What Plants Can Live Without Sunlight? What Plants Can Live Without Sunlight?

Thriving in the Shadows: Discover 15 Plants That Can Flourish Without Sunlight

There are a myriad of plants that can live without a ray of sunlight. However, the most asked questions about them are: ‘How long do they survive without sunlight? ‘Are they outdoor or indoor?’ ‘Do they require additional care?’, ‘How much watering is needed a day?’. In that case, you can count on me this time. 

Meanwhile, getting sunlight once in a while is a good thing since vitamin D is essential. Yet, some parts of the home do not have sufficient sunlight. Provided that, you can turn those spaces into a refreshing garden for a better respiration system. 

We know that plants serve as the Earth’s lungs, producing oxygen through photosynthesis, and absorbing carbon dioxide in return. Besides, plants enhance soil health, purify the air, and offer medicinal value. Moreover, plants are the planet’s natural air purifiers. They filter out harmful pollutants and toxins from the air, thereby cleansing the home atmosphere.

In this intriguing world of different species of plants, a few can still shine without a shaft of sunlight. From lush ferns in the depths of forests to beautiful indoor houseplants, these botanical wonders have evolved various tricks up their sleeves. This includes efficient light absorption, and lessened water needs, to thrive in sunlight-free circumstances. 

1. Can Plants Grow Without Sunlight? 

Most of the plants rely on sunlight for growth. The process called photosynthesis is the source of every plant’s evolution. However, photosynthesis can happen only if there is sunlight, as it converts sunlight, CO2, and water into glucose and oxygen.

In other words, photosynthesis renders nutrients and energy to plants. It is a must-needed process because, without photosynthesizing, the plants would eventually die. 

On the other hand, there are some exceptions, where plants can survive in very low light conditions or without sunlight for the long run. Here are a few examples of plants that obtain energy and nutrients even in the absence of sunlight:

1.1 Epiphytic Plants

Epiphytic plants, for instance, orchids and certain ferns can grow on the surface of trees in the dense canopy of a forest. They can gain nutrients and water from the air, rain, and decaying organic matter along the banks of the river. 

1.2 Understory Plants

Understory are those plants that grow on the forest floor beneath the canopy. They are best recognized for their adaptation to low-light conditions. However, they tend to receive a little bit of sunlight indirectly. 

1.3 Fungus-Associated Plants

Some plants, like mycoheterotrophic, are known for their symbiotic relationship with fungi. These plants do not photosynthesize, yet obtain energy and nutrients from the growing fungi, which are attached to the tree roots. Fungus-associated plants are usually seen in dark forest environments. 

1.4 Hydroponics and Artificial Lighting

This is quite a different circumstance because here plants are made to grow in controlled environments like greenhouses or using hydroponic systems with artificial lighting as the source. By providing sufficient amounts of light and nutrients through artificial means, there is a promising possibility for certain plants to thrive without natural sunlight. 

Considering all these points in mind, I suppose it made it clear to you that some plants can survive in low-light conditions or without direct sunlight. In that case, I have listed the top 15 plants you can grow at home without exposure to sunlight.

Growing Epiphytic and Understory Plants in Low-Light Environments

David Cohen, the CEO of Flower Station, provides insights into how the habitat of understory plants influences their survival, including interactions with other organisms and environmental factors:

“Epiphytic and understory plants, thriving in low-light environments, exhibit ingenious [strategies for] nutrient and water acquisition.

In our e-commerce business, similar to the intricate ecosystems hosting these plants, we recognize the importance of adaptation.

Epiphytes, like orchids, absorb nutrients and water from rain, air, and organic debris, utilizing their host trees for support. Understory plants employ efficient root systems to extract nutrients from decomposing organic matter.

Their habitat, characterized by a diverse [array of] flora, fosters symbiotic relationships and nutrient cycling.

Just as these plants rely on their surroundings, Flower Station acknowledges the vitality of a supportive ecosystem, reflecting our commitment to sustainable and symbiotic business practices.”

David Cohen
David Cohen

2. Top 15 Plants that Can Survive Without Sunlight

2.1 Snake Plant

It is also known as Dracaena trifasciata. Snake Plant is a very popular plant, which is marveled at for its striking appearance and low maintenance. They are the most popular choice for indoor plant lovers due to their easy care.

They have sword-like leaves with a beautiful combination of two greens, thereby giving an elegant touch to the whole room. Besides, they are known for their air-purifying abilities and their mastery of surviving in a very low-light environment. 

Snake Plant
By Kara Eads/ Unsplash Copyrights 2019

2.2 Peace Lily

Peace Lily, also known as Spathiphyllum is a very common indoor and air-purifying plant. With its glossy, dark leaves, and delicate white blossoms, it resembles a symbol of peace and calm.

So, it is a great choice, if you love a subtle touch of calmness and serenity in your room. They can thrive in low to moderate-light environments, and the only care needed is to make sure the soil is always moist. 

Peace Lily
By Max Williams/ Unsplash Copyrights 2019

2.3 Chinese Evergreen

It is native to tropical and subtropical forests of Asia and New Guinea. It is the best plant to grow in a draft-free area near your windows. They do not need to be watered every day, and they can tolerate dimmer conditions as well.

Their ideal temperature ranges between 65 to 80 percent, with a humidity level of 60 to 70 percent. It is advised to not place these plants in direct sunlight, because they can cause burns to the leaves. 

2.4 Lucky Bamboo

The most commonly spotted plants in offices and residences are the lucky bamboo. Just like a bamboo tree, but with stalks that grow straight and more like a succulent plant. However, please avoid these plants like the plague if you have pets, since they are way more toxic than anything.

Lucky Bamboo
By Valentina Stepanova/ Unsplash Copyrights 2020

According to Chinese tradition, lucky bamboo signifies different meanings for different numbers of stalks. So, make sure you have any number of stalks except the four stalks because they symbolize death. 

2.5 Cast Iron Plant

It is a great plant for low-light or no-light environments and endures a range of room temperature and irregular watering as well.

The other name for the cast iron plant is hard-to-kill plant because it can outstand other home plants when it comes to air purifying and low-light plants. Also, direct sunlight to the cast iron plant will bleach and finally burn the leaves to the greatest extent. 

2.6 Dracaena

Dracaena is flexible enough to survive anywhere from dimly lit to brightly lit rooms. The specialty of dracaena is its cane-like stems, growing to 8 feet in height.

Furthermore, dracaena has toxicity in itself that could harm pet animals terribly. During their growing season, dracaena must have moist soil. They are often used as a screening plant because of their good ability to remove formaldehyde and other VOCs from the room. 

2.7 ZZ Plant

ZZ plant is also known by the name Eternity plant. It is a more popular and resilient house plant known for its low maintenance and low-light to no-light adaptability. They are native to Eastern Africa and have shiny, wide, and oval-shaped leaves that grow upwards.

ZZ plants have the natural tendency to restore water through themselves, so it is preferable for busy plant enthusiasts, who sometimes forget to water the plants. 

ZZ plant
By Nicolas Solorieu/ Unsplash Copyrights 2020

2.8 Dumb Cane

It is a famous ornamental house plant recognized for its attractive foliage. The name dumb is derived from the plant’s sap as it contains calcium oxalate crystals. Moreover, if someone comes in contact with the sap, it may cause temporary irritation, hence the name.

They have large variegated leaves with an aesthetically pleasing blend of greens and whites. Although dumb canes are suitable for low/no-light conditions, they must be watered regularly. Besides, they are a great complement in embellishing rooms and other indoor spaces.   

2.9 Parlor Palm

The good luck palm is a charming indoor plant that is celebrated for its elegant, feather-like fronds and its power to blossom in low-to-moderate light circumstances. They are relatively small in size, thus, making them an ideal houseplant for tabletops and other decorative zones in various indoor settings. 

Parlor palm prefers moist soil, yet, a day or two without watering would kill the plant. Furthermore, they are considered the most attractive palm varieties to be cultivated in a closed space. 

2.10 Spider Plant

Also referred to as Chlorophytum Comosum. It got its spider name for its spider-like appearance with sword-like leaves that grow upright. Subsequently, these plants have earned vogue for their appearance in such a way that many artificial plants were made to look like spider plants.

Originally, it is native to tropical and Southern Africa, to the family of Asparagaceae. They are easy to grow at home, and in fact, produce flowers at times. 

What Plants Can Live Without Sunlight?
By Matthew Smith/ Unsplash Copyrights 2015

2.11 Pothos

Solomon Island in the South Pacific is the native of the Pothos. It can live for many years with a bare minimum, including irregular watering, and no-light conditions.

Pothos are toxic to pets, so it is better to keep them away from pet households. Besides, Pothos are fast-growing indoor plants. Pothos are divided into many types based on their leaf variegation, such as marble queen, pearls and jade, neon, and silver satin. 

2.12 African Violet

This beautiful flowering plant is from the family Gesneriaceae in Eastern tropical Africa. It can flourish in low-light environments with striking flower color and shape. The key to growing an African violet is to make sure that the soil has good drainage.

Not only violet is available, but African violet flowers bloom in various colors, such as amethyst (pale purple), crimson ice(white), diamond tiffany (like a white diamond), and first kiss blush (medium pink flowers with purple freckles).

Home plants
By Prudence Earl/ Unsplash Copyrights 2018

2.13 Philodendron

It is the second-largest flowering plant in the family Araceae. Their leaves are generally large, green, and glossy, thus giving a bit of their native tropical tinge when planted at home. There are two types of philodendrons, namely, vining and non-climbing.

The vining philodendron grows several lengths and at times, needs support to climb on. On the other hand, the non-climbing philodendron can fit in containers and does not need any support. Warmth and moisture are the only vital care needed to cultivate philodendron at home. 

2.14 Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea Orbifolia is originally from the tropical rainforests of South America. It is also called a prayer plant due to its leaves closing up at night as if praying and opening up the next morning.

They are pet-friendly, lush, and eye-catching. However, they require a bit much care. Unlike all the other plants we have listed so far, Calathea Orbifolia needs constant moisture and a humid environment. 

2.15 Hoya Plant

Flowering Plant
By Barthelemy Rigaud/ Unsplash Copyrights 2022

The Hoya plant is also known as the wax or Hindu rope plant. It is a flowering plant that is popular for its low-maintenance nature and vivid appearance. They produce clusters of sweet-scented and star-shaped flowers.

It is an ideal choice for amateur and experienced indoor gardeners, as hoya plants can endure even no light and periods of neglect conditions. On the whole, the hoya plant can be a great pick if you are planning on adding a touch of natural beauty and grace to your living space. 

Common Mistakes in Caring for Low-Light Plants: A Guide to Avoiding Overwatering, Drainage Issues, and More

Juan Palacio, the CEO of BloomsyBox, elaborates on common mistakes people make when caring for plants in low-light conditions:

  1. Overwatering: Plants in low-light conditions typically require less water than those in brighter environments. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other health problems for the plant.
  2. Using pots without drainage holes: Good drainage is essential for preventing waterlogged soil, which can harm the plant.
  3. Underwatering: While overwatering is a common problem, underwatering can also harm plants. Even low-light plants need a certain amount of moisture to survive.
  4. Overfertilizing: Plants in low-light conditions generally grow more slowly and [therefore] require less fertilizer. Overfertilizing can cause nutrient burn and damage the plant.
  5. Confusing ‘low light’ with ‘no light’: Even plants that tolerate low light still need [some] light to photosynthesize and grow. No plant can survive in complete darkness.
  6. Not researching your plant before purchasing: Different plants have different light requirements. It’s [important to choose] plants that will thrive under your specific light conditions.
  7. Inconsistent plant care: Plants do best with consistent care. This includes regular watering, feeding, and light exposure.
  8. Neglecting your plants: Indoor plants don’t [have the benefit of] natural rain, soil, and sun. Regular care and attention are crucial for their health.
  9. Placing plants in the wrong light conditions: Even low-light plants can suffer from stunted growth, leggy stems, pale leaves, or lack of flowers if [they’re] placed in an environment that’s too dark.
  10. Watering plants more in darker locations: Growth will undoubtedly be slower in a darker location, so don’t [make the mistake of thinking] that watering your plants more in these areas will pep them up.
Juan Palacio
Juan Palacio

3. Final Thoughts 

Plants without sunlight face a distinctive challenge in the world of botany. While the majority of plants seek sunlight for growth, there are a few that can still outshine others in this world without a tinge of sunlight.

One fine development in the history of botany is the specialized artificial lighting systems, which mimic natural sunlight; thereby allowing plants to thrive in environments such as indoor gardens, hydroponic farms, or research labs.

Besides, artificial sunlight, temperature, and additional nutrients must also be observed to ensure the plants’ optimal growth and health.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *