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Air-Purifying Bedroom Plants That Can Survive Low Light

In addition to having a master's degree in sustainable development, Susette works in water conservation and sustainable landscaping.

Although they grow biggest and healthiest outside in their natural environment, low-light plants can survive decently indoors if they are placed well and taken care of properly.

Although they grow biggest and healthiest outside in their natural environment, low-light plants can survive decently indoors if they are placed well and taken care of properly.

The Best Indoor Plants for Your Bedroom

There are three inherent questions in the title of this article: Which houseplants will purify the air? Which plants survive low light best? And which plants are good to place in the bedroom? Each of these questions has its own answers, but there are very few plants that fit all three criteria.

Since I became an adult 50 years ago, the only times I haven’t had houseplants have been the two times I lived in other countries as a Peace Corps volunteer. Here in the United States, houseplants have filled every place I’ve lived, whether house or apartment . . . except in the bedroom. I knew intuitively that they didn’t belong there. Then I started studying feng shui and found my intuition verified.

However, my bedrooms have also been small ones, which makes a difference. Many plants that could be good for a bedroom need a lot of space. My bedrooms have also had windows with very little light. That makes a difference too.

Read on to see what kinds of plants could work in a bedroom, and then why you might not actually want plants there.

The snake plants on the left are upright, energizing plants, whereas the golden pothos on the right is a more relaxed, downward-growing plant that could be placed in a bedroom.

The snake plants on the left are upright, energizing plants, whereas the golden pothos on the right is a more relaxed, downward-growing plant that could be placed in a bedroom.

How to Pick the Right Plant for Your Bedroom

There are three things to consider when picking plants for your bedroom—the size of your room, its lighting, and the feel of the plant.

Room Size: The size of your bedroom affects the number and types of plants you can have there. Big plants, especially, need to be placed far enough away that they don't mesh with your energy field and affect your sleep. Hanging plants should be far enough away to counteract any worry about something falling on your face while you sleep.

Lighting: Are there east- or west-facing windows that provide enough light for a plant? If you have a south-facing window, is there some kind of shade outside that will soften the sunlight? (Light in the south is usually intense.) If you have only one window and it’s north-facing, does it get full north light or is something shading it? If anything shades it, you may not have enough natural light for a plant.

Nature of the Plant: When we sleep, we wind down, spread out, and get calm and relaxed. Which plants do that for you? A spider plant is great for low light, but the look and feel of it is spiky and energetic—not conducive to resting. An African violet, on the other hand, looks and feels calm and pretty. That would be a good one for a bedroom.

If you're not sure whether your bedroom has enough light for plants, here are a couple of easy ways to find out.

If you're not sure whether your bedroom has enough light for plants, here are a couple of easy ways to find out.

Which Plants Do Well With Low Light?

No plant will grow in the dark, hence it’s important to test the amount of light you have available in your bedroom. The following method is free and easy.

Simple Light Test for Bedroom Plants

If you have windows, but you’re not sure whether the light coming through them is bright enough for plants, try this.

  1. During the time of day when you get the most light through a window, open all blinds and drapes.
  2. Take a book over to the window and start reading.
  3. Repeat an hour later.
  4. If you can read clearly and easily both times, without strain, then there’s probably enough light. If you start thinking, “I need more light on this,” then there’s not enough light for plants without supplementation.

If your bedroom is big and bright, you can grow practically any of the plants on the following lists. A room that gets a little direct sun early morning or late afternoon is especially good for plants with variegated colors in their leaves; such plants need that extra bit of light to develop their coloring.

More Ways to Test Your Bedroom Lighting

If you're looking for more precision, you can also measure your room's light with a light meter (purchased online or at a photo shop). If you're interested in learning about even more ways of seeing if there's enough light for plants, check out this article from Greenery Unlimited.

Larger plants belong in larger bedrooms. Since most plants are small when you buy them, it's a good idea to research any names of plants you’re interested in to see which are the ones that grow big. Here are some that are good for a large bedroom.

  • Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemum morifolia is the only one of NASA’s anti-pollution plants that could work in a bedroom. The flowers are colorful and give the plant a round, bushy appearance. This plant does not do well in low light, though. It needs bright light and a large room.
  • Dallas Fern: This type of Boston fern is rounder than most Bostons. Its fronds are shorter and grow in different planes to give it a ruffled appearance. It's a recent cultivar, so it might not be readily available. To choose between other types of Boston ferns, look for fronds that droop, rather than the kind that stick up straight.
  • Dieffenbachia: This plant comes in several different varieties. They grow tall, but have broad, droopy, translucent, green-and-white leaves with a distinctive green vein down the middle. They can't take direct sun.
  • Calithea: This striped-leaf plant has leaves up to 12" wide. It's a tropical plant, so keep it moist and warm and keep it out of direct sun. Calathea is also known as the Prayer Plant due to the way it raises its leaves at night, as though it were praying.

These plants will either stay fairly small, even as they grow, or are delicate enough that they would fit well in a small bedroom. It’s still good to keep them away from your bed, so they don’t interfere with sleep.

  • Polkadot Plant: This plant has small wrinkled, pinky-purple leaves with distinctive purple veins. It yields rounded growth and can also be found in a cream/green leaf pattern.
  • African Violet: This plant has short, squat, hairy leaves. It blooms in clusters with large, purple or blue velvety flowers. It needs to be sprayed often and kept out of direct sunlight.
  • Maidenhair Fern: With masses of tiny, almost transparent leaves on long black, drooping stems, this plant is delicate and doesn’t like direct light. It does like to be sprayed regularly.
  • Chinese Money Plant: Also known as the Missionary plant, this plant has almost perfectly round, green leaves at the end of long, drooping stems.
  • Emerald Ripple Plant: The peperomia plant has corrugated leaves that look like ripples and white flowers on red spikes. Another bedroom-appropriate variety has leaves with a watermelon pattern.

These plants you can hang from the ceiling. They look especially nice when hanging from a holder made of glass or macrame:

  • Golden Pothos: This plant's leaves are heart-shaped and variegated green and white when it gets enough light, with several leaves to a vine. It is extremely hardy and prefers moist air and drier soil. (Note that this plant is not the same as plain pothos.)
  • Inch Plant: Also known as Wandering Jew, this plant has tiny pink flowers and silver-green leaves with purple-brown edges and thick stripes down the middle, several on a stem. Each leaf is a bright, red-purple underneath. It grows out, rather than up, hence is usually used as a hanging plant inside.
  • Boston Fern: Also called sword fern, this plant has many varieties. You want the kind with drooping fronds that grows big and bushy. These do best in a larger bedroom.
  • Donkey/Burro's Tail: This slow-growing trailing sedum droops when hung. It's a perennial succulent with fleshy blue/green leaves and tiny pink flowers at the end of each trailer. It can grow huge under the right conditions, but it takes a while.

Do remember that the way you hang a plant will affect the peace in your bedroom too. You want hangers that are simple, round, and maybe a bit decorative.

While some plants can look and feel right in a bedroom, here are a few reasons to consider putting plants in every part of your house *but* the bedroom.

While some plants can look and feel right in a bedroom, here are a few reasons to consider putting plants in every part of your house *but* the bedroom.

Bedroom Plants and Feng Shui

Now let's address whether or not to have plants in the bedroom in the first place. Expert opinions differ—even experts within the same organization. For example, the online publication The Spruce contained an article on September 25, 2019, that said, “Our feng shui experts at The Spruce have found that plants are good feng shui for the bedroom. Living green plants bring in wood energy.”

On August 4, 2020, the same magazine printed an article that said, “In feng shui, plants are not recommended in the bedroom because they emit strong growth energy, movement, and carbon dioxide.”

Energetic Growth vs. Calming Energy

In feng shui, plants are considered woody energy, which represents active, energetic growth. That kind of energy can increase the vibrance in a room and enrich the feeling of a room that otherwise feels dry. It’s almost like adding right-brain, creative energy into a left-brain, mechanical space. It introduces life and creates balance.

However, when you’re trying to sleep you want a calming, peaceful, grounding energy to help you wind down, not an enlivening one. If you have a huge bedroom and can place plants far away from you, then that might be ok. But if they’re physically close to you, their energy will mix with yours and likely make it more difficult to sleep at night, so be very careful what you choose for a small bedroom.

Feng shui also takes into account the care you give your plants. If you pretty much ignore them, having bedroom plants is not a good idea. In feng shui, any time you have hurting or dying plants, it takes energy away from you.

Do Indoor Plants Really Provide More Oxygen?

Then there’s the question of oxygenation. Some people tout the oxygenating benefits of plants, which is true, from a limited viewpoint. In sunlight, plants do absorb carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, but they need the light for that process. When it's dark, they breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, through a different process. So their oxygenating benefits would not apply at nighttime.

This is the brightest this corner gets during the day. Notice how all the leaves are facing away from the window. They're getting their light elsewhere. Notice also that there's not much coloration on the leaves. That also reflects the lack of light

This is the brightest this corner gets during the day. Notice how all the leaves are facing away from the window. They're getting their light elsewhere. Notice also that there's not much coloration on the leaves. That also reflects the lack of light

Here you can see the bright floor lamp where this pothos is getting most of its light. This plant was twice as big as this where I used to live.

Here you can see the bright floor lamp where this pothos is getting most of its light. This plant was twice as big as this where I used to live.

How to Take Care of Indoor Plants in Your Bedroom

The best thing you can do for plants in a low light situation is to maximize the light they’re getting. The next best thing is to keep them moist and lightly watered. See below for tips.

Maximize Light Absorption

  • Keep them clean. Periodically take them into the kitchen and wash their leaves or fronds, or do it in place with a clean sponge. It’s very difficult for plant leaves to absorb light through dust.
  • Clean your windows. A person gets used to dirty or dusty windows, but a plant needs the light that the dust on that window is blocking. Periodically clean the window, both inside and out, until it’s so clean you can’t tell it’s there.
  • Trim trees or bushes outside. Keep any trees or bushes pruned enough that light can pass through their branches and leaves to the window.
  • Add more light. My pothos is hanging next to a window in a corner that is darker than I realized. One day I bought a floor lamp to increase light for Zoom sessions, and now all the leaves on that plant are facing the floor lamp. There are other ways to increase light too: hang reflective mirrors, paint walls a shiny, light color, buy grow lights with a timer.

Water When and How Each Plant Needs It

For moisture, you’ll need first to know how much water each plant needs. Read up about it first, not just on the tag that comes when you buy the plant, but also by looking up the scientific name on the Internet. Look especially for where the plant comes from.

Once you know, you can mimic its native environment as closely as possible, including how much sun it gets, and how it gets its water. Some plants like an occasional deep watering through their roots, some like it light and often. Some like it differently between seasons.

Others like it more through their leaves—by spraying them to keep the air around them moist. Take into account any cooling or heating you do. Air conditioners and heaters both dry the air. If you want to know more about watering houseplants in general, read this article, Indoor House Plants: Watering & Decorating. Note that all of these tips apply to plants anywhere in the house.

Unless you have a large bedroom, plants are best kept in the other parts of your house—where vibrance and energy will contribute to your day rather than keep you up at night.

Unless you have a large bedroom, plants are best kept in the other parts of your house—where vibrance and energy will contribute to your day rather than keep you up at night.

Is It Healthy to Have Plants in My Bedroom?

The bedroom can be used for many activities, but most of your time there will be spent sleeping. Therefore, the philosophy of feng shui says that plants generally do not belong in your bedroom, unless your feng shui birth element is fire (as wood feeds and strengthens fire). But in general, plants are too active for the peace and calm a person needs to sleep.

Of course, many people like to have animals in their bedroom, which are also active, but how many times have you experienced animals waking you up at night or early in the morning before you’re ready to rise?

If you want your body and mind to have the deep sleep they need to stay healthy, neither animals nor plants are good to have in the bedroom. That said, if you’re one of those people who is afraid to be alone—and if you’re not particularly interested in finding out why—then some kind of company might be a good thing for you.

How to Connect With Your Plants on a Deeper Level

Indeed, plants can befriend just as animals can. They demonstrate it too, though not as obviously. Read a book like The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Thompkins to find out how to connect with your plants emotionally.

After I read it and tried some experiments, I started feeling my houseplants greet me every time I came home from work. If you like houseplants like I do, this book could make a huge difference in your life, whether you keep them in the bedroom or not.

© 2021 Sustainable Sue

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