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Do Succulents Need Sunlight to Grow?

I often get asked this question by friends and acquaintances who want to grow succulents indoors and my answer is always the same – Yes, succulents need lots of sunlight for healthy growth.

When growing succulents – or any other sun-loving plants – indoors, offering adequate sunlight is always a challenge.  Succulents need plenty of bright light, which may not be easily arranged indoors.

Lack of adequate light can cause discoloration of the leaves and unhealthy growth patterns known as etiolation.

Below I’ll discuss the relationship between succulents and light, and how you can maximize sun exposure to prevent etiolation.

How to Prevent Etiolated Succulents Indoors?

To prevent your succulents from growing leggy and stretched out, you need to offer them at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, or at the very least exposure to bright light.

Admittedly, not all succulents require direct sunlight, but all require exposure to bright lights, which can be filtered light or light that comes through a window without shining directly on the plant.

Make sure you do your research on whether the type of succulent you’re growing needs full sun or partial to indirect sun exposure. For succulents that require full sun, offer them at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Place your succulents near a sunny window, such as those facing south. If only one side of your plant is receiving sunlight, make sure you periodically rotate the plant.

You can also move your succulents outdoors during summer, so they can receive a fair amount of sunlight during their growing period.

How Long Can Succulents Survive Without Light?

As sun-loving plants, succulents can survive without any light only for short periods. Depending on the size, variety and light requirements of your succulents, they may go without lights for 10-14 days before they may deteriorate beyond a point of no return.

For example, if you’re shipping succulents in a box, they’ll probably arrive unscathed to their destination, especially if the shipping time is only a few days.

After 14 days, succulents will start to show signs of light deprivation including discoloration and distorted growth. Succulents may go on living beyond 14 days, but after a 3-4 weeks of zero light, all succulents would perish.

Therefore, an otherwise healthy succulent can easily go without light and without showing signs of distortion for a couple of days. After 7-10 days, they’ll usually start showing signs of discoloration.

Can Succulents Survive In Low Light?

Yes, there are a few succulents that can adapt to low light. For example, the Rhipsalis or Sansevieria Trifasciata (Mother in Law’s Tongue) can both adapt and survive in low light.

But surviving is not the same as thriving, so albeit alive, these succulents will have very little growth, or they’ll grow distorted showing symptoms of etiolation.

Therefore, while your succulents will technically survive in low light, they’ll certainly not grow as if they would be offered bright light.

That said, low light succulents are still a preferable choice for growing indoors compared to succulents that require full sun.

Best Low Light Succulents

I mentioned how the Sansevieria Trifasciata (Snake Plant) and the Rhipsalis are adaptable to low light conditions, making them good choices for indoor growing.

But there are a few other succulents that will either adapt to low light or that don’t need direct sun exposure. Here they are:

  • Zebra Cactus, Haworthia attenuata, an elegant plant with an interesting aesthetic that will do well even in low light.
  • Schlumbergera, a succulent highly adaptable to indoor growing, where it can thrive and produce wonderful blooms.
  • Sedum morganianum, a trailing succulent with interesting fleshy leaves. Even if it etiolates, it’s impossible to tell because of its trailing growth pattern.
  • Jade Plant, Crassula ovata, a resilient and adaptable succulent that’s commonly grown indoors.
  • Bear Paws, Cotyledon Tomentosa with fleshy leaves covered in fuzz, it actually prefers direct light, but because of its trailing growth, etiolation is not noticeable.
  • Hoya succulents are another type of succulent that doesn’t need direct light and can be grown indoors as it does not require direct light.
  • Aloe vera is another succulent popular in indoor growing, although it does enjoy bright light, it will survive in low light conditions.

As you can see, many succulents on this list will prefer at least bright indirect or dappled light. They will survive in low light conditions, but, as I explained, surviving does not mean they’re thriving.

Succulents that don’t receive enough light will develop very slowly and when they do grow, their growth may be distorted (etiolation) because they’re searching for light. They may also show signs of discoloration.

Grow Lamp for Your Succulents

If natural light in your home is scarce, but you’re determined to grow succulents and to help them thrive, LED grow lamps are certainly an ideal solution.

These come with a host of benefits for any of your houseplants that need just a bit more light than what’s coming through your windows, not just succulents.

Here’s why you should consider getting a grow lamp:

  • Most LED grow lamps offer full-spectrum light aiding succulents not only in their growing, but also in their blooming phase
  • You can either set the number of hours they receive light and lights will automatically switch on/off, or you can manually switch them on or off depending on how much light your plants need
  • They have low consumption
  • LED grow lights also emit little heat which doesn’t affect your succulents

From overhead lamps to tabletop lamps with multiple, adjustable heads, there is a wide range of choices for grow lights, so you can customize how much light your succulents can receive.

Wrapping Up

Succulents and sunshine go hand in hand. But just because that’s true, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these plants in your home.

Either find them a sunny spot or invest in a grow lamp, and you can offer them optimal growing conditions without having to grow them outdoors.

In summer, however, you can move them outdoors so they can bask in the sun. Be sure to acclimate them first, so they don’t end up with burns on their leaves!

Updated: January 7, 2021

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