It seems like there are piles and piles of plants that do well in bright, direct light and tons that are ideal for low light conditions, but what about that perfect middle ground?
You know, that in-between exposure that fills so much of our homes? Where are the plants for those spots?
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There are actually quite a few popular houseplants that often get shoved into darker spots, but they’re truly happiest in moderate light.
In this guide, we will go over 23 awesome options for your home or office. Here are the plants we’ll chat about:
23 of the Best Houseplants for Medium Light
So, what exactly is medium light?
Picture the quality of light when you’re sitting under a leafy tree.
There will be patches of sunlight that filter through the leaves as they shift in the wind and throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky.
But for the most part, you’re sitting in shade without much direct sunlight hitting you.
A plant located under a tree outdoors will receive direct light for brief periods, but they’re truly brief.
A few minutes here, a few minutes there, a bit of dappled light as the leaves rustle back and forth in the breeze. But they’ll rarely receive direct light for very long.
You can recreate this lighting condition indoors with a sheer curtain placed over a sunny window, or by placing your plant in a north-facing window.
If you have an east-, west-, or south-facing window without curtains, placement around six feet away from the window and outside of the area where direct light is cast will provide medium exposure when the sun is shining in the window.
Basically, you want bright but not direct light.
Some of the plants on this list will do just fine in less or even more light, but all of these selections truly thrive in moderate lighting conditions.
This is the type of sunlight they’ve generally evolved to grow best in, and where they’re happiest both in the wild and inside your home.
If you are looking for low-light houseplants, we have a roundup of those, too!
1. African Violet
African violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia) have a reputation for being a bit fussy when it comes to light.
Too much and they wilt like spinach in a hot pan, too little and they grow leggy and refuse to bloom.
But if you’re able to provide some decent, medium-quality light? Chef’s kiss!
As one of few types of houseplants that flower regularly, African violets are like a living bouquet, and they’ll adore areas with moderate lighting in your home.
Grab a four-pack of live Optimara series plants in four-inch pots at Walmart.
Check out our growing guide to learn more about African violets.
There are several Alocasia species that are commonly grown as houseplants and pretty much all of them prefer medium light.
Whether you’re growing the seductive black velvet (A. reginula), the dramatic purple sword (A. lauterbachiana), or the ever-popular black shield (A. x amazonica ‘Polly’) give it lots of dappled, moderate sunshine.
You can find black shield plants in four-inch pots at Walmart.
Find tips on caring for alocasia plants here.
3. Aluminum Plant
Aluminum plant, or watermelon pilea (Pilea cadierei), likes lots of sun – just don’t make it direct.
These tough little nettle relatives offer up color and texture without much maintenance.
They’re also pet friendly!
California Tropicals sells live plants in six-inch pots. You can find them at Amazon.
Find more information about growing aluminum plants here.
Anthurium andraeanum aka flamingo lily, is the most popular species, and these plants are very unique.
They have glossy leaves and colorful “flowers” (which are actually modified leaves called spathes) that last for months and months.
Anthuriums are pretty forgiving and if you don’t give them the exact light exposure they prefer they’ll forgive you.
But if you want the best performance, you know what to do. Give ‘em the mid-range stuff!
Nature Hills Nursery has live flamingo lily plants available in four-inch pots.
Learn all about growing anthuriums in our guide.
5. Asparagus Fern
While it’s not a true fern, the asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus) sure is gorgeous. It has delicate, lacy leaves that look like a little green puff of smoke when seen from afar.
If you put these plants in a sunny west-facing window they’ll be crisper than a bag of chips in no time flat.
In a dark corner, they’ll become leggy. Go for that Goldilocks Zone as described above, and they’ll feel just right.
Grab a super cute live plant in a two-inch pot at Wayfair.
You can find full asparagus fern cultivation instructions in our guide.
6. Bamboo Palm
Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii) will make do if you stick them in a dark spot, but put them in the right conditions and you’ll have a taller, lusher palm to enjoy.
Ready to add a topical vibe in your home? Grab a four-inch potted specimen at Walmart.
Begonias (Begonia spp.) are such a diverse group of plants with all the beguiling foliage shapes, sizes, and colors you could ask for. My polka dot begonia never fails to draw comments.
Regardless of the variety you’re growing, one thing they all have in common is that they love bright, indirect light in that moderate zone.
The perennial favorite known as ‘Joyful Jasper’ is a popular hybrid grown as a houseplant and outdoors, thanks to its striking purple foliage and white flowers.
Snag one in a nine-inch pot from Home Depot.
8. Blue Star Fern
Some ferns are like the vampires of the plant world – they sizzle in the sunlight.
And ferns are also notorious for being greedy about water. But blue star ferns (Phlebodium aureum) defy these stereotypes.
They’re fine with less water and they soak up the mid-range exposure that would fry more finicky ferns.
If a blue star fern is calling your name, (and, honestly – same here), head over to Walmart to snag one in a four-inch pot.
9. Boston Fern
Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata), aka sword ferns – not to be confused with Western sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) – have been a mainstay in homes for years.
They’re tolerant of shade, but put them in moderate light and watch them explode with green goodness.
Nature Hills Nursery has an excellent range of plants available, including live six-inch Boston ferns.
Learn how to grow Boston ferns in our guide.
If you want that characteristic bright yellow and red coloring (or pink, or green, as the case may be) and deep green, glossy bracts, then bromeliads (family Bromeliaceae) must be grown in the right light exposure.
And yup, you guessed it… medium it is!
Pick up ‘Scarlet Star’ at Nature Hills Nursery in a six-inch container and put it in bright, indirect light. This cultivar has stunning, bright red bracts that are hard to miss.
You can learn more about bromeliads in our growing guide.
11. Chinese Evergreen
Chinese evergreens can have some extremely striking leaves with heavy white, yellow, pink, or red variegation.
But that coloring fades if you place these houseplants in dim conditions.
Medium is the way to go if you want Aglaonema species to look their best.
One Chinese evergreen is good, but two are twice as nice.
Home Depot has two-packs of plants in six-inch pots available, with elegant variegated elliptical leaves in shades of green, red, and silver.
You can learn all about how to grow Chinese evergreens in our guide.
12. Christmas Cactus
Christmas cactuses (Schlumbergera spp.) bring us color during the holidays via their attractive blooms and they don’t need anything much from us as gardeners besides a small amount of water and medium light.
Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas cactuses look similar and are most easily told apart by their leaves.
Easter and Christmas varieties have rounded leaves while Thanksgiving cactuses have points on the edges that kind of make them resemble a crab.
Whichever you pick, all types thrive in medium light.
You can find a lovely Christmas cactus with festive red blossoms in a six-inch pot available from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon.
Learn more about growing Christmas cactus in our guide.
13. Fiddle-Leaf Fig
Despite the fact that they grow well outdoors in direct sunlight, fiddle-leaf figs (Ficus lyrata) need bright, indirect light indoors.
You can even get away with placing them in a spot with some direct sun in the morning, but leave them in the dark and they’ll drop their leaves and become all leggy and ugly.
‘Bambino’ is an adorable dwarf version of the full-sized plant that you might like to add to your houseplant collection if you’re looking for something that stays a bit smaller.
If so, nab one of these in a six-inch or gallon-size pot, or pick up a two- to three- or three-to four-foot tree at Fast Growing Trees.
Learn how to grow fiddle-leaf figs in our guide.
Hoyas (Hoya spp.) come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors it can be a surprise to learn that they’re all actually closely related to each other.
But it doesn’t matter how funky your particular species is – it still wants medium exposure.
‘Krimson Queen’ is a particularly attractive option, which you an grab in a four-inch pot at Home Depot.
It has thick, oval-shaped, variegated leaves on long vines. Anecdotally, I’ve found mine to be the easiest hoya I’ve ever cared for.
Our guide to growing hoyas provides full details on how to care for these plants.
15. Money Tree
For something that can add some height and a tropical feel to the room, go with a money tree (Pachira aquatica).
Keep it out of direct sun and avoid placement in a dark corner. Something right in between is just right.
Nature Hills Nursery carries live plants in four-inch pots.
We love those big, fenestrated leaves, right? The best way to get those is to grow Swiss cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) in the right type of light.
Direct sun will fry the leaves, but if they’re not given enough, the leaves will stay small and they won’t form those fun holes.
If you are dying to get your hands on a Swiss cheese plant, visit Nature Hills Nursery where you can grab one in a six-inch pot.
You can learn more about growing Swiss cheese plants in our guide.
Orchids (family Orchidaceae) vary in their light requirements, but most want something right in the middle.
The ever-popular Phalaenopsis or moth orchid, for example, wants to be in lots of light but it can’t tolerate direct sun.
Grab a moth orchid in a five-inch pot at Home Depot to add to your decor.
This is a grab-bag option, so the color will be a surprise – you may receive a specimen with white, gold, fuchsia, pink, purple, or orange flowers. And the blossoms might be solid, striped, or spotted.
Learn more about orchids here.
It seems like some plants go out of style and disappear from the world for a while, but philodendrons (Philodendron spp.) have maintained a steady following over the years.
At least in part, that has to be because they’re totally fuss-free, pretty, and they’ll adapt to any type of light you give them – except direct sun.
But if you want them to look their best, make it bright but not direct!
You can find philodendrons at most garden stores, but if you want something a little different from what you usually see, nab a ‘Congo Rojo’ from Planting Tree.
This beauty grows large and upright, with thick, glossy, dark green leaves on red stems. Young leaves are burgundy until they mature.
Find more information about growing philodendrons in our guide.
19. Pitcher Plant
Pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) offer us something unique.
These carnivorous plants don’t look like your typical houseplants, and they have unusual nutritional requirements, but they want the same light conditions as the rest of the species on this list.
Looking for a conversation-prompting addition to your interior design?
Home Depot has lovely purple pitcher plants (S. purpurea subsp. venosa) available.
This eastern North American native has attention-grabbing green leaves with purple veins and purple edges. Young leaves are primarily purple.
Read more about these carnivorous beauties in our growing guide.
20. Rhapis Palm
Some palms are, um, challenging to grow. They want conditions to be just perfect or they’re not going to perform well, and that’s that. But these ladies are a bit more adaptable.
Rhapis aka lady palms (Rhapis excelsa) will do just fine in a dark hallway.
But if you want them to shine their brightest, give them that sweet, sweet bright, indirect stuff.
If you’re ready to welcome a tropical vibe into your home, choose a three-gallon pot, or a one- to two-foot plant in a standard or decorative pot, from Fast Growing Trees.
For cultivation tips, check out our guide.
21. Satin Pothos
In the same botanical family, Araceae, as the more common pothos, satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus) is one of my favorite plants.
It’s so rewarding for indoor gardeners to cultivate, with its abundant growth and silver and green foliage.
And when I say silver, that’s no joke. The color on the leaves actually shimmers like silver foil, and it’s also known as silver vine.
But what really won my heart with this species is that it’s so darn easy to grow.
It will grow in low light but it will be leggy, and in direct light, the leaves might burn. But in medium light, it gives you bushy, strong growth and requires basically nothing in return.
Nature Hills Nursery has plants available in six-inch containers.
Umbrella plants (Schefflera spp.) are the bee’s knees.
Who isn’t jazzed about a plant that essentially can’t be killed and tolerates all kinds of suboptimal environmental conditions that would annihilate other species?
Now, you can stick these in a dark corner and ignore them. But if you give them just a little love and the moderate light they do best in, you’ll be glad you did.
They’ll make you feel like a genius green thumb when they reward you with robust growth.
‘Gold Capella,’ an S. arboricola cultivar, is a particularly pretty plant with its variegated yellow and green foliage. Want to make one yours? Pay a visit to Nature Hills Nursery.
23. Weeping Fig
I have a sweet spot for weeping figs (Ficus benjamina). They have a deserved reputation for defoliating at the drop of a hat, but they aren’t weak and difficult!
They just react to environmental shifts by changing their outfit.
Honest, girl. Same! A good change of outfit can fix a multitude of problems.
Anyway, if you can find the perfect spot for yours right off the bat, you’ll never have to worry about dropping leaves. A big part of that is putting them in the right light.
What kind of light is that? Yep, you guessed it! Medium exposure.
Go get one of your own now from Nature Hills Nursery.
Find more information about growing weeping figs in our guide.
Medium Light Makes for Some Marvelous Plants
It seems like there are a jillion houseplants that thrive in low light or bright light, but that in-between situation? It gets neglected.
And that’s a shame because there are so many excellent options that want that bright, indirect light that most houses are filled with.
Which species on this list is calling your name? Which do you already own? Did you know that they prefer moderate exposure? Fill us in on the details in the comments below!
If you’re looking for more help on your houseplant journey, we have a few guides that you should definitely check out next: