How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need? Everything You Need to Know

Succulents are captivating, colorful and pretty easy to care for, which explains their ever-growing popularity. Are you just stepping into the wonderful world of growing succulents? Are you also wondering how much sunlight do succulents need? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Do Succulents Need Plenty of Sunlight?

The short answer is: Yes, most succulents need a lot of sunlight. Usually, we think of succulents, desert plants that require a bright sun and intense heat, is what comes into mind. However, most succulents come from semi-arid environments- areas with similar characteristics as deserts but receive more precipitation.

That means, contrary to popular belief, most succulents don’t thrive under blaring sun exposure and extremely hot temperatures. They grow in low-lying areas shaded by taller plants, in their natural habitat. They also grow natively in crevices or on hilltops where they get sun protection or are shaded by rocks and boulders.

In truth, several succulent species tend to wither indoors due to their huge lighting needs. That’s because most windows don’t provide nearly as much light intensity as the plan would get outdoors. Therefore, they end up hugely stretched (etiolation) and struggling to survive. In other words, most succulents are out-and-out sun lovers, with a few exceptions.

Note: All cacti are succulents. However, not all succulents are cacti, naturally.

1. Indoor Plants

Succulents Growing Indoors | Milivi Gerova

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Succulents require high light levels when growing indoors. That said, the right amount of exposure depends on where you live. Your succulents will need a higher light exposure if your climate has less sun, and less exposure if you’re in a climate with a lot of sun.

It can be quite challenging to grow succulents indoors all year round without additional artificial lighting. That’s not to say they won’t survive; they will, but they’ll grow thin and might even lose their appealing coloration. It’s important to remember that the required high light level should be maintained throughout most of the day.

Indoors succulents can handle as much direct sunlight as they can be exposed to. However, if your plant grew in lower light before, you might need to acclimate it carefully to more light. Whatever the case, exposing your succulents to the sun helps them thrive. That being said, some succulents require less light. For instance, forest cacti are not as needy as their desert counterparts, making them a better option for indoor growing.

Remember, hot glass can burn succulents. Keep your plants away from windows with a full exposure from the west or south, especially in the warmer months.

Low-Light Succulents Indoors

Low-light succulents are a great option for people who’d like to grow their plants indoors without the hassle of using grow lights or moving the plants to the garden every summer. However, the term is slightly misleading; it mostly implies the plant does not require extremely high light exposure to do well; after all, all succulent plants need bright light to thrive.

Increasing Lighting for Indoor Succulents

There’s always a chance that your home doesn’t have enough light for growing succulents indoors. However,there are two things you can do to ensure that your plants don’t wilt to their death:

  • Grow your plants outdoors during summer: Most species grow actively during summer, meaning they can take full advantage of warm temperatures and plenty of light.

If you live in a cooler climate, you need to take them back in since temperatures drop and it starts raining too much. Since succulents don’t grow much in the colder months, you can keep them indoors.

If you live in a warmer climate, it would only make sense to keep your succulents outdoors only. They thrive way much more there. But if you really want indoor plants, shade-loving tropicals can be an excellent option to consider.

  • Supplement with artificial lighting. If your succulents are next to a relatively well-lit window, you can possibly get away with a pocket-friendly goose-neck plant light for that extra boost. The darker the plant area is, the higher the performance you’ll need from an LED lighting panel to sustain a couple of plants.

You can also consider combining both methods to get just the light needed for your plants to thrive all year round: Grow your succulents outdoors in the warm months and use LEDs to keep the greenery going in the cold months.

2. Outdoor Plants

How Much Sun Do Succulents Need Outdoors | Annie Spratt

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Things change a little when it comes to growing succulents outdoors. Rather than squeezing your plants into the most-lit spot, you’ll probably need to protect them from the sun and heat. Most of them are semi-desert species; therefore, too much sun can still damage them, especially when the plants are not acclimated properly.

Ultimately, the right amount of light exposure varies from one species to another:

  • Light-sensitive succulents must be kept away from the full sun outdoors. These often can’t handle more than a couple of hours, so morning and evening rays should be just fine.
  • Mid-sensitive succulents, where most of them fall, don’t need much cover from the sun’s rays if you live in a cooler climate. If you live in a warm climate, where the sun really hammers down, it would be best to grow your succulents under a cover, like a taller tree or a light shade.
  • Real desert succulents, like the prickly pear cactus, can thrive in full sun without cover. However, they tend to get thirsty quickly.

How Many Hours of Sunlight Exposure Do Succulents Need?

Succulents love the sun. Generally, most need at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day to keep them thriving. These plants do well in bright and sunny locations. However, it’s equally important to understand your succulent’s age, type and size. Ensure you acclimate them to direct sunlight slowly to keep them alive. 

Succulents that don’t get enough sunlight suffer from elongation or etiolation. As they stretch to seek more light, the stems grow weaker, leading to poor growth. The plants then end up losing their vibrant coloration, eventually turning pale or dull green.

Direct Sun or Full Sun Exposure?

Naturally, succulents do better with plenty of sun exposure. However, they still need protection from direct sunlight or intense heat to prevent sun or sunburn damage, which can lead to permanent scarring or even death. To protect your plants, it’s always best to condition them slowly to more intense sunlight before full sun exposure.

You can do this by giving your plant a partial shade initially, then gradually increasing sun exposure until it’s fully acclimatized to the sun and heat. The morning and evening sun is a good place to start since it’s less intense and more tolerable than the intense afternoon sun. You can also put the plant under taller plants when first exposing it to direct sun.

How Much Sun is Too Much?

If the sun exposure leads to sunburn and sun damage, it’s probably too much. Sunburns can occur quickly, even in less than an hour of exposure, especially on extremely hot days or during a heatwave. It can also occur gradually, usually setting in as brown spots on the leaves.

However, sun stress can be easily managed and reversed to avoid further damage if it’s spotted early. All you need to do is move the succulent to a shadier spot or place it next to taller plants to protect it from the sun. Otherwise, you’ll end up with sunburn spots or a shriveled, discolored plant.

Can Succulents Thrive Without Direct Sunlight?

Succulents are naturally hardy plants, meaning they can survive over a long time with very little or without sunlight. However, it becomes pretty hard for them to thrive under such conditions, so they start showing signs of trouble in no time. You’ll notice elongation on the leaves or general, stunted growth.

Similarly, when you give a succulent too much water and very little light, it can easily succumb to root rot. This is a state where the plant rots from the root up and ultimately dies. If root rot is not noticed and addressed right away, it becomes very hard to save the plant.

Can They Thrive in The Shade?

Succulents generally do really well when they grow in very bright yet partially shaded places. That means the spot receives a lot of sunlight and is equally protected from the extremely intense afternoon heat. On the other hand, most of these plants struggle when placed in dim, shaded areas that don’t get enough bright light. However, a few species are well-adapted to grow in such conditions.

Final Word

So how much sunlight do succulents need to flourish? Succulents generally are huge sun lovers, doing well mostly in bright environments. However, the ideal amount of sun exposure depends on the species you’re growing and where you live. As such, we hope this guide helps you to bring out life and color in your beautiful plants.

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