Best indoor plants for direct sunlight – 7 top choices for sunny spots in your home

These sun-loving indoor plants are just the thing for greening up any bright interior spaces

houseplants on windowsill including snake plant and yucca
(Image credit: Grumpy Cow Studios/Getty Images)

If your house is filled with sunshine and bright light, opting for plants that will thrive in full sun is key.  There are many types of houseplant, especially tropical ones that hail from South Africa, South America and Australia, that need plenty of sunshine to stay happy and healthy indoors. So there are plenty to choose from.

The sun lovers picked by our experts here are not to be confused with indoor plants that prefer bright indirect sun or filtered sunshine. In fact, many of these won't thrive if they're not positioned in a bright sunny spot where they get constant daily exposure to sun and in some cases won't bloom either.

There's more good news as lots of our favorite indoor plants for direct sunlight are easy low-maintenance options too. Remember to consider the light requirements of all indoor plants before you buy them by checking for the sun logo on the plant tag.

Succulents

A selection of sun-loving succulents make a perfect indoor garden

(Image credit: GettyImages)

7 of the best indoor plants for direct sunlight

'When choosing any plant, it’s easiest if you understand how the plant grows in its natural conditions,' says Nina Grebin, buyer at Molbak's Garden+ Home. 'When choosing a full sun indoor plant, think about plants that grow in dry, desert climates, or tall foliage plants that might make up the canopy layer of a rainforest.'

As well as succulents and palms you can also try growing herbs indoors as they will thrive on a sunny windowsill. 'Genovese basil is perhaps my favorite indoor sun-loving plant,' says Jennifer McDonald, certified organic gardener and co-founder of Garden Girls, a garden design company in Houston, Texas. 'Consider keeping a pot on your kitchen windowsill. Given enough sun, basil will happily produce through summer and fall.' 

There are plenty of other options for sunlit spots too. Whether you like big tropical leaves, palms or succulents you're sure to find a sun-loving indoor plant with our expert guide.

1. Snake plant

A large snake plant next to a white plastic chair and white radiator

Snake plants purify the air, removing toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from the home. They also also store oxygen through the day then release it back into the atmosphere at night

(Image credit: The Sill)
  • Also known as: Sansevieria trifasciata, mother-in-law’s tongue
  • Height: up to 8 feet
  • Best for: bedrooms
  • Care level: easy and low maintenance, ideal for beginners

Snake plants are native to Africa, Madagascar and southern Asia, and vary from desert succulents to thin-leaved tropical plants. Your snake plant will do best in full sun but will thrive in shaded situations too – it’s really not that fussy and is one of the best low-maintenance indoor plants around.

'The snake plant enjoys direct sunlight and is perfectly happy being ignored,' says Jennifer McDonald. 'Its sharply pointed leaves stand watch over sun-filled rooms. This plant doesn’t mind indirect sunlight, but will do really well near the sill of a south-facing window.'

The snake plant is pretty indestructible. As long as you put it near a natural light source and water your snake plant occasionally it will be hard to kill. It can also deal with temperature changes as well as being okay with drafts. Make sure it's in its happy place and it will be one of the easiest indoor plants you'll ever grow.

Jen McDonald CEO and Co-founder at Garden Girls
Jennifer McDonald

Jennifer McDonald is a certified organic vegetable garden specialist and co-founder of Garden Girls, a garden design firm based in Houston, TX. Together with her two partners, she strives to make gardening more accessible by conceiving and installing custom garden beds for commercial and residential clients, and providing the necessary tools for them to maintain a flourishing garden.

2. Ponytail palm

ponytail palm in white pot

The ponytail palm is actually not a palm but a succulent that hails from the desert

(Image credit: Daniela Duncan/Getty Images)
  • Also known as: Beaucarnea Recurvata, Nolina, elephant foot tree, bottle palm tree
  • Height: up to 3 feet
  • Best for: near a window or moved outside for the summer
  • Care level: very easy, ideal for beginners

The ponytail palm thrives with lots of bright light and can tolerate direct sun all day. If you can only manage to give it bright light half the time it will still be fine. It’s happy to live outdoors in the summer where it can really soak up the sun. Bring your plant back indoors when the night temperatures start to dip. 

Although this plant gets its name because its leaves sprout like a ponytail on top of a rounded trunk, it’s not actually a palm at all. These succulent plants are native to the semi-desert areas of Central America so you won't have to water them often either. 

3. Yucca plant

yucca plant on windowsill with watering can

Your yucca plant will be living its best life if you position it next to a sunny window

(Image credit: Grumpy Cow Studios/Getty Images)
  • Also known as: Spanish bayonet, Adam’s needle and thread, Spanish dagger
  • Height: up to 5 feet
  • Best for: south-facing window is ideal in winter, and an east or west-facing window in summer
  • Care level: easy and low maintenance, ideal for beginners

There are about 50 different types of yucca found in hot and arid places like the Americas and the Caribbean. They make excellent houseplants because they're tough, drought tolerant and love being bathed in direct sunlight, which means they're one of the best indoor plants for full sun.

'The yucca is a popular houseplant for good reason,' says Ben Hilton, founder of The Gardening Fix. 'This resilient plant is well-suited to full sun next to large windows or doors, thanks to its tolerance to temperature fluctuation and drafts. The sword-like foliage offers structure and height, while not occupying too much floor space.' 

Yucca plants need a sunny position all year round, and light shade from direct summer sun. They cope with the seesawing temperatures of desert conditions, which soar during the day and plunge at night. 

This means that yuccas are adaptable houseplants that can also grow into impressive specimens in the garden as part of your backyard landscaping ideas.

4. Jade plant

jade plant in pot with green background

Jade plants need as much sun as possible if they're going to reach their full potential, like this leafy little beauty

(Image credit: Photo.K.J / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Also known as: money plant, Crassula ovata
  • Height: up to 6 feet
  • Best for: south facing window
  • Care level: easy

Once you find out how to care for a jade plant you'll be thrilled by what this succulent can add to your easy indoor plant collection.

Jade plants need a lot of sun. There is one proviso though – direct sunlight can burn their leaves so be careful where you choose to put your plant. A south-facing window is ideal. 

'Jade plants area compact upright succulent that brings plenty of character to a sunny windowsill,' says Ben Hilton. 'As a drought-tolerant plant it will enjoy a south-facing window in full sun. It's super-easy to care for and very cute.'

Jade plants won't thrive in a humid atmosphere though so avoid putting them in the bathroom or kitchen.

5. Echeveria

Echeveria

Sun-loving Echeveria stay nice and compact in the right spot

(Image credit: Alamy)
  • Height: up to 12 inches
  • Best for: bathrooms
  • Care level: easy and low maintenance, ideal for beginners

Echeveria is a group of rosette-forming succulents with flower spikes in summer mostly found in semi-desert areas of central and southern America. Most of the indoor plant varieties are evergreen types.

These are plants that grow in very free-draining soils in desert conditions and in your home they need to be grown in sunny conditions to do well. If they don't get enough sunshine this will cause the rosette to stretch to reach a light source and your plant will get leggy, and the colors fade. If echeverias do not receive full sun, it's unlikely they will flower too. They like a minimum temperature of 42˚F. Move your echeveria outdoors during the summer months to help it flourish

Once established echevaria are one of the best types of succulent as they're pretty easy going. If you often forget to water, they're a good choice for you as they can easily survive without water for a couple of weeks, and need only be fed once or twice during the growing season.

6. Bird of paradise

bird of paradise plant in flower

As you would expect these tropical beauties love baking in sun

(Image credit: Oleksandr Petrov/EyeEm Getty Images)
  • Also known as: Strelitzia, crane flower
  • Height: up to 10 feet
  • Best for: sunroom or sunny living room
  • Care level: medium

Bird of paradise is an elegant and unique-looking plant that's one of the best tall indoor plants to add to your collection. Despite its flamboyant appearance, it’s surprisingly hardy and easy to grow. This plant prefers bright direct sunlight, ideally next to a south-facing window. Don’t worry about direct sunlight hitting the leaves, as they won’t burn. 

Bird of paradise also loves to take a summer vacation out in the backyard, where it will fit in nicely alongside banana palms and other tropical garden ideas. They also like a humid atmosphere, and do well in conservatories and glasshouses. 

Keep in mind that the best indoor plants for full sun (including cacti and succulents), all have to be gradually acclimatized to direct sunlight, otherwise they will get scorched foliage. 

7. Aloe vera

An aloe vera plant in a pot beside another houseplant on a window ledge

Every sunny windowsill should have an aloe vera or two

(Image credit: Unsplash)
  • Height: up to 3 feet
  • Best for: a hot, sunny windowsill, kitchen or outside in summer
  • Care level: super easy to grow, tough and undemanding

Sun loving aloe vera is a standout succulent plant with thick fleshy leaves in rosette formation and yellow, orange, pink or red clusters of flowers. They come from southern Africa, Madagascar, and islands in the Indian Ocean. They are undemanding plants and you can move them outside during summer for a vacay.

'Aloe vera is a versatile and low-maintenance plant,' says Vladan Nikolic, founder of Mrhouseplant.com. 'It's super easy to grow and its sap can be used to soothe skin irritations and burns.' For this reason it's a good idea to keep one as a kitchen plant.

During the growing season, give your aloe vera plants a good watering every now and again, then let the soil completely dry out. Treat them to a liquid feed every once in a while. During winter make sure they have a minimum temperature between 42-50˚F at night.


When choosing the best indoor plants for full sun stick to the easy formula of succulents and tropical plants to avoid making costly indoor plant mistakes. If it's at home in the desert or a tropical climate then it will work in your home too!

Sarah Wilson

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about flowers, plants, and garden design and trends since 2015. Having already studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently adding to her list of qualifications with an RHS Level 2 course in the Principles of Plant Growth and Development. In addition to homesandgardens.com and livingetc.com she's written for gardeningetc.com, Modern Gardens and Country Homes & Interiors magazines.