Do Succulents Need Sun?

Published on: September 19, 2022

Succulents are low maintenance plants that can add beauty to your landscaping or home. One of the main benefits of succulents is they require very little water or maintenance to survive. But you may wonder, do succulents need sun, especially direct sun?

Succulents are heartier than many other plants due to the way they conserve water. Like all plants, sunlight plays an important role in their health. They do need sun, but how much sun do succulents need? Do they need direct sun to survive? It all depends on the type of succulent.

Succulent Basics

A succulent is a plant that stores water in its stems and leaves. They tend to be native to very arid and sunny environments – think deserts in Africa and North America. Succulents come in all different shapes, sizes and colors, which makes them desirable for adding beauty to your home.

Succulents are known for being almost indestructible, but they can be damaged with the wrong type of care. Do succulents need sun? Absolutely, but some more than others. There are some types that love plenty of direct sunlight, while there are also low light succulents that can be damaged by too much sun.

Most succulents require 4-6 hours a day of sunlight to thrive. However, if you want to know how much sun succulents need, it will depend on the types of succulents you are growing. There are full sun, outdoor shade, indoor direct sunlight and indoor indirect sunlight varieties.

Outdoor Succulents

The direct sun and outdoor shade varieties can add beauty to your outdoor spaces. If you live in a mild climate without harsh winters, you can enjoy succulents around your patio or outdoor living areas. Some of the varieties of outdoor succulents require different amounts of sun, but may need to be brought inside during cold weather.

Direct sun outdoor succulents include varieties like agaves and aeoniums, and can survive with plenty of sunlight. They enjoy soaking in eight or more hours of sunlight a day, which makes them ideal for areas without little to no shade. You can enjoy them without needing much maintenance at all.

Outdoor shade succulents still enjoy the outdoor environment, but they can be planted in areas with shade receiving less than eight hours a day of sun. Some of these include the flaming Katy and fairy crassula. These are great outdoor plants for regions with mild or warm winters.

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Indoor Succulents

Succulents are gorgeous indoor plants, but they do require special care when kept indoors. There are varieties that are better for indoor planting, requiring less sunlight than the outdoor varieties. For those new to caring for succulents, the indoor varieties can be more forgiving. Some direct sun indoor varieties include:

  • Aloes
  • Parodias
  • Mytrillocactus

These direct sunlight indoor succulents like to receive at least four hours of direct sunlight through a window or other access.

Indirect sunlight indoor succulents are the most commonly found houseplants. These include the Christmas cactus, zebra plants and snake plants. They can survive with less sun, but they still need sunlight to survive. These are considered low light succulents, needing only a few hours a day.

What Happens if Succulents Don’t Get Enough Sun?

Both outdoor and indoor succulents need sunshine and will begin to change if they do not get enough sun. The beautiful, bright colors and thick leaves can change when not enough sunlight is available. You may notice fading color and the leaves may begin to stretch, a process called etiolation.

Etiolation is a condition where succulents begin stretching and growing longer to reach sunlight. Instead of being thick and compact, the leaves become spaced wider and the plant grows taller. When this occurs, the succulent needs more sun to survive.

Do Succulents Need Direct Sun?

If your succulent needs more sunlight, there are other options than direct sunlight. During the winter months, it can be difficult to give succulents the natural sunlight they need. One option for indoor succulents is using a grow light to give them the UV rays they need during the low light months.

Grow lights come in LED and fluorescent options, which can provide the light needed to help succulents survive when indoor sunlight is scarce. Just like natural sunlight, the plants should be exposed a few hours a day to help them receive the light they need to survive.
Succulents grown in pots on a patio.

Research Your Succulent

To determine how much sun or light your indoor succulent needs, do some research. There are types that will whither and wilt with too much sunlight and others that will begin etiolation without enough. Knowing the right care can ensure your plant receives the amount of sun it needs to thrive.

If you are planting succulents outside, considering talking to a local landscaper. They can provide advice on the best succulents for your region and specific sun and shade areas.

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