How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need?

How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need

Countless images of succulents growing in arid areas lend to the misconception that they require a lot of sunlight or, at the very least, can tolerate direct and prolonged exposure to it. But, while different types of succulents need different lighting conditions, all of them will get sun damaged after too much exposure to direct sunlight.

In this article, we will take a look at the different lighting conditions required by succulents to survive and thrive. 

How much sunlight do succulents need?

The sunlight needs of succulents may differ slightly according to the species. However, four to six hours of morning sunlight is the general recommendation. In the afternoons, when the intensity is higher, filtered or indirect sunlight is ideal.

A simple tip to remember is that green and gray succulents mostly do well in low light, while burgundy and darker-colored succulents require more sunlight. Having said that, it is still important to pay attention to whether your particular succulents’ needs are satisfied.

Succulents need to receive just the right amount of sunlight daily, and unhealthy growth or even death can result from too little or too much of it. Etiolation, browning and shriveling are all indicators that your succulents’ light requirements are not being met.

Too little

Understanding the lighting needs specific to a type of succulent is key to retaining its form and maintaining its overall health. Still, some succulent growers, especially novices, may get it wrong. 

When they do not receive sufficient sunlight, succulents undergo a process known as etiolation, in which the stems become elongated and spindly in the plants’ efforts to stretch towards a light source. 

The color of etiolated succulents also appears washed-out in contrast to the vibrance of those that receive adequate light. Fortunately, this discoloration can be corrected. However, the elongated stems will be permanent.

Because the etiolation process is irreversible, early detection and correction are imperative and it is important to know the early signs to look out for. If you notice that your succulents are beginning to stretch out and look discolored, simply move them to an area where they can receive more sunlight. This will effectively halt the etiolation. 

Too much

Even for hardy, light-loving succulents, there is such a thing as too much sunlight. Direct exposure over long periods results in damage that initially manifests as brown spots on the foliage. The worst-case scenario is the succulent shriveling up and dying. 

Some delicate types of succulents require less sunlight than others and are more prone to sunburn. Baby succulents, newly propagated succulents, and those that have been kept indoors also do not fare well in direct sunlight. 

Slowly acclimatizing succulents to direct sunlight will ensure that they receive their required exposure without getting scorched. Succulents also need protection and could use some shade, especially in the summer when the sunlight is most intense. 

Can succulents grow in artificial light?

Succulents can grow in artificial light provided that it meets their needs. Note that your regular lights do not emit the light spectrum that is necessary for plant growth. Artificial lights known as grow lights are specifically designed for this purpose.

There are succulents that are better suited as house plants than others, and those that require more sunlight will be more prone to etiolation if kept indoors. However, this pathological condition can be prevented with the use of grow lights.

Grow lights are also useful in the winter when the sunlight is less intense and the days are shorter. Your succulents may do just fine without them, but they will most certainly benefit from them as they ensure there is no dip in the daily dose of light.

Can succulents grow in shade?

Some succulents fare quite well with less sunlight and can grow in shade. In their natural environment, they get this shade from taller plants or boulders. These succulents generally have green or gray foliage and can be grown in shadier areas of the garden or indoors. 

Succulents are among the most popular houseplants, but some people find it a bit challenging to keep them healthy indoors. Opting for low-light succulents is the most practical solution; you can find examples of this type below.

Succulents that thrive in low light

1. Aloe

Succulents such as Aloe vera and others in this genus can thrive in low light conditions and indirect sunlight is usually sufficient for them.

2. Echeveria

Species of Echeveria, typically known for their rosettes, cannot tolerate the intensity of full sunlight and require low light or partial shade. 

3. Gasteria

Succulents of the genus Gasteria are a popular option for indoor plants as they do very well in low light conditions. When outdoors, they require protection from direct sunlight.

4. Haworthia

Haworthias are healthiest when grown in bright conditions. However, they cannot tolerate full sunlight and need protection. Consequently, they have adapted to low light conditions in which they can thrive.

5. Rhipsalis

The conditions in the rainforests to which Rhipsalis are native mean that they require indirect sunlight to thrive, making them ideal houseplants. 

Succulents that thrive in more sunlight

1. Aeonium

Aeoniums thrive in full sunlight, but succulents of this genus may still need some shade in the summer heat. 

2. Agave

Agave species require, as a minimum, the higher end of the succulent requirement of four to six hours of sunlight. 

3. Euphorbia

Like agaves, succulents of the genus Euphorbia require at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, but also benefit from some shade in the afternoons. 

4. Opuntia

Commonly known as the prickly pear cactus, the Opuntia genus is a desert cactus. As such, it thrives under full sunlight and should get no fewer than six hours of direct sunlight daily.

5. Senecio

The preferences of Senecios depend on the climate where they are grown. They generally require full sun; however, those growing in desert climates need bright but indirect sunlight.


In general, succulents need four to six hours of sunlight daily. This would ideally be morning sunlight. The intensity of the afternoon sun may cause scald for several varieties of succulents. 

See to it that your succulents receive the right amount of light exposure. Too much sunlight will result in sun damage that may begin as brown spots and progress to all-out shriveling, while too little sunlight will result in an irreversible pathological condition known as etiolation.

Some succulents thrive in full sunlight; others in low light conditions. The different light requirements of different varieties should be taken into consideration when planning for outdoor gardens or indoor houseplants. 

Image: / kynny