How To Grow Flowers Without Sunlight (Ultimate Guide)

Most flowering plants thrive in full sunlight, so growing flowers in indoor containers or on shady balconies can be pretty challenging! However, you might be surprised to know that it’s possible to grow flowers without sunlight with a few nifty tools.

You can grow flowers without sunlight by investing in grow lights. Selecting the most appropriate lights for your setup (indoor or outdoor) is crucial to keeping your flowering plants alive without direct sunlight. Planting flowers with low light needs may also be worthwhile.

This guide will explore everything you need to know about growing flowers without sunlight. You can use this information to produce colorful blooms, no matter where you live or what types of flowers you’re hoping to grow.

Reasons You Might Want To Grow Flowers Without Sunlight

Before we delve into the details of growing flowers without sunlight, we must address why you might want to attempt this feat.

After all, plenty of nutrient-rich sun-lit soil is a gardener’s dream come true. But every dream has an antithetical nightmare, and not all gardens have access to full (or any) sunlight. 

As such, the most common reasons to grow flowers without sunlight include:

  • You live in a small apartment that doesn’t have a yard area.
  • You prefer growing plants indoors in containers.
  • You live in an area that doesn’t receive consistent sunlight.
  • Your yard only gets partial sunlight throughout the day.

You Live in a Small Apartment Without a Yard

Apartment living certainly has its perks, but one of the major drawbacks of living in an apartment is that you might not have access to a yard to grow plants. Even apartments with balconies might pose challenges to gardeners, as balconies are often shielded from the sun.

Finding enough sunlight to grow gorgeous blooms is undoubtedly challenging for those in this situation, but as we’ll soon discuss, it’s not impossible.

You Prefer Growing Indoor Container Plants

Outdoor gardening isn’t well-suited to everyone. Even those with sun-filled yards may prefer to grow plants indoors. After all, growing plants in garden beds can be labor-intensive, especially if you need to amend the soil, add mulch, or install drip systems to keep plants watered.

Growing plants in indoor containers can be just as rewarding as growing plants outdoors, but it requires some planning, as your indoor areas are unlikely to receive much direct sunlight. 

Of course, those living in high latitude areas might be unable to harness any natural sunlight from windows!

You Live in an Area That Doesn’t Receive Consistent Sunlight

Most of North America is situated near the middle latitudinal point, resulting in standard seasonal changes (spring, summer, autumn, and winter). But some towns sit much higher, resulting in more extreme seasons and weather conditions.

Barrow, Alaska, is a prime example. During the winter, residents of this town spend about two months without any sunlight. As such, any container plants sitting near windows are likely to die without artificial sources of sunlight. 

Due to the low outdoor temperatures, window-side plants can also freeze during this period. Of course, Barrow’s population is well below 5,000, so this issue (several weeks without sunlight) is relatively uncommon.

A far more widespread problem among gardeners is a yard that gets only partial sunlight.

Your Yard Only Gets Partial Sunlight

Not every yard basks in full sunlight. Some are shaded by overhanging tree branches or blocked in by high-rise buildings. If this applies to you, growing flowers outdoors can be a struggle. 

Like other plants, flowers typically require several hours of full sunlight to grow and bloom. And this begs the question: Is it possible to grow flowering plants without sunlight?

Why Light Is Crucial to Flower Growth and Vitality

If you’ve ever browsed through flower seed packets at your local garden center, you’ve likely noticed that nearly every package has “full to partial sunlight” listed on the back. 

Finding flowering plants that can survive in the shade is far more challenging, and for a good reason–light is the key to photosynthesis.

Sunlight Is Critical for Photosynthesis

A handful of ingredients are required for plant life: nutrients, water, and light. Without these three crucial components, plants would be unable to survive.

While some plants can thrive in nutrient-poor, dry soil, no plants can live without some type of light. 

The only exception to this rule is mushrooms, a type of fungi. Notably, fungi are consumers, breaking down rotting organic material (decomposing leaves, tree limbs, and animals). But plants are producers, generating seeds, fruits, and flowers.

You can think of plants as tiny living factories. Without an energy source, they can’t produce any goods! But unlike mammals, most plants don’t get their energy from consuming animals or other plants (except carnivorous plants that consume insects).

Instead, plants rely on a process called photosynthesis to generate the energy they need to grow healthy roots, leaves, and flowers. This process begins with sunlight. When the sun’s rays strike a plant, the chlorophyll in its leaves consumes this solar energy and uses it to release oxygen and convert carbon dioxide into glucose.

Plants then use this stored glucose to grow new leaves, stretch their roots further into the soil, and produce beautiful flowers and fruits. Essentially, photosynthesis is how plants eat!

Consequently, flowering plants are bound to die (or fail to germinate altogether) if kept in total darkness. However, artificial lighting can replace sunlight, helping plants photosynthesize and flourish.

Artificial Lighting Can Replace Natural Sunlight

While natural sunlight is a free energy source for your plants, those without consistent access to sunny outdoor locations can use artificial lighting to replace natural sunlight. 

Artificial lighting refers to any light source that doesn’t come from the sun. So, when you flip the light switch in your home, you’re using artificial lighting. 

While artificial lighting might increase your monthly electricity bill, they’re the most effective way to grow flowers without sunlight. Besides, energy-efficient plant lamps can help reduce the amount of electricity used to keep your plants healthy.

Also called grow lights, artificial lights for plants come in a plethora of styles and types, ensuring that every gardener can find lights to suit their needs and budget. That said, selecting the best possible lights for your plants can be tricky, especially if you’ve never purchased grow lights.

Let’s review how to choose the best grow lights for your flowers to ensure you pick the best possible lights for your plants.

How To Select Grow Lights for Flowers

Whether you’d like to grow flowers on a patio, balcony, or indoor space, you can use grow lights to get the job done. But before you purchase flowering plants and containers, you’ll want to take a few moments to think about what types of lights will suit your needs.

Here’s a step-by-step method for selecting grow lights for flowers:

  1. Choose lights that match the size of your plants.
  2. Consider selecting lights that have color-changing bulbs.
  3. Invest in lights with built-in timers.
  4. Think about where you’ll place your lights.

By following these steps, you can find lamps that are ideally suited to your gardening space and plants. 

Choose Lights That Match the Size of Your Plants

Plants naturally grow upward to reach life-sustaining sunlight. But some flowering plants have a maximum height of only a few inches, while others can reach towering heights of several feet. Consequently, it’s essential to select grow lights that are adequately sized for your plants.

Fortunately, grow lights come in several sizes, from tiny desktop lamps to gigantic hanging lights. And adjustable grow lights allow you to change the bulb’s height to keep up with your plant’s growth, making them fantastic choices for plants that experience rapid growth.

Naturally, you’ll need to decide which flowers you want to grow before selecting size-appropriate lamps. 

Consider Selecting Lights That Have Color-Changing Bulbs

Another thing you’ll want to consider when selecting grow lights is bulb color. Some grow lights have a single bulb color (typically called “daylight”), while others are capable of changing color. 

While it’s possible to grow flowers with single-hue daylight bulbs, selecting color-changing lights may help your flowering plants enjoy more rapid growth. The energy transmitted by light varies depending on its color, and plants utilize different light spectrums depending on their growth stage.

How Light Color Affects Plant Growth

The white-yellow light emitted by the sun is actually full of color. Plants absorb the blue and red hues hidden within the sunlight, bouncing back most of the green light (which is why most plants look green).  

But the amount of blue and red light absorbed by plants varies depending on the plant’s growth stage. For example, seedlings absorb more red light than well-established plants engaged in their growth phase. 

Additionally, flowering plants preparing to create blooms absorb more red light. But plants grown only under red light can be lanky and sickly-looking, as they’re never allowed to enjoy complete photosynthesis (only achieved via a combination of blue and red light). 

So, gardeners looking to produce the healthiest and most abundant flowers may want to choose a grow lamp that offers standard daylight-colored, blue, and red light settings.

Invest in Lights With Built-In Timers

Unless you’re using solar-powered lights (which is somewhat unlikely if you’re hoping to grow flowers without sunlight), your grow lights will probably consume a decent amount of electricity. 

Unfortunately, this can cause your electricity bill to skyrocket, especially if you forget to shut off your lights. Forgetting to shut off your grow lights can also be detrimental to your flowers, as plants need periods of darkness to utilize the glucose they’ve stored while undergoing photosynthesis.

Purchasing grow lights with built-in timers can significantly reduce your electricity usage while also ensuring that your plants enjoy their much-needed time in the dark.

Think About Where You’ll Place Your Lights

You can grow flowers without sunlight indoors or outdoors, but the environment you choose will dramatically impact the types of lights you’ll need.

Generally, grow lights are designed for indoor use. 

Indoor grow lights aren’t waterproof or weatherproof, so they can become electrical hazards if used outdoors. So, if you’re planning on starting an outdoor flower garden, you’ll need to make sure you’re purchasing grow lights designed for outdoor use.

Remember, grow lights can be standing lamps, screw-in lightbulbs, or hanging fixtures. The right option for you depends on your setup.

For example, if you’re planning on growing flowers in an outdoor garden bed, you’ll likely want to invest in waterproof grow lights that can hang above your plants. But if you’re creating an indoor setup, standing lamps or specialized light bulbs could be the better solution. 

Let’s explore both options to help you create a gorgeous flower garden without sunlight.

How To Create a Flower-Friendly Indoor Setup

After selecting grow lights for your flowers, you’ll want to spend a little time thinking about your garden setup. For example, will you be growing your flowers inside or outside?

If you’ve chosen the former option, you’ll need to:

  1. Select plant containers with drainage holes.
  2. Choose a suitable type of potting soil.
  3. Invest in ventilation for your plants.
  4. Install height-adjustable indoor grow lights.
  5. Utilize timer functions on lights to reduce wasted energy.

Let’s briefly review these steps to help you create a practical and easy-to-follow indoor gardening plan.

Select Plant Containers With Drainage Holes

The first thing you’ll want to do when setting up an indoor flower garden is to choose containers for your future plants. But not all containers are well-suited to plants!

While you might be drawn in by decorative pots with solid, non-leaking bottoms, selecting containers with drainage holes in the bottom is vital. Otherwise, the water you pour onto the soil won’t have anywhere to go, increasing the risk of root rot and mold growth.

You can purchase plant containers with built-in drainage trays to help reduce the risk of water flowing onto your floor. Additionally, you can pair traditional terracotta plant pots with matching drainage trays.

If you’re still worried about your indoor flowers leaving puddles of water or soil on your floor, you might want to consider investing in a waterproof rug to place beneath the containers. 

Choose a Suitable Type of Potting Soil

After you’ve chosen containers with drainage holes, you’ll need to select potting soil to fill those containers. The best type of potting soil for your flowering plants varies depending on the types of flowers you’d like to grow.

Most flowers do well in all-purpose potting soil, but others have more specific needs. For example, orchids may struggle in all-purpose soil but thrive in orchid-specific potting soil. The same applies to flowering cacti, which need much drier soil than moisture-loving flowers.

So, before purchasing potting soil, consider the types of flowering plants you’d like to grow. Researching their preferred soil type can help you avoid buying the wrong kind of potting soil.

Invest in Ventilation for Your Plants

Having an indoor flower garden can add a wealth of color to your interior spaces, and artificial lighting means that you don’t need any sunlight to make it happen. However, sunlight isn’t the only thing you’ll need to replicate when keeping indoor plants.

Ventilation is another aspect to consider when creating an indoor container garden. After all, plants growing outdoors have access to plenty of fresh air and wind, both of which help wick away excess moisture and keep plants mold-free.

Ensuring that your plants enjoy plenty of airflows is one of the most effective ways to keep them perky and healthy, which is why you’ll likely want to invest in a fan for your plants. The best plant-friendly fans tend to be oscillating models with built-in timers.

Install Height-Adjustable Indoor Grow Lights

The final step of creating the ideal indoor flower garden is installing grow lights. This step is one of the most crucial, especially when you’re working without sunlight. 

Generally, the best grow lights for indoor container gardens are height-adjustable lamps. There are variants available for shelves, desk plants, and floor plants.

You can read more about creating ideal lighting conditions for indoor plants in my other article: How to Give Indoor Plants Enough Light to Grow

How To Create a Flower-Friendly Outdoor Setup

If your indoor space is limited (or you don’t want to deal with the mess of growing flowers indoors), you can also attempt to grow flowers outdoors. 

This option is an excellent alternative to indoor gardening, especially for those with yards, patios, and balconies. To get started, you’ll need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Decide whether to plant in-ground or in containers.
  2. Prepare your outdoor garden space.
  3. Select grow lights designed for outdoor spaces.

Let’s address each of these steps to help you plan your outdoor garden with confidence.

Decide Whether To Plant In-Ground or in Containers

The first thing you’ll need to do when creating an outdoor flower garden without sunlight is to decide whether you will plant your flowers in the ground or inside containers. Naturally, this decision will be easy if you don’t have access to a yard!

But if you do have a yard, patio, and balcony at your disposal, selecting the best possible spot for your flowers can be challenging. One of the best ways to decide is to compare the benefits and disadvantages of in-ground and container gardening.

Benefits of In-Ground Gardening

Traditional home gardens are easy to spot–they feature raised garden beds full of loamy soil or well-tilled rows of plants neatly positioned in the yard. Some of the most notable benefits of these types of in-ground gardens include:

  • Not having to purchase containers.
  • Potentially avoiding having to purchase bagged soil.
  • Greater moisture retention (for some soil types).
  • Increased yard attractiveness.
  • Less patio and balcony space dedicated to plants.

If you’re looking to increase your yard’s beauty or avoid placing containers on balconies or porches, in-ground gardening could be the best option. That said, growing flowers in your yard’s soil can have some drawbacks.

Drawbacks of In-Ground Gardening

Though in-ground gardening could be a beneficial choice, it might not be the right choice for your outdoor setup. After all, in-ground gardening:

  • Tends to be more labor-intensive than container gardening.
  • Might require you to purchase several cubic feet of garden soil.
  • Can consume precious yard space.
  • May require larger and more expensive grow lights.
  • Might not be allowed on some rental properties.

When planting flowers directly in your yard’s soil (or a raised garden bed), you’ll need to deal with weeds and mulching. Large outdoor garden beds can also be challenging to keep well-lit, necessitating large (and more expensive) grow lights. 

Additionally, those renting apartments or homes may find that their landlords or property management companies don’t allow in-ground gardening. In this case, outdoor container gardening is undoubtedly the better choice.

Benefits of Outdoor Container Gardening

Though container gardening might initially be slightly more expensive than in-ground gardening, it’s not without its benefits. For example, outdoor container gardening:

  • Is less labor intensive than in-ground gardening.
  • Can be more affordable in the long run.
  • Doesn’t consume as much yard space.
  • Is compatible with multiple types of outdoor grow lights.
  • Is typically allowed on rental properties.
  • Is ideal for those without a yard.

In short, if you don’t have a yard or are hoping to reduce the amount of effort required to tend to your flower garden, containers might be the way to go. But like in-ground gardening, there are a few drawbacks to consider.

Drawbacks of Outdoor Container Gardening

Though container gardening is an excellent alternative to in-ground gardening, it might not be the best option for your outdoor setup, especially when growing flowers without sunlight. 

After all, outdoor container gardening:

  • Can be initially more expensive than in-ground gardening.
  • Can limit the amount of available space on your patio or balcony.

The cost of containers and potting soil typically exceeds the cost of a few bags of garden soil. And if you don’t have a yard, keeping container plants on your front porch, back patio, or balcony can mean you don’t have space for other items like outdoor furniture.

In-Ground vs. Container Gardening: The Bottom Line

Unless you have a spacious yard and plenty of funds to spend on grow lights (and the electricity to power them), container gardening is likely the best choice for your outdoor flower garden. 

While containers and potting soil can be somewhat pricey, positioning outdoor grow lights over containers tends to be far easier than hanging lights over in-ground flower beds. Besides, maintaining container plants requires far less labor (weeding, mulching).

Still, only you can decide between these two outdoor gardening setups. Whatever you choose, your next step will be preparing your space for flowering plants.

Prepare Your Outdoor Garden Space

The right way to prepare your outdoor garden space for flowers varies depending on whether you’ve chosen to plant in the ground or in containers. Let’s firstly address how to prepare in-ground garden areas.

How To Prepare Your In-Ground Outdoor Garden

If you’ve decided to plant your flowers in your yard’s soil or a raised garden bed, you’ll need to ensure the soil is nutrient-rich and ready to receive flowering plants. 

There are two ways to do this. Firstly, you can purchase a soil test kit to determine whether your pre-existing soil is fertile enough for flowers. I think the Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit (available on is one of the easiest-to-use soil test kits.

With a soil test kit, you’ll be able to test your soil’s potassium, nitrogen, and potassium (also called potash) levels with these containers. These are the three essential nutrients most plants need to thrive. It also allows you to test your soil’s pH, though this test may not be beneficial unless you’ve already chosen the types of flowers you’d like to grow. After all, every species of flower has a specific pH tolerance.

If your yard’s pre-existing soil is rich in nutrients and at the correct pH, you can move on to the next step. However, if it’s lacking nutrients or is incredibly alkaline or acidic, you’ll need to amend the soil.

Fortunately, amending the soil to make it suitable for flowers is often as simple as purchasing a few bags of garden soil. You might want to use a soil calculator to ensure you get the proper amount. 

How To Prepare Your Outdoor Container Garden

Preparing an outdoor container garden for flowering plants is a little more straightforward than preparing in-ground areas. 

Generally, the only things you’ll need to do are:

  • Purchase containers for your plants.
  • Purchase potting soil for those containers.
  • Choose a place to put those containers.

Choosing the right-sized containers can be challenging, but researching the amount of space your preferred flowers need is an excellent way to start. For example, some flowers (like dwarf zinnias and marigolds) don’t need much space to thrive, while others (like giant sunflowers or moonflowers) need massive containers. 

As with indoor container gardens, you’ll want to choose plant pots with drainage holes. You’ll also need to consider flower type when selecting potting soil, as some flowers prefer specific soil types.

After selecting your containers and potting soil, you’ll need to decide where to put those containers. Fortunately, since you’ll be relying on outdoor grow lights, you can situate plant pots pretty much anywhere. That said, placing containers near an outdoor power outlet can be helpful.

Select Grow Lights Designed for Outdoor Spaces

Most grow lights are designed for outdoor spaces. If you’re determined to grow flowers outdoors without sunlight, you’ll need to invest in grow lights designed to handle outdoor conditions.

Outdoor grow lights tend to:

  • Be waterproof, and
  • Have long power cords.

Be sure to get high-quality outdoor lights as they will stand up to the elements better.

Planting Flowers That Grow in Low-Light Conditions

If your indoor space is limited and you’d prefer to grow flowers outdoors in in-ground garden beds, you can try planting flowers that have minimal light needs. 

Even if overhanging tree branches or buildings entirely shade your yard, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll be able to propagate at least a few varieties of flowers outdoors. The best way to find out which flowering plants thrive in your low-light outdoor areas is to try planting several types and see which survive!

Plant Flowers That Can Handle Partial Shade

Selecting flowers for your shaded outdoor spaces can be challenging. After all, dozens of flowers can grow in shade or partial shade. 

Still, you may want to start your outdoor planting by choosing one (or several) of the following plants:

  • Bleeding heart plant (Dicentra spectabilis)
  • Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
  • Bush lily (Clivia miniata)
  • Common bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
  • Great lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Miniature Daisy (Bellium minutum)
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
  • Plectranthus Velvet Elvis (Plectranthus saccatus)
  • Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
  • Touch-me-not (Impatiens)
  • White dead-nettle (Lamium album)
  • Wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri)
  • Woolly Speedwell (Veronica pectinata)

Refer to the chart below to discover more about each of these shade-tolerant plants and determine which might be suitable for your yard or outdoor area.

Plant NamePlant TypeLight RequirementsSoil RequirementsUSDA Hardiness Zones
Bleeding heart plant (Dicentra spectabilis)PerennialFull sun to partial shadeLoamy, moist soil3 to 9
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)PerennialFull sun to full shadeLoamy, well-draining soil2 to 9
Bush lily (Clivia miniata)PerennialIndirect sunlightLoamy, well-draining soil9 to 11
Common bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)PerennialFull sun to partial shadeSandy, well-draining soil5 to 8
Great lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)PerennialFull sun to full shadeAll soil types, moist soils4 to 8
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)PerennialPartial sun to full shadeLoamy, well-draining soil2 to 9
Miniature Daisy (Bellium minutum)PerennialFull sun to partial shadeAll soil types, well-draining soil6 to 9
Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)PerennialIndirect light to partial shadeLoamy, well-draining potting soil10 to 11
Plectranthus Velvet Elvis (Plectranthus saccatus)PerennialFull sun to partial shadeLoamy, moist soil9 to 11
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)AnnualFull sun to partial shadeLoamy, well-draining soil9 to 11
Touch-me-not (Impatiens)AnnualFull sun to partial shadeSandy, well-draining soil3 to 8
White dead-nettle (Lamium album)PerennialFull sun to full shadeLoamy, well-draining soil5 to 9
Wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri)AnnualPartial shadeLoamy, well-draining soil2 to 11
Woolly Speedwell (Veronica pectinata)PerennialFull sun to partial shadeAll soil types, well-draining soil4 to 9

Of course, you can also visit your local plant nursery and inquire about native flowering plants that thrive in shady conditions. More than likely, the staff will be able to help you find and select flowers that suit your outdoor spaces.

Final Thoughts

Flowering plants need light to undergo photosynthesis, which produces energy that helps plants grow. But if you live in a small apartment or an area where sunlight is scarce, you may struggle to grow flowering plants.

Fortunately, you can use artificial lights to grow flowers without sunlight. The best grow lights for you vary depending on where you’re growing your plants and the size of your container plants.

If you’d prefer to grow plants outdoors, you can also try planting flowers that thrive in shady areas, like the bush lily.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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