21 Plants That Can Fit and Grow on a Shelf

Spruce up any shelf with these houseplants

Wooden wall shelf decorated with houseplants in living room

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Are you looking for the perfect plant to fill that empty spot on your shelf? There are a few things that you need to consider when choosing a plant for your shelf space: size, growth habit, and most importantly, lighting. Unless your shelf is placed directly in front of a bright sunny window, choosing plants that grow well in low to medium light is usually best. So although succulents are small and aesthetically pleasing, you'll mostly want to avoid placing them on shelves, as they require a lot of light.

Here are 21 plants that are perfect for any shelf space.

  • 01 of 21

    Birds Nest Snake Plant (Sansevieria hahnii)

    A birds nest snake plant sitting on a shelf against a white wall.

    Amax Photo / Getty Images

    Snake plants grow well in low light conditions and the birds nest snake plant (Sansevieria hahnii) is no exception. This small, compact variety tops out at around 8 inches tall and is generally low-maintenance. Its petite size and growing requirements make the birds nest snake plant a perfect choice for any shelf space.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water when the soil is dry.
  • 02 of 21

    Cylindrical Snake Plant (Sansevieria cylindrica)

    A cylindrical snake plant in a orange terracotta pot.

    Suphattra Phonsen / Getty Images

    If you like the look of succulents but want to choose a plant that will survive in a low-light space, look no further than the Sansevieria cylindrica, also commonly known as the cylindrical snake plant. Over time, these snake plants can grow quite tall, but they are slow-growing, so if you choose a small plant you will have quite a few years before it outgrows your space.  

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water when the soil is dry.
  • 03 of 21

    Samurai Snake Plant (Sansevieria ehrenbergii ‘Dwarf Samurai’)

    A small samurai snake plant in a black pot.

    tontygammy + images / Getty Images

    One of the smallest varieties of snake plants available, the samurai snake plant (Sansevieria ehrenbergii ‘Dwarf Samurai’) doesn’t get much taller than 5-6 inches which makes it perfect for small shelves. It does well in partial to low-light conditions and doesn’t require frequent watering, so it’s a great “set it and forget it” plant.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water when the soil is dry.
  • 04 of 21

    Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

    A pothos plant sits in a hanging macrame planter.

     The Spruce / Cori Sears

    Pothos are known for being low-maintenance and perfect for growers of all skill levels, but when it comes to low-light spaces it is important to choose pothos varieties that can withstand low-light conditions such as the golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Avoid highly variegated varieties such as the marble queen or manjula, which will require more light. Pothos also look great on shelves thanks to their trailing growth habit.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water once the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.
    Continue to 5 of 21 below.
  • 05 of 21

    Jade Pothos (Epipremnum aureum 'Jade')

    Close up of green pothos foliage.

     The Spruce / Cori Sears

    Another variety of pothos that does well in low-light conditions is the jade pothos (Epipremnum aureum 'Jade'). If you don’t like variegated plants, the jade pothos is the perfect choice for you. Plus it’s trailing growth habit looks great on shelves both low and high.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water once the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.
  • 06 of 21

    Tillandsia

    Tillandsia air plant with light pink and green spiky leaves

    The Spruce / Kori Livingston

    Tillandsia are extremely versatile air plants that require very little ongoing maintenance. While they can be grown in soil, they are often sold bare-root and displayed in unique stands and holders that turn them into works of art, which makes them a great addition to any shelf space.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Water every 1-2 weeks.
  • 07 of 21

    Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)

    A close up shot of a new pothos leaf emerging from a cataphyl.

     The Spruce / Cori Sears

    These popular philodendrons are easy to grow and look great on shelves thanks to their trailing growth habit. They do well in a range of lighting conditions from bright indirect light to low light, and only need to be watered once the top 2-3 inches of soil has dried out.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water once the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.
  • 08 of 21

    Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aethiopicum)

    Maidenhair fern with small rounded leaves in white pot

    The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

    Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum aethiopicum) are gorgeous, delicate ferns that are fairly compact in size, growing about 12 inches tall at maturity. They require more attention than some of the other plants on this list, but if you have a shelf in a humid room such as a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room this fern is a great choice. 

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
    Continue to 9 of 21 below.
  • 09 of 21

    Lemon Button Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia 'Duffii')

    Lemon button fern plant with long button-like fronds in wicker pot

    The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

    In comparison to the maidenhair fern, the lemon button fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia 'Duffii') is lower maintenance and more resilient. It doesn’t require as much humidity and it will do well in lots of different spaces. 

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 10 of 21

    Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

    Boston fern plant with sword-shaped, blue-green fronds growing from wicker plant stand

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) are known for being a large variety of fern, but you can buy a plant that fits your space if you have a small shelf to work with. These ferns are great for shelves because they grow well in partial to low-light conditions.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 11 of 21

    Prayer Plant (Maranta spp.)

    Prayer plant with deep green oval leaves with yellow splotches and pink stripes closeup

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Prayer plants (Maranta spp.) are a great choice for a shelf as they can tolerate partial to low light conditions, and have a trailing/spreading growth habit. Plus, their leaves fold upwards at night which will add visual interest to the space. Prayer plants come in a variety of colors and patterns, so have fun choosing one to suit your space!

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 12 of 21

    Rattlesnake Calathea (Calathea lancifolia)

    Rattlesnake calathea plant with wavy variegated dark and light green leaves

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

    Compact size, unique foliage, and low-light tolerant, the rattlesnake calathea (Calathea lancifolia) has it all. As long as you can stay on top of regularly watering it, this plant will make the perfect addition to your shelf space! 

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
    Continue to 13 of 21 below.
  • 13 of 21

    Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

    Baby tears plant with delicate round leaves on fleshy stems closeup

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Named for its delicate foliage, the baby tears plant (Soleirolia soleirolii) is a small plant with a spreading growth habit that will add texture and visual interest to any shelf. Ensure that you keep the soil consistently moist to avoid leaf drop.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 14 of 21

    Silver Sparkle Pilea (Pilea glaucophylla)

    Pilea glaucophylla in an orange pot against a grey background.

    Struzhkova Ilona / Getty Images

    If you like the look of the baby tears plant, but want foliage that is a bit cooler in color, look no further than the silver sparkle pilea (Pilea glaucophylla). It does best in bright to medium indirect light and requires consistently moist soil in order to thrive.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 15 of 21

    Dwarf Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadierei ‘minima’)

    Aluminum plant in white pot with variegated silver and green leaves

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

    The aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei) is a low-maintenance houseplant characterized by stunning green and silver foliage. Its dwarf cultivator (Pilea cadierei minima) is a perfect choice for that small shelf that needs a little visual boost, topping out at around 6 inches tall.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 16 of 21

    Nerve Plant (Fittonia spp.)

    Nerve plant with striking white veins on deep green leaves in black pot

    The Spruce / Alonda Baird

    Nerve plants (Fittonia spp.) are characterized by the striking veins that run throughout their foliage, and they do well in a variety of lighting conditions. They have a spreading growth habit, and won’t get taller than 5-6 inches at to green and pink, and will make an excellent addition to any shelf.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
    Continue to 17 of 21 below.
  • 17 of 21

    Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

    A spider plant on a shelf next to a window in a white pot.

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

    One of the most common and popular houseplants among beginners and experienced growers alike, the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) will do well growing on nearly any shelf. It is adaptable to a range of lighting conditions—from bright, indirect light to low light—and is resilient when it comes to watering too. A happy spider plant can grow relatively fast and large, so this may not be the best choice if you have particularly tiny shelves you are looking to fill.

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water once the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry.
  • 18 of 21

    Peperomia Hope (Peperomia tetraphylla ‘Hope’)

    peperomia hope

    @indoorgardenbymarco / Instagram

    Peperomia hope (Peperomia tetraphylla ‘Hope’) is a trailing plant that is characterized by thick, succulent-like round leaves. It requires more light than some of the other plants on this list, doing best in bright to medium indirect light. It is a fast grower under the right conditions and will look great hanging from any shelf.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
  • 19 of 21

    Peperomia Pixie Lime (Peperomia orba)

    peperomia pixie lime

    @indoorgardenbymarco / Instagram

    This semi-succulent plant is characterized by its thick, lime green leaves and compact growth habit. It makes a great shelf plant as long as it is in a location that receives medium to bright indirect light. Let the soil dry out between watering to avoid root rot.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Water when the soil is dry.
  • 20 of 21

    String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata)

    String of turtles plant with round multi-colored leaves on long stems in yellow pot

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

    The string of turtles (Peperomia prostrata) is an adorable small trailing plant that does best in bright, indirect light. Avoid this plant if your shelf is located in low light, as it will become pale, leggy, and eventually begin to drop leaves. Keep the soil consistently moist and avoid overly dry locations.

    • Light: Partial.
    • Water: Keep soil moist.
    Continue to 21 of 21 below.
  • 21 of 21

    Zenzi ZZ Plant (Zamioculcus zamiifolia ‘Zenzi')

    Zenzi ZZ plant with wide, oval-shaped leaves growing from white and gray pot

    The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak

    While standard ZZ plants are a bit tall for most shelf spaces, the ‘Zenzi’ ZZ plant (Zamioculcus zamiifolia ‘Zenzi') is a compact variety that tops out at around 12 inches tall and is very slow-growing. It doesn’t require much ongoing maintenance and is extremely drought-tolerant. 

    • Light: Partial, low.
    • Water: Water when the soil is dry.