Do Succulents Need Sunlight? How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need?

Succulent Sunlight Preferences

It’s no secret that succulents love the sun. But is that necessary for succulents to have sunlight? How much sunlight do succulents need? Don’t worry – we’ll tell you exactly what kind of light your succulents need and where you can get it.

Is Sunlight Mandatory for Succulents?

The short answer is no, sunlight isn’t a mandatory requirement for growing succulents. Succulents/ cacti can grow under your office fluorescents, the LED desk clip light, a regular old lamp, or even a grow light like this. Every plant uses light (in the visible spectrum) for photosynthesis. The amount of “power” they get can vary hugely depending on the quality of sunlight.

Echeveria succulent plant
Echeveria @kazu228728

That being said… succulents would still prefer sunlight, though it’s not the mandatory thing to pay attention.

Having Enough Sunlight Is Still A Better Option

The vast majority of succulents prefer to be in full, direct sun. There are two big reasons that sunlight is better for succulents.

The first is that it’s the easiest way to reveal their “true colors”, also known as “sun blush”. Those terms describe the gorgeous colors that succulents are known for; the luscious tones of lavender, turquoise, tangerine, and opalescent rainbow result from the plant being “sun-stressed”.

“Sun-stressed” is when the plant responds to lots of intense, direct light. Some, like grasses, curl up to minimize the surface area exposed. Succulents, on the other hand, change colors. Color changing, in this case, helps to reflect some of the light, preventing heat damage and reducing the amount of energy they uptake. Those Pinterest-worthy color schemes are just a happy side-effect.

Succulents can and do survive just fine even without that amount of light. The catch is that they tend just to stay a (somewhat dull) shade of green.

The second reason might be a little unexpected since it has nothing to do with the actual light. Sunlight is helpful because it brings the heat that helps dry out your soil. We’ve talked about watering best practices and the importance of dry soil before. Sunlight helps dry out your ground even if the plant is behind a window or in an otherwise calm environment. The light from the sun is very high in energy, which speeds up evaporation even if you don’t notice the temperature rising.

Different Light Requirements For Succulents

Light requirements for succulents vary on different levels. It depends on the frequency and intensity of sunlight you get from the place. Sempervivum, Echeveria, or Aeonium, … are plants that love direct sunlight outdoors. The plants don’t prefer it even when you place them near the window. If you want to grow these plants, you will need some space outdoors to put them out occasionally. The best place to get sunlight will be placing these plants south or west-facing.

On the contrary, snake plants, ZZ plants, or plants in the Haworthia genus are keen on indirect sunlight. Even direct indoor sunlight is not the best for them. You need to place these plants somewhere near the windows, not toward the sunlight. The area should be bright and wide.

The next thing that might surprise you is low-light succulents. You didn’t hear it wrong, there are succulents that tolerate the least light to survive. The plant might grow slower, or look lengthy but it will stay healthy in the dark. These plants include Kalanchoe, cacti like the mistletoe cactus, fishbone cactus, …

The least expected from this list is shade succulents. Those are succulents that prefer dark shades inside your house. You can place these plants miles away from the window and they can still survive. Of course, I mean they can tolerate shades, doesn’t mean they can live in such conditions forever. It’s best to get those trees out occasionally.

Signs Of Light Stress

Light stress can be caused by either getting too much or too little sunlight. Succulents suffering from excessive sunlight will start to have discoloration or get brown spots/ edges. This usually doesn’t happen to plants that love direct outdoor sunlight. It mostly happens to other succulents, which prefer less light and suddenly get much more sunlight than usual.

On the other hand, succulents suffering from too little sunlight are kept indoors for a long period of time. Maybe the owner forgets to bring them out. You can see shriveled leaves or leggy stems from the plant. It’s hard for succulents to die in such a situation but it will take a few months for them to recover (if you do it right).

Where To Get The Best Sunlight?

If you’re committed to growing your succulents naturally, you’ll need to know the optimal places to set your plant. If you’re trying to get your plant as much light as possible, that’s easy – set them outside in a place that’s slightly elevated and has nothing around it to cast shade.

However, not everyone has the luxury of open spaces in their apartment or wooded properties. Furthermore, putting succulents outside year-round isn’t viable for most of us. When temperatures begin to drop below 50°F, succulents start to suffer.

Windowsills are the natural next step. Of course, you only get light from one direction in this scenario. That could cause your succulent to grow in the direction of the light – to fix this, rotate them regularly or add supplemental light from the other direction.

What are the best windows for plants? I’m glad you asked. If you live in the northern hemisphere (that’s us in the USA), a south-facing window will get more light than any other direction (assuming there are no external circumstances like another house or a tree-casting shade).

A good south-facing window is almost as good as being outside in direct sunlight because it will get light all day. The next best window is east-facing. That’s because morning light tends to be more intense than afternoon light, so it’s better for succulents. Lastly, you would prioritize westward windows over northward ones, but it’s unlikely that those two will be enough light.

Windowsills tend to fill up pretty quickly, unfortunately. Home-builders don’t know that their primary purpose is to hold many plants. It took me a while to discover this, but it turns out that there exist windowsill shelves. They easily attach to your window and can double or triple the amount of sill real estate. It’s a game-changer.

You can also buy some planter stands that elevate the planter so that your succulents receive better light with a stable base. Something like this will work depending on how tall your windowsill is.

Sunlight Alternatives – Grow Lights

Don’t be concerned if you don’t have access to abundant sunlight. Succulents are not off the table yet. You just need to grab some grow lights.

There are two main types of grow lights: LEDs and fluorescent bulbs. The old-style incandescent bulbs should be given a pass – they make more heat than light.

While LED and fluorescent will provide plenty of energy to keep your succulents happy, we recommend using fluorescents (especially the tube-light configurations). LED only emits light at specific wavelengths, which is very efficient in electricity but won’t get you the colors you want.

Fluorescent lights, on the other hand, come in complete spectrum varieties. Those usually have a “color temperature” of about 6500K, meaning that it emits light similar to the sun. Some even have a bit of UV light, and while that won’t contribute to growth, it’s excellent for stressing the plant a little to get those beautiful colors.

Grow lights come in a bunch of styles to fit your needs. There are CFL bulbs that screw into a regular bulb socket (a great trick is to replace your desk lamp with one of these – now it’s a grow light)! LEDs often come in adhesive strips so you can put them under shelves, for example. Tube lights have varying lengths and can be suspended above your plants. The simple goose-necked clip-on light that can go anywhere is exceptionally versatile!

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Sunlight Precautions

It’s worth remembering that giving your plants too much sun is possible. A few kinds of succulents only want partial sun or even shade. Check the care requirements on your specific plant before making any decision.

It’s also not advised to move a sun directly into very bright, intense light without acclimatizing it first. If it’s been in a low-light situation for a while and then is moved into the open sun, it’ll cause shock and even sunburn. In extreme cases, the succulent can die.

It’s easy to prevent, though. Just introduce it to the sun gradually over a week or two. That might mean putting it in a place that gets shade during part of the day or moving it in and outside once per day.

No, that’s not a chore! That’s another excuse to play with plants!


Final Words

Now that we’ve enlightened you about the amount of light a succulent plant needs, your succulent will grow healthy! Be sure to read our articles below if you need more tips and tricks on taking care of your succulent plants. With over thousands of shares on some articles, we’ve helped so many people, you can be one of them.

Did this article about how much light succulents need help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on Best Lighting Practices for Succulent Growth or even The Best Soil Recommendations for Your Succulent today!

ABOUT ME

Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

Contact me: richard.succulentcity@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Do Succulents Need Sunlight? How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need?

  1. Hi ! What about when it’s 100 degrees outside ?! Is just a couple hours of morning light best. The majority of my plants on the back porch face west. Somwe get lots of hot afternoon sun ! I’m putting a bamboo roll curtain for those super hot afternoons. But would love your thoughts !!! Thank you for your blog ❤️

    1. When it’s that hot here, I set them up for direct sunlight till around noon or 1300. Then the direct sun is blocked by still plenty of light, just not direct… also, when it’s that hot, make sure to check your soil no less than every even numbered day. They will dry out fast, and tho dry is good, dusty dry for too long is bad.

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