How Much Light Do Succulents Need?

Overhead shot of a variety of different colorful potted succulents on a black table.

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What kind of plant do you think of when you hear the word "succulent"? Chances are you are picturing a variety of flower-shaped, desert-dwelling plants such as an echeveria or sempervivum. However, the term "succulent" actually encompasses over a thousand different kinds of plants from a range of climates all over the world. That’s why when it comes to figuring out how much light your succulent needs, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

What Is a Succulent?

Succulents are plants that store water in their leaves and/or stems in order to survive in arid climates or dry soil. Succulents can be found all over the world—from tropical rainforests, to scorching deserts and snowy mountains. Common types of succulents include cacti, echeveria, aloe, haworthia, hoya, sempervivum, sedum, zz plants, snake plants, jade plants, and more.

Small potted succulents by a sunny window.

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Succulent Light Requirements

The amount of light that succulents need ranges drastically depending on species. Some succulents, like zz plants and snake plants can thrive in low light conditions, while others such as cacti and some desert plants require several hours of bright, direct sunlight every day. Identifying the type of succulent that you have is important for determining the amount of light it requires.

Direct Light

Direct light means that the sun’s rays are landing directly on your plant through the window. Succulents that require direct light should be situated in front of a south or west-facing window, ideally getting about six to seven hours of sunlight every day (although this can vary depending on your variety). Succulents that require direct sunlight include desert cacti, echeveria, sempervivum, jade, aloe, aeonium, senecio, agave, sedum, hoya, and more.

It is important to note that direct sunlight indoors is not as strong as direct sunlight outdoors, since it is still being filtered through a window. This only really matters if you plan to move your indoor succulents outdoors for any period of time since the drastic change in sun exposure can burn the leaves of your plant. Make sure to move the plants into outdoor direct sunlight gradually—starting with mostly indirect light outdoors for a couple of weeks.

Indirect Light

Indirect light means that the sun's rays are filtered in some way before reaching the plant's leaves. The area is still bright, but the light is not direct. There are many different types of succulents that thrive in indirect light including haworthia, holiday cacti, snake plants, zz plants, string of hearts, rhipsalis, gasteria, kalanchoe, peperomia, and more.

Low Light

Many different kinds of succulents can tolerate low light. "Tolerate" is an important distinction here. Most plants do best in bright, indirect light when grown indoors but there are some that can survive or tolerate lower light conditions as well. You may notice that succulents receiving low light have slower growth, or a leggier appearance then when they are grown in indirect light.  Low light normally means that plants are set at least a few feet back from a window and do not receive any bright filtered light or direct sun rays on their leaves. Succulents that can tolerate low light conditions include snake plants, zz plants, kalanchoe, mistletoe cactus, string of hearts, holiday cactus, fishbone cactus, and more. 

Signs of Light Stress

When succulents do not receive the right amount of light, they will display signs of light stress. Light stress can result from exposure to either too much or too little light. 

Succulents receiving too much light may show signs of discoloration on their leaves or begin developing brown crispy edges or spots. Low-light succulents and succulents that require indirect light versus direct light are more likely to experience light stress from too much light. Particularly if they are suddenly exposed to a drastic change in their lighting conditions—like being moved from a low-light spot to a direct-light spot. 

Succulents that do not receive enough light can also show signs of stress. This is common in succulents that require lots of bright, direct light each day—such as desert succulents and cacti. Keep an eye out for leggy growth, dropping leaves, and stunted growth. 

Using Grow Lights for Succulents

When it comes to growing succulents indoors, keeping low-light succulents happy is usually much easier than keeping high-light succulents happy. Using grow lights for succulents that need lots of direct light is a great way to keep them healthy indoors if your space is lacking in natural light. Full-spectrum LED grow lights are a popular choice for growing succulents indoors and are available in a range of different price points.