Succulents may not be a typical houseplant, but many varieties have adapted well to indoor gardens, especially if they’re exposed to enough light.
Succulents need lots of light to thrive, so it’s important to consider their light requirements when finding them the ideal place in your home.
If you’re not sure that your home is suited for growing succulents, I will cover the most important things you need to know about succulent light requirements including the type of light, the amount of light and what happens if your succulents get too much or too little light.
How Much Light Do Succulents Need?
Before I go into any details on how much light is needed to grow succulents, there are a few things you should know about succulents.
First, succulents are a broad category of plants and they include plants that can store water in their roots, stem and leaves.
Cacti are also succulents, and of all succulents, cacti need the most light — they require direct light to thrive.
This is not the case with all succulents. Some succulents will require indirect light as exposure to hot direct sun will cause leaf burn.
Therefore, not all succulents have the same light requirements, and the guidelines below will have to be completed with any additional requirements of your specific succulent variety.
Most succulents will enjoy 4 to 6 hours of full sun but can also thrive in bright indirect light. Some succulents will do best in partial shade, and very few varieties will tolerate full shade.
Where to Place Succulents Indoors?
If you want to add succulents to your indoor garden, you’ve got two choices — either find a bright spot in your home that’s going to meet the light requirements of your succulent, or choose a succulent that can thrive even in indirect light or partial shade (e.g. snake plant).
South-facing windows are ideal for cacti and other succulents that have an increased need for bright light during the day. East or west-facing windows can work for succulents with lower light requirements.
You can observe how much light gets in through your windows during the day and even how intense that light is (if there are trees or high shrubs outside the window, or if the window has drapes that would filter the incoming light).
For starters, pick a bright spot that gets light for 4-6 hours a day to see how well your succulent develops. If it ends up being too much for the plant, you can move it to a location with less sun exposure.
Signs Your Succulent Needs More Light
Sometimes the brightest spot in your home may not be enough for your succulent to thrive. A succulent that lacks enough light will show the following symptoms:
- Etiolation, which is an elongation of the stems that grow leggy because they reach towards the light.
- Sparse and lanky top growths that together with etiolation make the plant look taller and less full because the plant doesn’t invest as much energy in lateral growth
- On some succulents, the rosettes will flatten (e.g. aloe vera) and lower leaves will arch and point downwards (Sempervivums and Echeverias).
- Changes in color, usually fading of the colors, e.g. deep green succulents will become pasty and pale.
- Some succulents will lose their markings if not exposed to enough sunlight. Some succulents like the Haworthia pumila have bright white markings on their leaves. If the plant is not getting enough light, the markings will fade away.
Some of these changes can be reversed if your succulent is moved to a location where it can get more light. For example, succulents that lost their markings will regain them. Similarly, succulents with faded colors will regain their colors, etc.
Etiolation, however, is not reversible. If possible, you’ll need to prune these succulents to get them back to their compact former selves.
If your succulents are simply not getting enough sun in any of the bright spots in your home, there are two things you can do.
You can try temporarily moving them outside during the summer to a spot with more light exposure. Just make sure that you slowly transition them to the new light conditions.
Suddenly moving them outside into extreme heat can cause leaf burn because the plants are simply not accustomed to getting so much light.
The other thing you can do is to get a grow light that will supplement the natural light in your home and offer your succulent that extra light it needs to thrive.
Signs Your Succulent Is Getting Too Much Light
For a plant that enjoys the sun so much, it’s hard to imagine that it can get to the point where it can also hurt.
Excess direct light will damage succulents, just as excess light can damage any other plant. More than 6 hours of direct sunlight will cause leaf burn or scorching, which is a permanent damage sustained by the plant.
When your succulent is getting too much light, the plant will show the following signs:
- Some succulents will change color into a deep red (often called ‘blushing’), which is still okay if it doesn’t progress further into browning. This phenomenon can be observed on succulents such as Jade plants, Crosby’s Prolific Aloe, Euphorbia tirucalli (Sticks on Fire). If the leaves don’t show other signs such as browning tips or a puckered, dried aspect, this change is not harmful.
- Browning tips or yellowing leaves, white spots, a puckered, shriveled aspect are signs that the succulents are exposed to excess sun and heat, and it needs to be moved to a different location.
Leaf burn and white spots are irreversible damage, while less pronounced changes in color may revert back once the plant is moved to a location with ideal light conditions.
It may be difficult to assess how your succulents will do in the light conditions available in your home or garden, but always assume that extremes will not be tolerated well.
Another thing that’s also important is to know as much as possible about the light requirements of your succulents, so you can have a general idea about where to place them and how much light exposure they need per day.
If you move succulents outside, make sure to slowly ease them into the heat and light by extending little by little the amount of time you keep them outside.
You succulents will always tell you if you’re not offering them the right light conditions — the signs I discussed above can be used to interpret the light requirements of your succulent.