it will be yours for life.

Most palms will tolerate moderately lit spaces, as well. Cat palms thrive in medium light, and while majesty and areca palms do best in bright, indirect light, they are very tolerant of diffused light. These palms are large, which is great for filling in wide spaces like hallways, living rooms, and dining rooms. Areca fronds are upright, while the majesty palm spreads out more.

Windowless Spaces

snake plants

Basements and offices can be tough spaces to grow plants in since they often don’t have any windows—and if they do, it’s a small window, or far away. Incandescent and fluorescent lighting can sometimes be enough for certain plants that can handle low light conditions. Usually, where humans go, there will be some kind of light source.

There aren’t any indoor plants that will grow in complete darkness, so don’t get bamboozled into “grow in the dark” plants on internet sites, or sales associates that tell you there are plants that can handle zero light. Only mushrooms can grow in complete darkness. And mushrooms aren’t meant as houseplants.

There are a ton of awesome plants that thrive on very little light, however, so your basement or office doesn’t have to remain without greenery.

Chinese evergreens are a type of aglaonema, with white and green broad-leafed foliage. These common houseplants are almost indestructible: they’re drought-tolerant and low-light tolerant. This can be a win-win for these types of spaces, especially if you don’t always go to the office, or hang out in the basement.

ZZ plants were all the rave when the ZZ “raven” series came out a few years ago. This elegant, upright plant is normally a fairly dark green, but the ravens were almost black, which made them even more dramatic in a low-light space. They aren’t fussy about regular watering, nor are they fast growers, so you can set them and forget them.

Snake plants have already been mentioned, but it’s worth repeating that these elegant, upright succulents actually do very well in low-light conditions. Most succulents prefer sunny, dry areas, but snake plants prefer the darker side. They are one of the most laidback plants, however, and can thrive in a variety of spaces without regular attention.

Small Spaces

ZZ plant

If you want a nice floor plant for a small space, look for neat, upright varieties that don’t have large fronds or spreading foliage. ZZ plants, peperomia, Kimberly ferns, snake plants, dieffenbachia, lucky bamboo, and crispy wave fern plants are all great choices for tight spaces.

Most of them are sold in smaller, 6-inch pots, although dieffenbachia will grow out of it. Kimberly ferns are often sold in one gallon grower’s pots, but you can find them smaller if you need.

If you want something on an even smaller scale, perhaps for a counter top, shelf, or table decoration, tiny succulents are great at bringing some eye-catching color and texture to a room without taking over.

Jade and aloe can grow to be very big, but it takes a while for that to happen. Echeveria, sempervivum, and mini cacti will stay small for years. Give them lots of light, don’t over-water them, and make sure those cute little pots have proper drainage.

Orchids can also work in small spaces, though the tops of them will get large when they are in full bloom, and the flowers hang over in a gorgeous arching fashion. They can sit in small pots for their whole life, however, usually no bigger than three or four inches. Just give them enough headroom, and they’ll be happy on a small shelf.

Tiny Corners

spider plant on table

Need to sneak a plant on a corner shelf that will stay small and compact? Any plants that trail to one side are great for corners, as you won’t have to worry about turning the plant around, or smushing any foliage.

Spider plants don’t mind being cornered, and will gladly send their spider-like fronds over to one side. When they’re happy and mature, they’ll put out little spider plant babies on extended stems that are little miniature versions of the parent plant.

These trailing babies can be left on the plant, but it’s actually better if they are snipped off, so the plant focuses on growing. The babies can be propagated and put in soil to make new plants.

Pothos and vining philodendron will look great on a corner shelf, however, they tend to grow fairly fast, so they may not be able to stay there for long.

Large Rooms

fiddle leaf fig tree

Maybe you have too much space and want to fill it as best as possible with some lovely greenery! There are tons of plants that grow tall, love to spread out, and look great doing it.

Fiddle leaf fig trees are super trendy plants these days, and for good reason. Their broad-leafed greenery has cool looking veins that travel up a singular stem. They can grow up to two feet in just one year, so feel free to buy them small and watch them grow into a space. Ultimately, they can reach six feet tall, while staying relatively thin.

Rubber plants are similar to fiddle leaf plants in many ways, though their leaves are glossier and darker. They, too, can grow rapidly, usually around a foot each year when conditions are right. At full maturity, some have been known to reach ten feet tall!

Banana trees will need even more space than the last two, since their leaves grow up and sideways, needing a lot of real estate. In the wild, they can grow up to 40 feet in just nine months, but indoors they can get up to a whopping 15 feet tall.

At this height, they look like they’re waving, and are great positioned next to furniture like couches and chairs as their leaves only grow at the top. Just don’t expect any fruit.

Split-leaf philodendrons are not to be confused with monsteras, though they look similar and are both big plants that do great in large rooms. This type of philodendron is very different from the trailing kind; instead, it has broad, spiny leaves that grow fast, and extend every which way on branches. They can get up to six feet tall, and almost as wide.

Monstera has the quintessential “Swiss cheese” leaves and grows up to two feet each year, sometimes reaching 15 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide.

Best Hanging Plants

hanging plants in water under lights

When wall space is limited, look to the ceiling! Lots of plants love to trail down from hanging baskets, and it can be a great way to get plants into a room that doesn’t have wall or floor space available. It can also help them reach toward a light source easier, or help keep them away from nosey pets. Place hanging baskets anywhere in the house, just make sure to allow enough headroom.

String of pearls is a beautiful plant for hanging baskets, as it looks just like it sounds. Tiny green beads trail down in straight lines that look like water droplets.

Nanouk plants are gorgeous houseplants with striking variegated green, purple, pink, and white leaves. They will trail when given the opportunity, and are fairly drought-tolerant which is nice in a hanging basket since they can be a little trickier to water sometimes.

Most ferns make great hanging baskets, but the Boston fern is one of the nicest since it arches over its pot. They tend to be sold big, however, so try the kangaroo fern if you want a smaller variety. Both will need regular watering, and indirect light.

The goldfish plant rewards its owners with tiny orange flowers that resemble the popular children’s pet. This exotic trailing plant looks like a succulent because of its rubbery foliage, but will need soil to be kept moist in the summer and drier in the winter to promote those cute blooms. It’s happy to be root bound, meaning you can keep it where it is for a while.

Pet-friendly Plants

kitten pawing plant

Maybe the difficult space in your house is any room because of curious kitties or destructive doggies. The best thing to do is either put all plants out of reach, get rid of them entirely, or wait until they stop teething, destroying, or eating things they shouldn’t—but, you may be waiting a long time to ever have plants again.

There are many pet-friendly plants out there, so if your fur-babe does get a hold of one, they won’t do any harm. Majesty, areca, and cat palms are non-toxic to both dogs and cats, and are big enough to handle some horseplay. Sago palms are very toxic to both, however, so know the difference.

Spider plants are non-toxic and easy to put up high on a shelf so even if Milo does gnaw at it, it’s safe. Peperomia, pilea, bromeliads, prayer plants, and calatheas are all safe for dogs and cats, but aloe vera, jade, dieffenbachia, pothos, and snake plants are toxic.

Never, ever, ever have lilies in your home with pets, especially with cats. True lilies are extremely toxic to them and possibly fatal, if even some of the pollen gets on their fur and they lick it off.

There really is a plant for any room, you just have to know how to pair plant needs with a room’s design. There are a lot of options when it comes to the best indoor plants for difficult spaces. The hard part is choosing.