This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
Yes, house plants can definitely survive (and thrive) in a north-facing window.
I know, because my office is north-facing, and I have six plants in here. And not just ferns and common low-light plants.
There are a few things you do need to take into consideration when you’re putting plants in north-facing windows (or rooms with north-facing windows).
For example, there’s nothing really blocking our windows.
There’s another house facing it over a patch of grass, but it’s a good 25 metres away (I think, I’m no good at estimating distance) but no big trees or anything blocking the light.
It is upstairs, so the light is brighter than downstairs BUT my Hoya bella lives in my north-facing kitchen window and she blooms like a champ.
The country you’re in
Northern hemisphere advice with regards to putting plants in windows must be super confusing to those folks living in the southern hemisphere (though, I suppose you’re probs all used to having to convert directions in your heads).
I assume you simply reverse the directions so your north-facing windows have the brightest light, and the south-facing are the darkest.
However, since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west everywhere (it differs a bit), I’m guessing west and east-facing are broadly the same as the northern hemisphere. So east light is soft and diffused, and west light is not *quite* as bright as a southern, but it is HOT.
ANYWAY in the southern hemisphere, your bright light-loving plants can go in north-facing windows.
The size of the window
The north-facing window in my office –
(it sounds so fancy saying I have my own office but it's a two-bedroom house, and the two of us share a room, so it's really *not* fancy. I mean, it doesn't even have fitted carpets yet - they're just laid down like really naff rugs)
– is basically the width of the room (and the room is basically a square). It’s a big window in relation to the size of the room, so the light is pretty good.
It’s potentially better light than a massive room with a small south-facing window.
The size of the room
The room is tiny. The light hits the back wall easily. The only spot that doesn’t get any light is the back right corner of my desk that’s directly to the left of the window:
This is the only dark spot. If it wasn’t so cold in winter I could FILL this room with plants.
See? It’s pretty bright. Not succulent-bright by any stretch of the imagination, but plenty bright for a lot of house plants.
The temperature of the room
This is the real pain point for me. *Technically* I could just get a heater for winter but that makes terrible economic sense.
Instead, I stick with plants that aren’t *that* bothered about the cooler temperatures. I don’t know how cold it gets, but cold enough for me to be freezing cold when wearing a hoodie and a dressing gown.
Ironically, these temperatures would be totally fine for succulents. As long as they don’t get frosted on (?? – you know what I mean) they’re fine with cold temps, as long as they have the light. Which they, er, don’t in a north-facing room.
The type of plant
In my north-facing room I have:
- A Dracaena marginata
- A ZZ plant
- A Golden Pothos
- Some kind of Epipremnum
- A Hoya publicalyx
- A Rhaphidophora decursiva
They’re all thriving (though they don’t grow in winter). The Rhaphidophora is able to start climbing the wall.
If you look at the Hoya, you can see yellow marks on it (the low-hanging vine directly to the left of the Rhaphidophora is the best example), which I believe are from cold shock.
Not because the room is too cold, but because I moved her from a warm room to a cold room. It has a tonne of new growth so I’m going to keep her here over the next winter and see if it happens again.
There are some signs that the Hoya isn’t 100% happy with the light. It’s vining a LOT:
And whilst there are new leaves along the vine the internodal spacing is pretty long.
HOWEVER it’s also likely she wants something to climb (the wall is right there, and it’s more textured than a tree trunk!) because the shorter vine that’s wrapping around the big vine seems to be preparing to throw out a load of leaves.
North-facing windows (and rooms) have been unfairly demonised. As long as you pick the right plants then there’s no reason that they won’t thrive.
Picking plants is largely an exercise in trial and error. I would recommend going for aroids that are happy in bright-indirect or medium light. Peace lilies do ok, but they don’t like the cold so you might have to move them in winter.
Calathea, again, would be fine in summer, but they would struggle in winter and a struggling Calathea is an open house to spider mites.