Potted plants add vibrancy and colour to any house or apartment, but if you live in a basement flat or conversion, finding potted plants suitable for your subterranean home can be a bit of a challenge. Much of the energy that plants draw from sunlight is lost when it passes through windows, and the reduced natural ambient light levels of a basement flat are often not intense enough to sustain a plant for long.
Fortunately, basement flat dwellers need not live plant-free, and there are many potted plants available on the market which thrive in these low-light conditions. Here are just a few of them, along with any other advantages or disadvantages they bring to the table:
Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema)
The term 'Chinese evergreen' actually refers to any one of a number of similar flowering plants belonging to the Aglaonema genus, but they all have roughly the same growing characteristics, differing mostly in appearance and size. Chinese evergreens hail from the dark, shaded forest floors of China and South East Asia, and are remarkably well suited to the particular stresses of basement flat life -- these plants will actually wither and die in too much sunlight. Chinese evergreens are also relatively easy to grow, propagating easily from cuttings, and because their leaves are so intricately patterned, they provide splashes of colour to your home even when its delicate white flowers are not in bloom.
However, Chinese evergreens are very much adult-only plants and should not be placed in a home with children or pets. This is because all parts of the plant, including stems and roots, contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause serious stomach upsets and irritation of the mouth and throat if accidentally ingested. The juice from leaves and stems can also cause a painful skin rash on contact.
Cast-iron-plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Native to Taiwan and Japan, these plants live up to their names -- they are practically indestructible, shrugging off low light, sparse watering and temperature variances with ease. Various cultivars are available, boasting a wide range of colours and patterns for both flowers and leaves, so you shouldn't find it difficult to find a plant that complements your home. These plants are also tough enough to be left outside on porches or in doorways, although they will be killed by Southern winter frosts. Large pendulous flowers appear in early summer.
In fact, the great disadvantage of cast-iron-plants is that they are, if anything, too well adapted to tough conditions. Without a pot providing excellent soil, drainage roots will quickly become waterlogged and rot, and too much direct sunlight can cause unsightly and damaging leaf bleaching. You should also make sure to keep your cast-iron-plant parasite free, as the roots and stems can be vulnerable to mite and scale attacks.
Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum)
If you want a low-light plant capable of producing a stunning visual display, the arrowhead vine may be perfect for you. Like many low light plants the arrowhead vine has beautifully patterned and variegated leaves, but unusually, these patterns will not fade in consistent low light levels, remaining vibrant for the life of the plant. The flowers are also a sight to behold -- arrowhead vines are actually closely related to the peace lily, and produce remarkably similar succulent blossoms.
Unfortunately arrowhead vines are not quite as low-maintenance as other plants on this list, as mature plants sprout strong, fast-growing vines. Directing these vines is easy enough if you want to create a climbing vine or hanging basket, but will need to be cut back frequently if you want your plant to remain compact. Arrowhead vines also contain the same calcium oxalate crystals as Chinese evergreens, and will cause similar symptoms if touched or ingested.