You Can Keep Plants In The Bathroom (But It’s Not Always A Good Idea)

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Bathrooms can be cold, stark places, and what better (and cheaper) way to brighten up yours than with a plant? Or lots of plants, covering every surface which is a thing that keeps cropping up on Instagram.

The only thing I can say about that is that Plantstagrammers move their plants around a lot. Don’t be fooled by the rows of cacti and succulents lined up along the side of the bath (also, realistically, does one want a cactus in such close proximity to one’s naked body?)

It’s often assumed that bathrooms are awesome places to keep plants because they’re naturally pretty humid at least once a day, and they can be, HOWEVER not all bathrooms are suitable for plants, and you may need to switch your bathroom plants around regularly in order to keep them healthy.

Plants like ferns will thrive in your bathroom if provided with adequate light.

However, bathrooms can be cold, due to the lack of cosy furnishings and the frequency of open windows, so if you live in a temperate climate (like the UK) and don’t want a massive heating bill, you may want to invest in fake plants for the winter months.

I wouldn’t recommend keeping any plants in the bathroom over winter if the temperature regularly drops below 10°c/50°f.

succulents will NOT thrive in a damp environment, so…don’t do that

But yes, in general, you can keep plants in the bathroom. There are some factors you need to take into consideration though:

The light in your bathroom

If you have a bathroom that has no windows and you want to put a plant in it, I suggest you read this post about whether or not you can keep plants in the dark.

Bathrooms are frequently windowless, which is far from ideal.

That being said, if you have no regard for your bank balance or the state of the planet, then invest in some grow lights and a low-light plant like a fern or peace lily and you might be able to keep it alive for a while.

Although a south-facing window is not always ideal to grow plants (they can quickly get sun-burned if not acclimated properly), bathroom windows often have that wibbly glass that filters the light a bit, so we have every plant’s dream lighting scenario: bright and indirect.

If you have a small bathroom, you might be able to get away with having medium-light-loving plants on shelves not directly on the windowsill.

If you paint your bathroom white, all the better.

A small room with a window and white walls will be able to bounce ample light around for medium light plants.

this just seems impractical

South and east-facing bathroom windows would be the best, but I can’t say for certain that a bathroom facing a certain direction will provide enough light without knowing a bit more about where you live.

If your bathroom is north-facing but it’s on the top floor and there’s nothing blocking the light that could get more light than a south-facing window that’s underground or obstructed by a house.

Extreme examples I know, but you get what I’m saying.

I’m afraid you just need to observe your light. If you so desire, spend the day in the bathroom and see how long your chosen spot gets decent light for.

Or, you can buy a cheap plant and see if it grows ok in the spot.

Light can affect how plants grow – lack of light can lead to plants growing long and leggy (which basically means the gaps between leaves on the stem gets bigger). If that look is what you’re after, then go for it.

If not, either try a plant that requires less light or try another spot.

The temperature in your bathroom

Planterina told me (she said in her videos anyway, we’re not mates) that she doesn’t keep any plants in her bathroom over the window because they can die from the cold.

Not many houseplants tolerate really cold temperatures (don’t rely on their dormancy period to save them), and most of the ones that don’t mind/like a spell of cold weather (like succulents) definitely don’t want to be moist.

If you want a plant in your bathroom over winter you could try a winter one like a Poinsetta or Cyclamen. 

ANYWAY don’t put your cactuses in the bathroom. They like cold spell (who knew?) but they don’t like the humidity.

If you were extremely determined to keep houseplants in your bathroom, you could run a dehumidifier (not in the bathroom, but maybe in the hallway outside) and crank up the heating.

If you live somewhere where the temperature doesn’t drop in the winter and you can keep plants in your bathroom all year round LUCKY YOU. I’m not jealous AT ALL.

Plants that can thrive in bathrooms

I actually have a whole article dedicated to this.

Btw, I’m defining ‘thriving’ as actively growing a lot.

Calathea Leopardina – though to be fair this little beauty doesn’t give a shit where she’s put, she forever looks beautiful and never stops blooming.

This is NOT standard for Calathea. They HATE the cold almost as much as they hate the inconsistent humidity.

Boston fern – loved it in the bathroom so much and grew like stink. I only moved him out of there because the ends of his fronds were starting to touch the window pane and I didn’t want brown tips.

Asparagus fern – put out loads of new growth (which is weirdly fascinating to watch) in the bathroom. Technically he would still fit on the bathroom windowsill but only in a certain position which could cause him to grow unevenly. Also, he and the Boston fern are always together and I didn’t want to split them up. No, you’re weird.

Spider plants – I grew a couple of my tiny baby spider plants on in the bathroom. They grew quickly there, I think because there’s better light than the other places I tend to put spider plants.

spider plant babies

Monstera

Pretty chill anywhere, and are resilient to changes in humidity and temperature.

They grow best in warm, bright environments, but they’ll survive in a lot of places.

I keep one of mine in the bathroom because it ALWAYS has thrips, and its the easiest place to shower it down.

Anthurium clarinerveum

See above. It can’t see to shake its thrips so it stays in the bathroom. Seems quite happy, and grows pretty fast (and blooms constantly, which is annoying, because the flowers smell grim).

anthurium clarinervium

That was months ago and the poor thing has only just started growing roots. I’m going to try it in the bathroom next year, but it’s a bit cool in there for now.

Peace lily – peace lilies appreciate the humidity of a bathroom and don’t mind the fact that it’s inconsistent. They’re also not that bothered about the cold.

Mine is FINE in the bathroom, BUT its not growing as well as my other one, which gets a tonne of north-facing light. The key to peace lilies seems to be long hours of crap light.

Full peace lily care guide here.

Top tip: keep all your thirsty plants together. If they’re spread all over the house you won’t be arsed to do it, or you’ll forget unless you’re a better plant parent than me, which is fairly likely.

Still, you may as well set yourself up for success.

Plants that can survive in bathrooms

In that they’ll live, but they might not grow. Which, I dunno, just seems really sad.

My favourite thing about my plants is that if I look after them correctly, they’ll grow.

And eventually, I’ll live in a jungle and it’ll be incredible.

snake plant

Snake plant

I kept a snake plant in my bathroom for years. Did it survive? Yep. But it literally didn’t grow at all, I assume because they’re not massive in humidity.

Once I moved it onto the windowsill of the spare room (west-facing) it thrived (throve?) and had a baby. Actually two – he had a pup all by himself and I took a leaf and propagated it. Plants are so cool.

Pothos

Pothos are always top of the list of bathroom-friendly plants, I assume because they’re happy in medium light and fairly low maintenance.

In my experience, Pothos don’t mind living in the bathroom, but they won’t grow particularly quickly. Mine do like the kitchen though.

Aloe vera

Ok, I can see why this could live in the bathroom, but why would you make it? Aloe veras don’t like a lot of humidity but more importantly, who has the room?

Those spiky bastards will stab you every time you go for a shower or a wee.

Or are mine just a lot bigger and bad-mannered than other people’s?

Ivy

Sure, get an ivy, it’ll grow in the bathroom. But be warned, those things attract bugs like no other house plant. Planterina recommends showering ivy on a weekly basis, which is more maintenance than I care to give to my plants.

My ivy is kept outside where it is ignored 99% of the time and is mysteriously still not dead. Especially since it has no drainage holes and is never watered or fertilised.

Honourable mention for…

zz plant

ZZ Plant – the closest thing you can get to a plastic plant. I love mine. It grows and grows merrily away to itself and never gives me a moment’s worry.

They grow faster in decent light and warm temperatures, but they’ll chug away in whatever conditions they’re given. Mine didn’t grow for a couple of years because it didn’t like being in terracotta but it’s made up for it this year.

Plants that die in bathrooms

Don’t come for me if you’re successfully keeping these plants in your bathroom. I just want to help out the noobs.

Cacti (and a lot of succulents)

They’ll rot. And then you’ll be that person that can’t even keep a cactus alive.

Air plants

Same. They’re very susceptible to rot, so keeping them in a damp environment isn’t a good idea.

Anything susceptible to fungus gnats

This vries from plant to plant, but if you have a plant that loves to host gnat parties, keep it out of the bathroom. It’s a great environment for them to thrive in.

Pros of having plants in the bathroom

It adds a bit of colour and freshness to your bathroom

I’m no interior designer, so I just fill my house with plants. That’s it, that’s the aesthetic.

You can keep humidity-loving plants without shelling out on a humidifier

Provided you don’t suffer with excessive mould, your bathroom will be plenty humid enough for humidity-loving plants like peace lilies and aglaonema.

monstera deliciosa next to humidifier

Bathrooms aren’t humid enough for plants that are super picky about consistent humidity, but they’re fine for some plants.

You can check them whilst you’re in the shower

The best way to prevent problems (such as pests and diseases) is to keep a close eye on your plants.

When you have a lot, then it can be hard to find the time to inspect each one.

If you spend a lot of time in close proximity to your plant then you’re more likely to spot any problems early on and be able to rectify them before too much damage is done.  What better way to waste time in the shower than inspecting your plants!

You can shower them too

Who can be arsed to dust the leaves? No one! Your bathroom plants can share your shower though. Pop them in the bottom where the water is cooler, and let that dust run down the drain (and hopefully any pests).

Cons of having plants in the bathroom

You can forget to water them

You’d think you’d be more likely to remember to water plants that are in the bathroom, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they’ll be getting ample water from the atmosphere.

Whilst it’s true that your shower plants might need watering less frequently than your other plants, they’ll still need a good soaking when the soil’s dry.

They grow big and touch you in the shower

And let me tell you, there are few things more creepy feeling than the frond of a Boston fern stroking your bum when you’re in the shower.

It is VERY unsettling, which is one of the contributing factors to mine going to live downstairs in the kitchen.

It’s this point that makes me wonder why people suggest keeping aloe vera in the bathroom.

Unless you have ample space it will hurt you.

Your plants might die

Believe it or not, bathrooms are very unnatural environments. Some plants might prefer your bathroom (if it’s warm) to your living room but it is still, I’m afraid, not a rainforest.

Bathrooms are also places where a lot of strong chemicals are used that your plant might not like. Don’t put loads in if it’s going to be a pain lugging them all out when you clean.

It might not like the draught if you leave the window open.

It might not like getting its leaves wet.

I mean, your plants might thrive in the bathroom, so I’m not saying not to risk it, I’m just saying that you need to keep an eye on how your plants are faring in there. Especially, you know, if you’ve dropped £200 on a variegated monstera.

Which, by the way, I would only put in the bathroom in summer if you have a lot of bright light, depending on whether you have one that could revert if not exposed to enough light.

Can you imagine spending £200 on a plant only for the variegation to go, leaving you with an £8.99 plant?

Nightmare.

So, can you keep plants in the bathroom?

Yes and no.

It depends on your bathroom – how much light it receives (it needs to get at least some) and how warm it is. Oh, and what plants you want to put there. Low light, humidity-lowing plants will probably do ok, bright light, dry air-loving plants like cacti won’t.

One of the reasons plant care advice is so varied is that there is a massive spectrum of plant behaviour, and just because e.g. 95% of succulents hate living in bathrooms and rot in a couple of weeks, that doesn't mean that the 5% chilling in the shower should be ignored.

Those people refuting all the plant care advice being given in Facebook groups (usually about snake plants) aren't liars, they're perhaps just lucky.

The one universal bit of advice I can give you is to keep an eye on your plant and move it if it looks like its struggling OR the soil is taking weeks to dry out.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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