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Indoor Plants For Compact Spaces

Indoor plants are lovely to brighten up a room and bring some of the positive energy from nature inside. Homes and offices, large and small, can benefit from the added color, air, and life of indoor plants. In small rooms and spaces, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to design a healthy system of indoor plants. What leads some to wonder is which indoor plants are ideal for growing in compact spaces?  

This article will explore plants that grow successfully indoors and in compact spaces, categorized by their lighting needs. We’ll also explore options for placements and containers for these plants.

Read on to learn more about the best indoor plants to grow in compact spaces.  

Placement / Containers For Indoor Plants In Compact Spaces

Determining the ideal placement and containers for indoor plants in a compact growing space can require creative brainstorming, but there are options. First, it is recommended to assess your space and light sources.

If you have a wide, south-facing windowsill, you may decide to grow light-loving plants in small pots. If you have room for a hanging or wall planter within range of a window, you may choose to explore vining plants that prefer indirect light.

If your best options are on a desk or end table far from window light, you will focus on more shade-tolerant plants. We’ll explore a variety of plants based on their light needs as we continue through this article.  

Indoor Plants That Need Direct Light 

The following indoor plants grow well in compact spaces and can thrive in direct sunlight. While direct sunlight can be a harsh condition for many indoor plants, these plants are mainly succulents that enjoy the hotbox that can be created when set in a well-lit window.  

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a succulent that can easily be maintained in a small pot and grow quite large if periodically repotted. Regardless of the size one chooses to grow their Aloe Vera, their leaves will grow as pointed tubes that are spiny on the edges and hold the Aloe Vera that can be used to treat cuts and burns. Because of these moisture-holding leaves, Aloe Vera plants are healthiest when soil is left to fully dry out between watering.  


While Cacti varieties are not meant to be handled, they can add a nice visual aesthetic to a bright windowsill. They grow well in rocky and sandy soil that drains easily. Cacti need very little water to survive.  


Jade plants grow as small trees with thick, oval succulent leaves. Like Aloe Vera, Jade can be kept as a small plant in a small container for years, or if repotted, it can grow quite large. Jade plants need to be placed in full sunlight to thrive.  


Echeveria succulents are some of the most common in small rooms, desks, or shelves. While they do not require as much direct light as the last few plants discussed, they still benefit from more direct sunlight when available. Echeveria is especially vulnerable to overwatering, so it should be watered minimally, only when the soil is completely dry.  


Pothos is one of the best indoor plants for air purification. While it’s not succulent and can handle lower light sources, it will grow most successfully in direct sunlight. These are delightful plants to place on a well-lit bookshelf or on a hanger near the window.

They grow as vines that can add to the room’s aesthetic as you decide how to train them. Sometimes trimming Pothos vines can be necessary, and they prefer to dry out between waterings.  

Plants That Need Indirect Light

Indoor plant varieties that prefer indirect light are plentiful, and many will grow successfully in compact spaces. We’ll explore some of these varieties in this section and their best placement and watering conditions.  

Air Plant

Air Plants are unique in that they don’t need soil or regular watering to grow. Air plants can grow easily in hangers, bowls, or terrariums near a light source without being exposed to full light. They will grow well with some spritzes of moisture a few times a week. If air plants are exposed to extreme light or heat, then briefly and fully submerging the plant weekly can help it to recover.

Polka Dot

Polka Dot plants are really fun to liven up a space with their dotted pattern that can appear in white, green, yellow, red, or pink, depending on the variety. Polka Dot plants grow well in small pots in humid environments or with regular misting.

A terrarium can work for these plants as well. If the plant is not showing much color, you can try giving it a bit of direct sunlight to help bring out its color but be careful not to scorch it.  


Cast-Iron plants can grow successfully in small to medium-sized pots or become large and lush if transplanted. While they can survive in more shade than some other plants in this section, Cast-Iron plants will mainly thrive in rooms with indirect sunlight. These plants prefer to dry out between watering.  

African Violets

African Violets are unique in that they can flower without direct sunlight. They only grow to about 6 inches in height, so they are ideal for adding color to a compact room with minimal window light. African Violet flowers are white, pink, or purple and don’t respond well to moisture on the actual plant. Using loose soil and bottom watering can help the plant’s roots organically absorb as much moisture as it needs.  

Snake Plant

The snake plant’s pointed leaves grow up instead of out, making them ideal for conserving space. They aid in air purification and require minimal care. While Snake Plants can survive in different lighting environments, they are healthiest in rooms with indirect light. These plants prefer soil to dry out between watering.  

Plants That Need Shade

For rooms or offices with the least amount of natural lighting, there are several plants to choose from that prefer all or partial shade. While some of their other growing preferences may vary, keeping these plants on a desk or bookshelf, far from a light source, is usually ideal.  

Peace Lily

Peace Lilies have beautiful white flowers and shiny dark green leaves that can add to the beauty of any room. While they are a plant that prefers partial shade, minimal direct sunlight will help bring its flowers to bloom. Peace Lilies help with air purification and tolerate infrequent watering.  

Painted Leaf Begonia

Painted Leaf Begonias are colorful plants that grow well in small pots. They can be needy in terms of providing appropriate water and light, so they may not be ideal for novice indoor gardeners. These plants prefer a combination of shade and indirect light, so they either need to exist in a space where the light varies throughout the day or be moved periodically. Keeping the soil moist without overwatering is ideal for Painted Leaf Begonias.   

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern, also commonly referred to as a Foxtail Fern, will grow well on a shaded shelf or in a windowless room. Like many ferns found in a forest valley, this plant thrives in shade and humidity and will grow well in a low-lit bathroom. If not able to grow in a humid environment, occasionally misting its leaves as well as regular watering will keep this plant happy.  

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo plants look like small, twisty versions of natural bamboo trees and can be grown in soil or water. This plant must stay out of direct sunlight and thrives in the shade with cool temperatures. If growing in soil, it’s important to water regularly, so the soil is always somewhat moist; if grown in water, the water should be changed once a week.  

Spider Plant

Spider plants have long, skinny pointed leaves that arc up and over the pot, appearing similar to if a spider had many more than eight legs. Spider plants can survive easily in shade or indirect sunlight. They will grow successfully on a shelf or desk where light may be minimal or vary throughout the day. They require little maintenance and prefer to dry out between watering.  

Final Tip On Indoor Plant Safety

One not yet mentioned but crucial step to designing space for indoor plants is to be conscious of plants that are poisonous to animals or humans. If you have pets or small children, it’s important to research any indoor plant for this information before bringing it into your home. If plants are poisonous to vulnerable family members, it is recommended not to risk having them in the home and opt for a safer alternative.  

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