Houseplants in hot, dry low-light apartment


My apartment building changed from under-floor heating to under-window radiators. (Residents cannot control the temperature or the amount of hot air blowing from the vents during cold weather.) Now although the pothos which is on the coffee table is doing well, my dragon dracaena, ZZ plant and snake plant which I used to keep on the windowsill are losing leaves or turning yellow. To reduce their exposure to the blowing heat, I moved them onto a table about 4 feet away the window, so they receive much less light than before. This is even more limited by a balcony overhanging their only (and east-facing) window. They are each potted in a mixture of 1/3 cactus/succulent soil to 2/3 Miracle Grow potting soil, so drain well after watering. I hope I don’t have to replace them with silk plants, but I realize that these conditions are atrocious for even plants which are tolerant of heat and low light. Do you have any suggestions to save my greenery? Thank you for any suggestions…


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners. I wouldn’t give up on your plants, at least not yet. They are all quite adaptable and tolerant of a range of conditions, although they will require an adjustment period which I think is what you’re seeing with leaves yellowing and dropping  (I’m assuming that they were all thriving previously).

I expect that your Snake Plant (Dracena trifasciata, previously known as Sansevieria trifasciata) will be fine. It is the toughest of the lot, very durable and tolerate of adverse conditions, including very low light.

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is one of the best choices for low light. It can survive and do reasonably well away from windows and with just artificial light. And it can go a month or more without water.

Your Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) sounds like it’s in a good spot (maybe it was not relocated ?). It can survive long periods in low light, however with lower light it can lose variegation and become leggy. It might benefit from occasional pruning and stem cuttings to root new plants, in order to control legginess (and fill up the pot !). It might also appreciate an increase in humidity, since presumably the air in the room where it is located is now drier due to blowing heat. A room humidifier is probably your best choice for this.

Your Dragon Tree (Dracena marginata) is also tough, drought tolerant and can tolerate low light. I think it might be the least happy with the change in conditions, but will survive, possibly losing its best colour because of the lower light levels. It would also benefit from an increase in humidity.

I think that the soil that you are using is a good choice, since none of your plants will do well with wet feet, and all need at least a bit of drying out between waterings.

I suggest patience as your plants adapt to their new environment, and possibly an increase in humidity are your best options. I think your plants will do quite well. Best of luck with them !

Nov 25, 2021