Plants

12 Plants That'll Thrive in Your Tiny Bathroom

Yes, even that windowless, airless box.

August  5, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

You don’t have to be a dedicated “plant parent” to appreciate the life and color plants bring to every room in your home. A stately bird of paradise in the living room, a trailing pothos in the kitchen, a line of succulents on the windowsill in your bedroom—they don’t have to be the center of attention, but they gently point towards a home well-kept, since they have to be watered and kept alive, of course. And if you ask me, every room in a house needs a plant.

But what to do about the bathroom—the small, humid, and usually natural-light-less room oft forgotten in the plant world? The general trick here is to choose plants that enjoy high humidity (luckily that’s lots of tropical plants), because any amount of showering will emit lots of moisture into the air. So, if you’re ready to deck your bathroom out with living art, here are 12 of our favorite plants that’ll thrive in your bathroom.


If Your Bathroom Is Light and Bright

Arguably one the most important factors to consider when choosing a plant for your bathroom is how much light it gets.

If the room has windows (or a skylight) and is generally quite bright—for instance, if you don’t have to turn the lights on to use the mirror during the day—then you’ll need a light-loving plant for the space.

Philodendrons

Heartleaf Philodendrons are great for the bathroom, but not for your pets Photo by James Ransom

Heartleaf philodendrons are easy to take care of because they show you exactly what they need. If their leaves are turning brown, they need more water, and if they’re turning yellow, they need less. However, this may not be the right option for you if you have pets, as they’re toxic to animals.

Orchids

These beautiful flowers love the damp environment of bathrooms (Some people even go as far as to put them in the shower), but they do need bright, indirect light to thrive.

Air Plants

Airplants are basically tropical plants, and they absorb moisture through their leaves, making them a great choice for the bathroom. Because these cool plants don’t need soil, you can place them all around your space—no pots necessary.

Bromeliad

These fun, colorful plants will love the high humidity of your bathroom. Just make sure to water the plant via its “tank”—the central part of the leaves, which serves as a reservoir.

Staghorn fern

These cool ferns absorb moisture through their leaves, so they make a great addition to a high-humidity bathroom. Because they usually grow on the sides of trees, they’re happiest when mounted to a board or are hanging in a basket.

Fiddle leaf fig

While incredibly popular on Instagram, fiddle leaf fig trees are notoriously finicky, and as such, we’d really only recommend them to more experienced plant parents. Because they’re a tropical plant, they’ll actually do better in a bathroom with a lot of light and humidity than in a regular air-conditioned room.


If Your Bathroom Gets Minimal Light

On the other hand, some bathrooms only get a few hours of light through smaller windows. If this sounds like yours, you’ll need a low-light plant that won’t be bothered by the lack of sunshine.

Spider plants

Spider plants are my absolute darlings. They’re happy pretty much wherever I put them, and they’re unfazed when my cat gives them dramatic haircuts. Hang them in your bathroom, and they’ll soon be sprouting little babies for you to give to your friends.

Moss

People actually make bath mats out of moss, because it’s so soft on your toes and will happily soak up the water from your shower. You can also put moss in the pots of other plants, or in cute bathroom terrariums.

Peace lily

These guys are another favorite of mine as they can be placed just about anywhere. They also wilt dramatically when they need to be watered, making caregiving so easy. You’ll walk in to find them laying on the ground, but then they perk right back up again once they’ve had a drink.

ZZ plant

If you’re a self-proclaimed brown thumb, you could probably keep a ZZ plant alive. These hardy, low-light plants can tolerate a lot of neglect, so they’ll happily live in a somewhat dark bathroom. Just don’t let your pets chew on them, as they’re toxic when ingested.

Snake plant

Snake plants are an all-time fave of Home52 Editorial Lead, Arati Menon, whose snake plant is absolutely thriving—despite her admission that watering is infrequent at best and fresh air is a rarity. They’re exceptionally tough plants, and would be just peachy in a bathroom.

Dracaena

Dracaena is a broader genus of about 120 tropical plants, and they’re well-known for being easy to grow. They have a strong tolerance for low light, and actually don’t need watering all that often either. Dracaena also come in a wide range of shapes, colors, and sizes, some of the most popular varieties include the Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ (Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’), lucky bamboo (Dracaena braunii), corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), and the song of India (Dracaena reflexa).


What to Do if There’s *No* Light

Finally, there are bathrooms like mine, which have neither windows nor natural light. Despite what some people might tell you, no plants can live on artificial light alone—after all, they use sunlight to make food, so no window means no sustenance.

However, that doesn’t mean your bathroom is doomed to be a barren, plantless tundra. There are two options: First, buy some fake plants! Personally, I love getting fake versions of plants that I can’t seem to keep alive. Right now, there’s a fake orchid in my bathroom, and I've placed it high up on a shelf so you can’t even tell it’s fake (unless you stand on the toilet).

The other option—brought to you courtesy of my plant-guru mother—is to rotate low-light plants into your bathroom for a short time. For instance, you could have a snake plant that you let live in the bathroom for a week, and then swap it out with a peace lily. On their “off weeks,” put these plants in brighter locations so they can soak up the sun. This lets you have real greenery in your lightless bathroom without starving the poor plants of sunlight!

What plants do you manage to grow in your bathroom? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was updated in August 2021 to add even more bathroom plant info.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Elyn
    Elyn
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    tia
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

5 Comments

Elyn September 14, 2021
Thank you for this really informative article. I am especially happy to know why my philodendron’s leaves turn yellow!
 
Diana M. February 18, 2021
I have a very tiny bathroom with one small window that is directly over the toilet, and the only place to keep a plant is in a hanging basket that is high up enough that folks won't bonk their heads on it when they sit - so not much light. I tried a lot of different things in there, even spider plants died, until someone gave me a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp).

I understand that in order to bloom they have specific needs regarding amount of darkness and cool temps, and I haven't been inspired to go to any lengths to keep my bathroom cool and dark in the fall, so doesn't bloom enthusiastically, but it does stay green and has grown quite a bit over the years. I'm rather fond of it.
 
Alice January 26, 2020
Per your last suggestion, I rotate in succulents during the cooler months, when they’re not able to hang out in the outdoors. When we have visitors, they assume they live there all the time!
 
Karley September 29, 2019
I get absolutely zero light in my bathroom, but I put in a grow light on a timer and my hanging philodendron has been thriving for more than three years. The grow light shines from midnight to 6am and also works as a night light.
 
tia September 5, 2019
Can we stop saying "Orchids" when what we mean is "phalaenopsis" AKA "moth orchids" or "those orchids you get at Trader Joe's"? A lot of types of orchids would not like a bathroom environment. For example, I have one that's native to California and lives on my patio. It would never get enough light indoors, even in a bright bathroom.

If your bathroom has no windows, like mine, you could experiment with grow lights. There are companies out there making attractive ones so you're not stuck with good old T6 fluorescents. They don't run cheap, but if you want plants, that's a way to do it.