Are you looking for new houseplants for north facing window sills? The great news is, there are plenty of lovely blooms and greens that will thrive in this particular direction.
North facing window plants are ideally tolerant of lower levels of light – not those demanding direct sunlight to thrive. If you have a north facing window sill, French windows or patio doors, we’ve chosen some plants for you to consider setting up at home.
How to choose the best houseplant for a north facing window
Sometimes, the rooms where we really think we could do with a little bit of extra greenery and life just don’t get much light at all. Therefore, we’re often left with a quandary – do we risk setting up tropical plants in these spaces and hope for the best, or do we just stick to artificial displays? The answer, of course, lies in good north facing plants – those that are never going to let you down in indirect light, or low light conditions.
Of course, it’s worth making the distinction – all of the plants in our list below will need some light. These aren’t all plants you can safely keep in the dark and expect to grow well. They are also going to vary in terms of watering, drainage and temperature needs, too.
Therefore, by all means take your pick from the below and see which appeal to you the most – and if you’ve read any of our other guides to houseplants before, you might see a couple of firm favourites making a re-appearance or two!
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)
ZZ plants are great all-rounders. This plant will survive some neglect and recover to perk up well when you remember to give it some TLC! It’s a plant for busy people or those who are simply forgetful.
It’s hardy and adaptable to temperature and humidity – best treated as a succulent, it requires minimal but regular water. It is more at risk from being over-watered than under-watering. ZZ is not a speedy grower which makes it reliable, too.
It reaches a height of three feet…eventually! Enjoying sandy soil, the only thing it really does need is a pot with good drainage.
However, pet owners must note it can be toxic to some animals. Position it beyond their reach, and additionally, make sure to wear gloves during pruning. Secretions may irritate your skin!
Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura)
These plants are simple and calming to look at until you notice they move by themselves! Prayer plants are so-called because they can bring their leaves together in a ‘prayer-like’ stance. They’re immensely popular with people who enjoy dressing up displays for windows pointing north.
Prayer plants are lovely tropical specimens with colourful leaves. They are light green with markings in red or purple, and their stems are usually purple, too. They benefit from being misted and prefer to be kept moist. On a cautionary note, they too can be toxic for animals. Keep well out of reach!
Aluminium Plant (Pilea Cadierei)
You can guess why they are called aluminium plants just by looking at them alone! Bright silver markings make them stand out from the crowd, and they won’t need too much sunlight facing north.
They have vibrant green leaves which can be strengthened by removing flower buds. Thriving in filtered light, they are best suited to humid areas. These plants need attention to keep them in tip top condition – so be sure to give them the attention they demand. Water frequently, but allow it to dry out between drinks.
Sword Fern (Polystichum Munitum)
This is the ‘official’ name, but it’s more frequently called the Boston fern – however, you’ll likely spot it listed or sold under different names. It’s a great plant for north facing windows and can be stationed on a window sill, tabletop or hang like a chandelier from a hanging basket.
Having a reliable flourish of vibrant green leaves, this can be a stand alone or swinging stunner! It works best with frequent watering and bright light but not direct strong sunshine.
Snake Plant (Dracaena Trifasciata)
This is another great plant for busy people! It can survive some neglect and cheerfully perk up when you remember it – so don’t feel too bad. It has a distinctive visual appearance – as the name suggests. It boasts upright, sturdy leaves which are slender and have a pointed tip.
This is a plant from the jungle – literally – and happily survives in dim light, so it’s great for facing north. If kept on a shelf, try to pop a backlight nearby. This creates a great focal point! It will only let you down if you overwater it. Again, it’s toxic to pets – and if you really want to protect it, keep it out of draughts.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
The peace lily really is the drama queen of the bunch! It certainly doesn’t hesitate to let you know when it’s unhappy. Your peace lily will dramatically wilt when thirsty – which can be a bonus for anyone with a bad memory!
Another bonus is peace lilies can flower throughout the year. Owing to their dramatic nature, they have to be in the right mood with adequate light – but away from direct sunlight – if you really want them to bloom regularly.
Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra Elatior)
These plants have a ‘cast iron’ nature – hence the name. They won’t need much looking after, and are undemanding and uncomplicated. Aspidistras have been popular parlour plants for decades, and with good reason.
They thrive well with minimum fuss and without direct sunlight. They do require regular watering and may need fertiliser when kept in the same pot for a long time. Always ensure your growing medium drains well because they can develop root rot. Aspidistras are easy to propagate, and can be grown in pots, baskets and share a container with other plants.
Bamboo is easily recognisable and is great fun to grow – it also fits in with a wide range decor. It’s at home in modern or classic rooms, and yes, it’ll work well if you have windows facing north.
It’s great to train or display in a hanging basket. This flexible plant is a vibrant shade of green – it’s robust, stylish and relatively easy to look after. It spreads profusely in agreeable conditions and is a good plant to experiment with.
It can also thrive in water as well as soil. – tender young stems of bamboo can be easily curved to form shapes, and even mesh as a trellis style screen!
Ivy Plant (Hedera)
Ivy can be a tremendous asset for north facing rooms! It’s easy to grow, resilient, non-temperamental, and super-resistant against pests and diseases. It is a vine-like plant that arrives in various sizes at point of purchase, with plain green or variegated leaves.
In your north facing spot it can be tamed by pruning and easily persuaded to follow a path for shaping. It can tolerate varying degrees of light but grows best out of strong direct light.
This is a great plant to experiment with or for people short of time. Some ivy plants can cause skin irritation, however – and can be hazardous to pets as well as small children who try tasting them!
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
This is a super plant for growing in north facing positions. It will tolerate draughts and some extremes of temperature, but do not over water or force it to sit in water – it needs a well draining container.
This plant rewards us with tiny flowers which appear along tendrils. They’re pale cream or white, and can fall away to encourage spiderettes to form along the same tendril.
Spider plants hang impressively like chandeliers from baskets, pendulums or pots. They are also brilliant for propagation – spiderettes are really easy to split off and put in their own pots of well-draining water.
Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea Ornata)
This plant is a native of rainforest floors. It thrives best in humid warm atmospheres – usually situated under the canopy of trees, it does not require vast amounts of light, nor sunlight. It’s ideal for warm rooms facing north – particularly as the ambient temperature is far more important to your Calathea than light!
It does like humidity – so will thrive well if misted regularly. This plant also needs watering regularly and will let you know when it’s thirsty! It’s a very animated plant and curls up its leaves to plead for a drink! Once its thirst is quenched, it will unfold its leaves by way of a thank you. It’s a super plant for bathrooms or kitchens, or in basket displays. They require regular watering so make sure you can reach them easily!
Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)
No, despite the name, they’re not edible, but this is a popular favourite in homes, offices and for public displays. Resembling Swiss cheese, its leaves are identified easily by ‘cut out’ patterns.
They have either pointed or well rounded tips formed on leggy stems. It’s a plant that grows to need space. It can be trained to grow along a shelf, upwards along a pole or when large can be in a floor standing container.
Apart from being structurally interesting, its shiny leaves have an exotic appearance. It’s a reliable plant that doesn’t like strong sunlight – hence why it’s perfect for north facing windows. It’s easy to care for, but be warned – your Monstera has the potential to become large and may need nutritional support such as nitrogen fertilisers.
Nerve Plant (Fittonia Albivenis)
The fittonia is a colourful, delightful plant displaying pink, silver, white or pale green veins on leaves of a darker green background. Nerve plants can look great lined up in a window box – for example, at your north facing window. They need a humid atmosphere – so do particularly well in kitchens and bathrooms. If you have an old fish tank or bowl handy, you can create a terrarium with them!
They have simple needs – make sure you plant them in well-draining growth mediums in easy-drain containers. They prefer shady areas but do need light and humidity, and remember to remove dead leaves when they fall. Keep checking for pests and mould too, as these plants can fall prey to the odd natural nastiness.
Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea Elegans)
This is a well-known family favourite – and they can last for generations! Small plants can grow up to 6 feet tall – so always make sure to give your palm plenty of space even if they seem tiny at first.
Away from their natural habitat, they thrive in warm, shady areas with some light and adequate water. Parlour palms are elegant, and suit most styles of indoor decoration. Small parlour palm plants can blend into a mixed display or stand alone on a table, shelf, windowsill or be suspended in a basket or pendulum.
Keep in mind, parlour palms will not tolerate direct sunlight well – which is why shady areas are ideal. They create a fabulous feature stood on the floor or table by a north facing French window. Larger specimens can show off their slender limbs completely as beautiful leaves are lit from behind with some natural light or a well placed lamp.
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
This plant has a bushy, neat appearance rising from one to three feet tall! It has striking, marbled leaves with silvery grey accents. These plants can really change the look of a corner or even a feature wall – but you’re going to need to be careful exactly where you position it.
Specimens with lighter leaves require positions with more light – simple! Those with darker leaves can live happily in shadier spots – therefore, perfect for north facing areas of your home which don’t get tons of sunlight pouring in. All of these plants do require some degree of natural light – water regularly, but don’t drench them!
Bizzy Lizzies (Impatiens)
Many people believe Bizzy Lizzies are best as outdoor plants – but wherever you need a pop of indoor colour they’re super to have around. We’ve included them here because they are delightfully adaptable and convenient to look after. If you have time, try growing from seed or pick up some seedlings and pot up.
If you have just moved into a home with a north facing room that needs cheering up, here’s a fast solution! Bizzy Lizzies are non-toxic, and grow in an array of strong colours. You can choose from deep red through to pale pink and purple, with variations in between.
These plants need light but quickly dry out and direct sunlight can harm them – they certainly thrive better in shade. They need to be watered little and often in the growing season, too.
Hyacinths are lovely houseplants to have around – and you may even have one or two in your garden already. They can make great gifts and are a refreshing, colourful addition to a room. Best of all is their stunning fragrance – you’ll love the scent they can add to a north facing room.
Hyacinths can survive in the sun and do need light. They thrive in north facing situations where they receive sufficient light to photosynthesis but not enough to dry them out! Benefitting from humidity, they’re great in bathrooms, or on other windowsills.
Once flowering is over, allow them to wither and leave the bulb to bulk up before removing it for storage until late summer/early autumn, to begin all over again. A little potash-rich fertiliser is a welcome treat, and fortnightly top ups keep your plant in good condition.
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Hostas are usually grown outdoors in areas of dappled or shaded light. They are dormant for part of the year and then spring to life – and when they do, they look spectacular!
They produce broad leaves and are sometimes used to cover a flowerbed. Individually, they look great in pots or an array of containers. These plants produce attractive flowers in a range of colours and shades, too. They can tolerate cooler temperatures but happily coexist with plants indoors who may require a higher temperature and no direct sunlight. Their sizeable leaves are usually green or grey – or somewhere in between on the scale!
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
Flowering orchids are simply stunning. Thriving in shady or dappled light, their flowers last longer away from direct sunlight. Orchids, ironically, require little care – on a north facing window sill, they may take a little longer to develop but flowers can last longer this way, too. In fact, they can flower for several weeks!
These elegant plants have smooth, slender, glossy leaves which often appear before the flowers do. Blooms are attached in a linear fashion along straw like stalks. Orchids may require canes for support, and you may need to keep them in see-through containers so you can keep an eye on their roots.
Remember, overwatering orchids can be fatal. Healthy roots appear smooth and firm – if they look withered, they may be suffering from drought. Orchids need watering weekly – but not left to soak in residue.
The begonia is a houseplant classic, and if you don’t already have one or two brightening up your space, now is absolutely the time to make a change. It’s another plant we often have outdoors or indoors. When housing indoors with adequate light, water and regular fertiliser whilst flowering, they tend to thrive really well.
However, you’re going to need to be extra careful when it comes to pests. Begonias are susceptible to white fly, and it’s a good idea to check under leaves when you water them. Leaves come in range of green through to dark brown, and flowers in shades of red, orange white and a pale yellow. The begonia usually flowers annually, giving you something to look forward to each year!
The geranium is another outdoor classic that’s often made its way back indoors. Can you blame us? This is a plant that does tend to need a lot of light to really bloom forth, but in a north facing room where you are unlikely to get much in the way of sunlight directly, it’s still likely to thrive. You’re normally going to need to keep these classic favourites at temperatures between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius for optimum health.
Geraniums tend to root very easily, and you’ll normally need to start giving your plants a water over once their soil begins to get dry. You might even want to fertilise these plants every so often, likely every month and a half, maximum, when they are mid-growth.
Wart Fern (Microsorum Scolopendria)
While the wart fern doesn’t have the most pleasant name out there, it’s actually a popular choice for north facing windows – and one that can be pretty rewarding given half the chance. They are undemanding plants that can even survive drought for a short time.
Leaves are a vibrant green and perk up with a fortnightly spray of mist. These ferns look great on windowsills, tables, shelves and suspended in baskets. They’re great if you really want to give your home that genuine botanical look – your north facing rooms will never have looked greener!
They do prefer humid zones – so bathrooms or kitchens are good choices, again, providing they are facing north and don’t have much light peeling through.
Cyclamen plants are amazingly vibrant, and while they work wonderfully outside in the garden, you can bring them in to prosper and propagate indoors, too. They grow from tubers and have periods of flowering as well as dormancy. They are quite easy to care for and prefer humid atmospheres when in flower.
During dormancy, they need to be stored away somewhere cool and dark – and most importantly, dry! Cyclamen are often given as gifts and come in a container. They can be transferred to window boxes, hanging baskets or a pot of your choice.
They have dark, rounded leaves with vivid colours from white through to red and purple – these are highly elegant flowers with petals resembling the wings of butterflies – truly stunning!
African Violet (Saintpaulia)
Another perennial with dark, textured leaves which can feel soft and velvety, violets have vivid mauve, blue or purple flowers. They have a distinct scent – great to smell around your windows! These plants are compact and best displayed where the scent can rise – you might also find that it’s nicer to look at them from above.
They don’t do well in pendulums or baskets unless hung low enough for you to see their flowers. They certainly prefer shady spots, and indirect sunlight because they are too tender to withstand intensive glare. They can do well on north facing window sills with no draughts and several hours of light, too.
Birds’ Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)
Fancy setting up a plant that can help your north facing room look that little bit more exotic? This plant is native to Australia, Asia and Africa and is an ‘epiphytic’ grower in the wild. This means it attaches itself to trees – not that it’ll likely be doing this in any north facing rooms in your home!
Your birds’ nest fern cannot tolerate direct sunlight whatsoever – but it will give you a splendid display in a humid bathroom or kitchen. It requires a temperature between 15-20 degrees Celsius, and slightly acidic, well-draining soil. It boasts vibrant green fronds up to two feet tall, are great for air quality and can give a room a positive, visual vibe!
Houseplants for north facing windows: Conclusion
The best houseplants for north facing window displays are those that will be hardy and resilient in the face of low light. But, as you’ve seen, these plants come in vivid different styles, shapes, colours and forms – there’s a lot to choose from!
Have a go at setting up your own north facing window display and seeing what colours and looks you can bring to your space.