To answer the question, do succulents need direct sun, you need to understand that there are many different species of succulents. All succulents need a certain amount of sunlight every day but most don’t like to live under direct sun all day.
To help you better understand this, let’s look at the natural habitat that succulents come from.
Where Do Succulents Originate From?
Succulents such as cacti originate from dry desert regions in central America, south America and Mexico. These succulent species do well in direct sunlight but can also grow quite happily in bright but indirect sun. In fact, many people grow cacti indoors.
But not all succulents originate from these hot, desert regions. Some come from semi-desert areas where it’s still hot but there’s more rainfall. Other species of succulents, grow under trees or in rock crevices. This means that they will receive shade and protection from the hot sun for a large part of the day.
How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Actually Need?
Most succulents prefer around 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day. This does not have to be direct sun though. Indirect sunlight is fine as long as the light is fairly bright. In fact, it’s best to keep your succulents out of the hot, afternoon sun as this can burn them.
So, bright, morning sun is the best.
If you’re growing your succulents inside, make sure you place them in a bright window that gets the morning sun. Especially in summer.
Succulents that don’t receive enough sunlight will start to elongate. What this means is that their branches will start to grow upward in search of more light. This often produces thin, spindly growth that is weak and not healthy.
You’ll also notice that if your succulent is suffering from low light, the foliage will not be as bright and vibrant as it should be. You plants will start to look dull.
So, Do Succulents Need Direct Sun?
The answers to this is no. They do need sunlight but indirect sun is far better for them. You see, the intense heat from the hot sun can damage your succulents. It can actually cause permanent damage and sometimes, even kill your plants.
You can condition your succulents to be more tolerant of direct sun if you want to. Start out by only placing them in morning sun and then move them to a more shady position in the afternoon.
Then, very gradually, expose your plant to longer periods of sunlight. This way they become conditioned to tolerating the intense heat of the afternoon sun.
But, unless you want to grow your plants permanently outside in a hot, sunny area, there’s really no reason to do this.
Types Of Succulents That Can Handle Direct Sunlight
Certain species of succulents can handle living in direct sunlight better than others. These include plants that are more vibrant in color and those that have dense spines. Think of succulent colors such as red, blue or gray if you want to grow them in direct sun.
Consider the following species if you want to grow your succulents in direct sun:
- Tree Anemone (Aeonium arboreum)
- Prickly Pear (Opuntia sp.)
- Firesticks (Euphorbia tirucalli)
- Blue Chalk Sticks (Senecio mandraliscae)
Types Of Succulents That Shouldn’t Be Exposed To Direct Sunlight
Newly propagated succulents should never be exposed to direct sunlight. Wait for them to grow bigger and then slowly expose them to the sun. Do this over an extended period of time.
Also, do not place succulents that have been growing indoors into direct sunlight. These plants also need to be conditioned first.
In general, succulents with dark green, fleshy leaves prefer to be kept out of direct sunlight. Some species even thrive in shady spots. Here are a few species that will grow well in shady areas:
- Scarlet Ball Cactus (Paroda haselbergii)
- Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Of course, you’ll find that all of these succulents make excellent indoor plants.
What Happens When Succulents Receive Too Much Direct Sun?
Succulents that receive too much direct sun can suffer from sunburn. Especially if that sun is hot and intense. This can happen very quickly. The plants will display brown spots on their leaves and the tips will dry out.
If you see your succulents display some of these symptoms, move them to a shadier spot and keep them out of the afternoon sun.
How To Protect Your Succulents During A Heatwave
If your region is experiencing prolonged periods of hot, dry days, here’s what to do to protect your succulents. Especially those that are growing outside.
- Move your plants into the shade. This is fine if your plants are in pots, but what about if they’re growing in the ground? You can cover your plants with some shade cloth or place larger sun-loving plants nearby. Anything that will provide a little shade is ideal.
- Give them more water. Check the soil that your succulents are growing in. If it’s dry, water deeply to provide some extra moisture. During very hot, dry conditions, it’s pertinent to water your outdoor succulents at least once a week.
- Don’t repot your plants. Extreme heatwaves cause stress for your plants. Therefore, this is not the time to repot. Repotting will cause additional stress that your plants don’t need at this time.
- Don’t fertilize your plants. You should never feed plants that are under stress. Your plants are in survival mode and are not focusing on putting on more growth. Fertilizing at this time can actually burn your plants.
- Don’t propagate during a heatwave. Cutting pieces off an already stressed plant will only cause more stress. Plus, you want propagating material that is healthy and thriving.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do succulents grow better inside or outside?
Succulents do thrive better outside because they get more sunlight and much better airflow. The extra sunlight prevents them from stretching and getting leggy. The extra airflow allows the roots to dry out quicker.
Can succulents survive in the shade?
There are certain types of succulents that will happily grow in shade. Those with dark green or gray leaves tend to do best in shade.
Do succulents need direct or indirect sunlight?
Bright, indirect sunlight is best for succulents. Too much direct sunlight can burn your plants.
Although most succulents don’t need direct sun, some can handle it quite well. Most succulents prefer around 4 – 6 hours of indirect sunlight daily. But, there are some species that will thrive in direct sun if you follow our guidelines above.
On the other hand, there are even some species that will live quite happily in a shady spot in the garden. These are also very adaptable to living indoors. Just place them in a bright spot that get enough light every day.
Do you have succulents that enjoy living in direct sun? Please feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments below.