How Much Light Do Succulents Need? – Care Guide

Light is a key element for any succulent. However, sometimes it is hard to determine which is the right amount your plant will need. You will be surprised to know that succulents need light in more or fewer quantities depending on the species that you own. That is why this is a basic caring aspect you will need to consider if you are thinking about growing one of these amazing plants. So, how much light do succulents need?

The majority of succulents species will need between 3 and 6 hours of indirect, bright sunlight per day.  Some succulents like the agave will need more direct sunlight to thrive, while species like the snake plant or the zebra cactus can flourish under low-light exposure.

succulents and light
Photo by Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash

While the quick answer above might give you peace of mind when it comes to determining the proper light exposure for your plant, perhaps you might be curious about which specific succulent species can be grown outdoors or indoors. Moreover, maybe you are wondering if artificial or fluorescent light works for your plant. We have covered these topics and more in this guide.

Succulent Light Needs

How much light do succulent plants need?

This varies between the different types of succulents. That is why is important to make the following distinctions:

  • There are full-sun outdoor succulents, such as cacti, aeoniums, sedums, agaves. We also have outdoor shade succulents such as fairy crassula, fox tail agaves, gasteraloes, gasterias and haworthias.
  • There are direct sunlight indoor succulents. A sunny windowsill where these can get a good provision of sunlight will usually be enough. These succulents include tiger jaws, spider cacti, ponytail palms, jade plant, golden rat tail and parodias.
  • Now then, when it comes to explicitly low light succulents, the major group is made of indirect/filtered sunlight indoor succulents. This group includes the snake plant, zebra plant and Christmas cactus.
Agave – Outdoors Succulent

That being said, high light requirements usually mean at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Many succulents prefer direct sunlight and thrive outdoors. It’s no wonder that so many of them are found in very hot and dry environments. 

Jade Plant

There are some low light succulents which can live indoors with limited light. Some of these succulents can live with 3 hours of indirect, bright sunlight per day.

Zebra Cactus – Low Light Succulent

What is the best lighting for succulents?

We know, of course, that succulents thrive if they have a good supply of sunlight. Outdoor succulents can profit from direct sunlight.

Other times, there may be indoor succulents which definitely don’t get much light, direct or otherwise. Indeed, indoors succulents may have to endure difficult situations with very poor light. The succulent may be placed in such a way that it simply is not able to receive sunlight. Also, this may be compounded with poor indoor lighting.

Another typical situation is rooms which are darkened by outside trees or by buildings casting a large shadow. Sometimes, the situation is mixed. There can be light which unfortunately has to filter through certain obstacles. Those same trees or buildings may very well allow for only partial light, which seeps through with difficulty.

In situations like these, it’s best to have low light succulents. Another possibility is to continually move succulents whenever possible to sunlit areas, to take in the sunlight even for a few hours. Although not ideal, this is at least useful when dealing with low light scenarios.

succulents in window
Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash

Light Conditions for your Succulent

Can succulents tolerate low light?

Some types of succulents can tolerate low light, but they are the exception. It’s important to emphasize though, that low light doesn’t mean no light. These low light succulents still need some light, say 4 hours of sunlight per day, hopefully directly.  

Do succulents require a lot of light?

The simple answer is that some succulents require a lot of light but that there are some succulents which can thrive without much light. Most succulents require a lot of light and low light succulents are very much the exception to the rule. 

High light succulents are usually more colorful than succulents which need less light. Such high-light succulents may be purple, red or pink, for example. Low light succulents, in turn, are usually merely green in color.  

Succulents: Indoors versus Outdoors

Can succulents grow in low light indoors?

Although most succulents thrive in the sunlight, and this is the general rule, there are some which can do well in low-light indoor situations.

These low light succulents are usually a dark green color. Indeed, their color is usually darker than high light succulents with their varied colors. 

Low light succulent
Photo by Shane Avery on Unsplash

Obviously, a plant which gets more light can produce flowers. Low-light succulents, in turn, are usually more aloe-style and green. High-light succulents may be more ‘flower-style’. 

Do succulents need direct or indirect sunlight?

In the case of low-light succulents, indirect sunlight is fine. If such a succulent is placed in a location which doesn’t receive direct light, then it may still be ok. Now then, having said that, low light doesn’t mean no light. A good three of four hours of direct sunlight, should do the trick.   

Succulents may also have trouble with too much direct sun though. The telltale signs here are browning and a rough texture, which indicates burn from intense sunlight. In this case, simply prune the area and move the plant to an area with lower direct light.

Other Succulent Light Tips

How to tell when your succulent is not getting enough light

To know if a succulent is receiving enough light, look at it carefully. Paleness is an obvious sign that something is wrong with it, usually poor light.

Another sign that a succulent is struggling to get enough sun is that it moves and stretches searching for light. Some people believe that this means the succulent is growing. In reality though, it may be simply deprived of light and moving towards it. The telltale signs of such movement are an elongation of the succulent and spacing out of leaves.

Moving a succulent outside may help. An indoor succulent will have to be eased out methodically though and not put outdoors immediately.

Artificial Lighting for your succulent

Artificial lighting may be provided by using fluorescent grow lights. White light is able to give a wide spectrum of light which helps succulents. Around 14-16 hours of fluorescent grow lights every day can give almost any succulent enough light.

In general though, succulents, really do prefer natural sunlight. Artificial light may sometimes be a substitute, particularly for low light succulents.

Related Questions

Why are my succulents dying?

Low light could be a factor in succulents faring poorly and dying. Knowing how much light to provide a succulent is quite tricky. Observing the plant closely is key, and will allow for the appropriate corrections.

In general it’s a good idea to aim for compact growth patterns, firm stems and leaves, and appropriate coloring (either bright colors in high light succulents or solid greens in low light ones). Weakness in the plant, or a stretching out, all point towards a lack of sunlight.

Can cacti survive in low light?

Cacti are generally considered full-sun succulents. They like to be under the sun for most of the day (eight hours or so).

Being indoors is another story. Try to have them in a window, where they can soak up sun. Consider moving them outside as much as possible too. In general though, if you have low light conditions, consider a low light succulent instead of a cactus.  

What are the most popular low light succulents?

The most popular low light succulent species include: 

  • The Snake Plant or Sanseveria
  • The Zebra Plant or Haworthia Fasciata
  • The Christmas cactus or Schlumbergera
  • The Burro’s Tail or Sedum Morganianum
  • The Widow’s-thrill or Kalanchöe 

Are low light succulents ideal for me?

Low light succulents are ideal for people living in sun-deprived places. Think of people who live in apartments, or those who may have only limited garden space. Those who live in cities which are not terribly sunny, not even during the summer, may benefit from low light succulents too.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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