How Much Sun Does Your Succulent Need? Your Questions Answered

We all know that succulents are low maintenance, easy to care for plants that will forgive a lot of neglect, but that doesn’t mean they can survive under any conditions. While watering is something that is very important to your plant’s longevity, one thing that’s very often overlooked is the amount of sunlight your succulents need.

How much light a succulent needs (as well as what sort of light) is something that I’m asked a lot which is why I decided to write this article. Over the years (if not decades) that I’ve been growing succulents I’ve learned the hard way how much light they do and don’t need so I thought it would be helpful to impart some of that knowledge on to you.

How much sunlight do succulents need? On average succulents need somewhere between four and six hours of sunlight (either direct or indirect) every day. The strength of the light will also have a barring, generally, most succulents don’t like full intense sunlight but if the plant is getting shaded sunlight it will need more light.

Why do succulents need sunlight?

Sunlight is crucial to so many living things and succulents are no different but why is it so important? Not getting enough light will turn your plant from a vibrant green color to a pale shade of green, but it will also cause it to stretch and produce poorer-quality leaves as it reaches for the sunlight it needs to grow.

Getting enough light, on the other hand, will allow your succulent to grow and produce beautiful colors. The warmth of the light will also help any water trapped in the soil to evaporate, therefore drying the soil out which as we all know, is exactly what succulents like.

Most succulents need plenty of sunlight

How much sunlight do succulents need?

As a blanket rule succulents need around six hours of sunlight each and every day but there are a lot of times when this isn’t always the case. I know that sounds like I’m trying to avoid answering the question, but there are a few factors that you need to take into account when answering the question.

To start with not all light is the same, yes you may get eight hours of bright sunlight a day, but how intense is it? During the winter the sun isn’t as strong as it is during the summer so your plants will need more light, but where you live also plays a role. After all the light on a summer’s day in Alaska differs from that of a summer’s day in Florida. 

If you’re keeping your succulents indoors they’ll still need at least six hours of natural sunlight a day. Even if you’ve placed your plants on the sunniest of windows the light still won’t be as strong as if it was outside which is why your succulent may need more light. If you’re using grow lights instead of natural light then you might find they’ll need even more.

Just because you’re keeping your succulents outdoors though doesn’t mean you can leave them in the full sun. You don’t see many succulents in the desert (unless of course, you’re counting cacti) and there’s a reason for this. The harshest of sunlight can damage your succulent’s fleshy leaves so it’s best to give them some shade, especially from the midday sun.

Should you put your plant outside? Where do succulents prefer to be kept?

Can a succulent get too much sunlight?

We all know the saying ‘everything in moderation’ and the amount of sunlight your succulent gets is no different. Just as not getting enough sunlight can damage your succulent so can getting too much sun. It can dehydrate the plant, causing it to burn and change color.

When I first started to grow succulents I thought that they preferred to get as much light as they possibly could but I soon learned that this was the case. It didn’t take long for my plants to start to burn and eventually die. I did learn one thing though and that was that the size of the plant made a difference to how much light it could handle. While smaller plants may burn without any shade, bigger succulents (such as agaves and desert roses) can tolerate far more sun.

It’s also worth pointing out that succulents that are red, gray, or blue in color, or those that have densely packed spines, like larger succulents, can handle a lot more sun than other succulents.

Burned leaves indicate the succulent is getting too much light
Burned leaves indicate this succulent is getting too much light

How to tell if your succulent is getting too much sunlight

It might not be obvious at first but after a little while your succulent will show very clear signs of having too much sun. This will start with the leaves starting to turn yellow or brown at the edges, eventually, the water in the leaves will dry out and they’ll shrivel up and die.

If your succulent has a rosette you’ll also notice that it starts to close up in an attempt to protect it from the sun.

How to tell if your succulent isn’t getting enough sunlight

To some extent when a succulent doesn’t get enough sunlight the opposite of what happens when it gets too much can occur. For example, plants that get too much light will close up to protect themselves but if it’s not getting enough sunlight then it opens up a lot more. Rosettes will open up and spread out while stems will stretch and reach out towards the light, a condition that’s often referred to as the plant being leggy. 

The leaves, which will often become much paler will also be much smaller and grow further apart. After a prolonged period of time, the leaves will start to turn down as well and may even drop off.

Is your plant reaching for more light? How to fix a stretched succulent

Succulents will stretch if they're not getting enough light

Can succulents survive without sunlight?

While succulents need between four and six hours of sunlight a day it doesn’t mean they can’t survive without it. Surprisingly they can cope without any light at all for short periods of time but after around ten days they will show signs of being starved of light.

Succulents prefer to have ‘real’ sunlight, after all, wouldn’t you prefer to have a real candy bar rather than one that wasn’t made of chocolate but looked the same? Of course you would and your plants are no different, but that doesn’t mean they can’t live with artificial light. Grow lights, fluorescent lights (such as office lights), and LED desk lamps will all help to give your succulent the light they need but, being weaker than sunlight, your plants will need more of this sort of light; ideally around ten hours a day.

How to make sure your indoor succulent gets enough sunlight

If you’re not able to keep your plants outdoors and are worried they’re not getting enough light indoors then there are a few things that you can do to maximize the amount of light they get.

Placing your plants by a south-facing window will help to give them the most amount of light but it’s also a good idea to rotate them regularly. This will ensure that all sides of the plant get enough light and encourage them to grow straight.

If you don’t have any south-facing windows, or you’re not able to give your succulent enough natural sunlight then you might want to consider investing in some grow lights. They’re great for houses that don’t get enough sunlight and can be bought cheaply on Amazon. Lights such as these can be a very good choice.

You should make sure your indoor succulents get enough light

Related questions

Can succulents grow in the shade?

We tend to think of succulents as desert plants that need to have full, unobstructed sunlight but this isn’t the case at all and succulents actually prefer to have shade. Even in the ‘wild’ they will generally grow in areas that don’t get the full force of the sun.

Does my succulent need more sunlight in the winter?

It’s not so much that your plants will need more sunlight during the winter, it’s more that the light is weaker and extremely low. That said though, most succulents are dormant during the winter so this reduction in the light’s strength doesn’t matter.

If your succulents are winter growers then yes they definitely do need more light, but grow lights can be used to top up the natural light your plant gets.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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