Many houses, especially older ones, receive little natural light. This is usually due to the way in which they are sited. Instead of facing south, in order to enjoy solar gain, they face north.

You might ask why anyone would site their house that way. Usually, the answer is due to what side of the road the property lies on. In earlier days, it was more important to face the road than to enjoy a southern exposure. So if a property was on the south side of an east-west-facing road, a house would need to face north in order to face the road.

Many of us live in such houses and the lack of sunlight makes indoor gardening a challenge. There are only a few options, and here they are. Take advantage of any window that gets any degree of sunlight at all. If you are fortunate enough to have a few south-facing windows, then by all means, crowd as many houseplants as possible in front of that window.

It helps if the window has an unobstructed view. Many south-facing windows go begging for light because trees, shrubs or buildings block the light. These things can’t be helped. We just need to find ways around them.

Even east and west-facing windows can support houseplants, but these must be the low-light variety. Even some plants that thrive in bright light will perform well in limited light. I have a pot of succulents that are doing just fine, thank you, on a table in front of an east-facing window.

Some readers may recall the old adage, “Morning light is shade. Afternoon light is light.” But also remember this: any light is better than no light. Along with the succulents, I also grow oxalis and African violets in my east-facing window. Both appear happy and vigorous.

Lipstick plant by a north-facing window. Tom Seymour

Another option is to choose all low-light plants. I recently acquired a huge, fully mature, lipstick plant. This vining plant likes direct, but not bright, light. It hangs in front of a north-facing bay window and it appears to like its location, because it has grown considerably in the few short months it has lived here.

So there is something else to think about. Direct light needn’t be direct southern light. It can come from the north. As long as it is steady and reliable all day long, lots of plants should do well in it.

Regarding low-light plants, you can do no better than to get a Sansevieria, or snake plant. While this tough customer can tolerate full sun as well as dark, barely lit locations, the key is to never overwater. You can go for months without watering and your snake plant won’t mind a bit. Here is a plant that you can hand down over the generations, in the same pot (it doesn’t mind being potbound), and it will remain happy.

The final option for indoor gardening in a low-light house is to use plant lights. With the soaring cost of electricity, this may not be a timely investment, but it works. Either buy special plant lights and situate them over your plants, or purchase a hydroponic unit that has everything together, a water/fertilizer reservoir, planting holes for special peat planters and an adjustable plant light.

In the long run, these units may be the most cost-effective, since the light is far smaller and can also use less wattage than larger plant lights. I use my unit to grow lettuce, but you can grow everything from herbs to tomatoes. One of my gardening friends has several units and eats fresh garden salads year-round.

Don’t let north-facing, low-light locations get you down. Work around them. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.