How to Get That Outdoor Shower Feel—In a Windowless Bathroom

updated Jan 26, 2021
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Credit: Lana Kenney

Even without access to an outdoor shower, you can still cultivate a little bit of that dreamy, relaxing atmosphere by bringing plant life into your bathroom. But what are the best plants for windowless bathrooms? The short answer is none. I talked to several plant life specialists and most told me that it’s just not possible to have plants in a room with no natural light; however there are some workarounds if you’re willing to get a little creative!

Add Grow Lights

Tara Heibel, the founder of Sprout Home, a plant design and garden center in Chicago and Brooklyn, gave me some hope: I don’t have to give up on my rainforest shower dreams just yet—but it’s going to take a bit of work.

“You will either need to invest in a grow light for the space to provide a full light spectrum for the plants, or you will need to do some creative moving around,” she says.

A grow light is an artificial light that helps stimulate photosynthesis when natural light is not an option. There are several different types of grow lights: fluorescent lights (CFL), high-pressure sodium lights (HPS), and light-emitting diodes (LED). These can run anywhere from around $25 to a few hundred bucks—Amazon sells a wide range, including these light strips that are under $40.

Move Your Plants Around

Not sure you’re willing to DIY a whole bathroom light project? Perhaps choose the creative moving around option, instead.

Heibel explains that even if you decide to move the plants, you should still choose a plant that prefers a low-light setting, and then move it from your windowless bathroom to a natural filtered light area as much as possible.

“You can tell when a plant is not getting enough light when they start to open up and shed leaves from the inside,” explains Heibel. It’s as if they’re stretching to try to find more light.

She also warns not to overcompensate by putting the plants in direct light when you move them, as that could potentially burn their leaves.  

The Best Plants for a Windowless Bathroom

Heibel recommends Davallia fejeensis (rabbit foot fern) or Phlebodium aureum (blue star fern) as two lush options for your curated atmosphere. Ferns require even moisture and high humidity, so can be happy in your bathroom. As long as there is a drain hole in their container, you can keep them in the shower area, or you can pot them as a Kokedama by wrapping the root base in moss.

If your windowless bathroom is also tiny or if you don’t trust yourself to stick to a consistent watering schedule, try a Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant) or a Sansevieria (snake plant). “Both can handle and want a fair amount of dry time and grow upright, thereby helping conserve on space,” says Heibel.

If you want to go an even easier route, she suggests Tillandsia (air plants), which happily soak up the humidity in a bathroom setting.

Fake It

Ok, phew. So it’s possible to have plant life in my windowless bathroom… but am I really going to consistently move the plants from my bathroom to another room with natural, indirect sunlight? Some days I don’t even remember to eat breakfast.

There’s always artificial plants. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but there are some very realistic-looking artificial plants.

I didn’t get the easy answer I wanted when trying to find plant life for my windowless bathroom. But, at the end of the day, plants need light to live. Getting that lush outdoor-rainforest-shower feeling means you might have to move some ferns around during the day—or just get creative.