If you live in the northern hemisphere, choosing plants for your south-facing window can be difficult. In most cases, south-facing windows receive the most sun throughout the day, seeing direct light all day. Some windows may have landscaping or trees blocking the direct sun. Before committing to plants, I recommend observing how the light moves throughout the day in that window, the humidity & the size of your space.
So how does this window differ from east, west, or north-facing windows? Great question! To answer: think about how the sun moves through the sky- rising in the east, setting in the west. But North & south-facing windows aren’t as intuitive.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, the sun stays overhead, right?” From a technical standpoint, this is correct. But let’s zoom out & look at the Earth from space. The world is tilted on an axis. With that in mind, it makes more sense for one window to get more direct light than the other. In the northern hemisphere, your south-facing window gets the most light, while north-facing windows hardly see any direct sun.
If you’re in the southern hemisphere, these will not apply to you as your south-facing window will be the opposite, receiving low light throughout the day.
Moonshine Snake Plant (Sanseveria trifasciata)
You can identify a Moonshine Snake plant with its pale green, white shoots. This variety of Snake Plant especially loves bright light. In fact, it needs it to keep the beautiful coloration. Otherwise, it will revert & have the traditional dark green shoots everyone recognizes in snake plants. Snake plants don’t need a lot of humidity & are low maintenance.
There are other varieties of Snake Plants that stay more compact if you’re looking for a windowsill or desk plant: 18 Must-Have Sansevieria Hahnii Varieties For Your Collection
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Golden Pothos is an excellent hanging plant for your south-facing window. It can tolerate any light level but will thrive in a bright area.
Harsh direct sun can scorch the leaves of this plant. Pulling the shades in the afternoon is a simple fix.
A few hours in the morning will do wonders for your plant. The leaves will grow bigger & show more golden-yellow variegation across the leaves with more light.
If your Golden Pothos isn’t used to bright light or harsh afternoon sun, acclimate your plant before moving it to this window. Otherwise, the leaves will burn, turning yellow & brown. Acclimate your plant by placing it in the window a few hours per day in the morning, increasing the amount of time you leave it in the window each time.
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
Crotons need lots of light; otherwise, they will not survive. They are one of the more particular plants & many people despise crotons because of the care routine they need. They definitely aren’t the ideal plant for a beginner. But they are beautiful plants when they’re properly cared for. They are one of few foliage plants with natural reds, oranges & yellows to add warm color to the room.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)
Spider Plants are popular & easy to care for, making them a great choice for your south-facing window. There are a few different varieties to choose from to complement any space.
They look great in any planter too. I love to hang mine because they grow vines with more spider plant babies. After a season, you’ll have an explosion of foliage to share with your friends.
Like Golden Pothos, this is one that cannot tolerate harsh direct sun. Many of the Spider Plant cultivars have variegation – whether white or yellow. Increasing the amount of light it receives will bring out this variegation even more.
And don’t let the name scare you away. They don’t attract spiders, but they are pet friendly. It is said that Spider Plants can mimic the hallucinogenic effects of catnip when ingested by a cat. Though I’m not sure this is true, I know you will get lots of compliments on this plant.
Aloe vera is the first houseplant most people find themselves owning. Aloe Vera is readily available in any box store & is very resilient. Though it is a succulent & not foliage like I typically prefer, it makes the list because of the ease of care. Aloe Vera doesn’t need much humidity & is very drought-tolerant. And it loves soaking up sunlight. So if you find that your south-facing window is dry & other plants seem to struggle with the humidity there, Aloe Vera will thrive.
The great thing about Aloe Vera is its medicinal uses as well. If you place this plant in a bathroom or on a vanity, you’ll have quick access to aloe vera to add to any part of your skincare routine.
Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
The Ponytail Palm is identifiable by the long, hair-like leaves that sprout from the side of the tree. These trees love as much sun as they can get & can even acclimate to receive full sun. If your south-facing window receives a lot of direct sunlight & you’re worried that it will burn your more delicate plants, consider a Ponytail Palm.
Ponytail Palms are slow-growing. It will only grow about 12 inches per year & it’ll grow as tall as you allow it. They’re also pet-friendly & can keep energetic puppies & kittens entertained for hours.
Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)
The Monstera Deliciosa is a great large plant for a south-facing window. Its large leaves love to soak up the early morning sun for 1-2 hours, but the harsh afternoon sun tends to burn the leaves. Monsteras also love humidity. With more light, your plant will get more fenestrations & there is so much light around your south-facing window. You’ll see the holes appear in greater numbers & even have larger leaves. These plants get large fast, so keep the space you have in mind. It will become the main character of whatever room you choose to put it in.
Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon Tree
If your south-facing window receives a lot of direct sun, I recommend a citrus tree like the Variegated Pink Lemon Tree. Not only are their green & white leaves gorgeous, but they will also produce fruit! The lemons it produces is unique. Their rind is yellow with green striping & when you cut it, the flesh is pink & sweet.
Citrus trees like lots of sun but also love lots of humidity. Make sure the leaves don’t begin to turn brown & crisp. If they do, try misting your tree once a day or adding a humidifier to the room.
Lucky Bamboo (Draecana sanderiana)
Lucky Bamboo is an obvious choice for your south-facing window. They grow best with lots of light & can acclimate to filtered direct light. In my experience, if the plant has white variegation in the leaves, it tends to do better in south-facing windows. This is not a plant that can be on the windowsill & needs to be a small distance away from the window so that it only receives bright, indirect light. Since they grow best in water, it’s unlikely that you will have to worry about the humidity around the plant. But you may need to increase the watering frequency. The plant will grow faster in addition to the warmth from the direct light evaporating it.
You can find Lucky Bamboo in most box stores & even in some pet stores. There are a few varieties with different colorations, so you can mix & match styles to create your desired aesthetic.
Alocasia Sarian is a cultivar blend of the Frydek & Zebrina. This Alocasia can get quite large & makes an excellent tall plant for your south-facing window. You’ll want to have a sheer curtain over the window or place it across the room from the window because it cannot handle direct sunlight. But they love soaking up the bright light & need a good amount of humidity. In ideal conditions, these plants get very large in a growing season or two. Generally, the average household humidity of 40-60% is ideal, but you’ll notice that the area that receives a lot of sun may be less humid.
I recommend supplementing with a humidifier when keeping this plant or Alocasia of any kind.
Variegated Banana Tree
Variegated Banana Trees are gorgeous, but it can be difficult to keep them indoors because they need direct sun for at least 6 hours out of the day & they can get quite tall. If your south-facing window doesn’t have any obstructions & has lots of room, the Variegated Banana Tree would be stunning. Banana trees also need a good deal of humidity so that their leaves unfurl properly. I highly recommend supplementing with a humidifier unless the area stays at 60-80% humidity, which is slightly above the relative humidity of the traditional household.
Fairy Castle Cactus
Fairy Castle Cacti are columnar cacti that thrive in the direct sun. You will quickly realize how it gets its name as it grows like a fantasy castle! This cactus will thrive in your south-facing window if it receives full sun all day. This cactus doesn’t mind bright indirect light, but its growth slows a lot & you may notice the new growth will be long & thin or leaning towards the light.
Monkey Tail Cactus
Monkey tail cactus is one of my favorite cacti. I’ve always wanted one & this past year, I finally picked up a small one from a box store last fall. It has lived in my south-facing window in a planter with other full-sun succulents & cacti receiving direct sun & is absolutely loving it.
This is my first growing season with this plant. We are approximately one month in & it’s already given me approx 4″ in growth. This doesn’t seem like a lot to foliage lovers, but cacti parents know that this is amazing, considering many cacti only grow about 12″ per year. This is one of the fastest-growing cacti I own, which is why it’s my favorite. Not to mention the way it grows – it’s so funky!
Squid Agave (Agave bracteosa)
Squid Agave is an interesting, low-maintenance plant for your south-facing window. When I brought my Squid Agave home, I had no idea what it was other than “some variety of Agave”. I’d never seen a solid green agave like this when I brought it home.
I made this the centerpiece of the succulent garden in my south-facing window & it completely transformed. The leaves went from a lush medium green to a bright, vibrant green with yellow variegation on the sides. It’s safe to say that this plant thrives in the full sun of my south-facing window, receiving 6-8 hours of direct sun from the window every day.
African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigonia)
African Milk Trees, or Euphorbia Tree Cactus, are great statement pieces for your south-facing window. You can find small plants of this in many box stores, but don’t let it trick you. This is one of the faster-growing cacti, growing up to 2ft per year! That’s a substantial speed for cacti & it does maintain a tree form. You can prune this cactus without having to worry too much about injuries because the spine placement is far apart.
Regardless of how small your Euphorbia Tree Cactus is when you buy it, it will be a floor plant within 3 years in full sun.
String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
String of Pearls – half the plant community finds them to be easy while others struggle to keep them alive. I can almost guarantee that the part of the community that finds them to be an easy plant to keep in their south-facing window. A String of Pearls is a great hanging plant for your south-facing window. They need 6-8 hours of full sun per day to live. They can tolerate bright, indirect light, but you’ll notice a difference in the pearl spacing & potential for blooms.
Though they are very flattering as a hanging plant, you can also allow this plant to drape over a table or cabinet. But make sure that the top of the pot is receiving light, too. Otherwise, the pot will be bare while the runners are healthy. A bare base can impact the health of your plant much more than people think.
Bird of Paradise
If you have high ceilings & tall south-facing windows that receive lots of direct light, a Bird of Paradise will be the best plant you can get for that space!
Bird of Paradise grows up to 12 feet tall, so vaulted ceilings are necessary to keep it happy. Birds of Paradise are flowering plants that rarely flower indoors. That’s because they don’t get enough sun indoors to flower. They soak up all they can, but 8-10 hours is ideal.
I tried keeping my Bird of Paradise on a North-east facing porch this past growing season & it really suffered. I wasn’t sure it was going to make it through the winter. The leaves are still very unhappy. I had to chop the newest leaf off because it didn’t unfurl before winter and began to rot.
This year, I’m learning from my mistakes & keeping it on the southwest side of my house. It immediately began to perk up within days of moving to its new home.
The more light, the better for Bird of Paradise.
Stromanthe Triostar is often used in landscaping where I’m from. Most often, you find them in the landscaping area of nurseries & they can get big. When I first started diving into houseplants, I was shocked that people were trying to keep these indoors. They seem to thrive with 6-8 hours of direct sun.
They have beautiful white, red, and pink leaves. They’re attractive & I can see the allure. But the only way they could survive in a home is under a grow light or receiving full sun in a south-facing window.
This is a great “bushy” type floor plant. Because of its mounding nature, it will only grow as tall as it is wide (about 2 feet). If you didn’t prune it for a while, it might get even wider than it is tall!
Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
Many say that Fiddle Leaf Figs need bright, indirect light & claim that direct sun will burn the leaves of your Fiddle Fig. This is completely incorrect.
On my last vacation to Florida, I found many Fiddle Leaf Figs growing very large outdoors with full & direct sun on them all day. It’s safe to say that this plant can acclimate to love the direct sun —making Fiddle Leaf Fig an excellent large plant for your south-facing window.
Looking for a small plant for your south-facing window but love the appearance of the Fiddle Fig? Check out the Bambino Fiddle Fig! This is a more compact version, great for desktops or windowsills. Please note: this plant is a little more delicate than the larger version, but can adapt to enjoying direct sun most of the day.
Pitcher plants are hands down my favorite carnivorous plant. They need lots of sunlight & can tolerate lots of direct light. The more light they receive, the more “pitchers” they produce.
The pitchers catch those pesky fungus gnats & other flying insects too. The pitchers also usually have a colorful appearance. If you’re looking to add color without pollinating blooms, pitcher plants are an excellent choice.