Do Succulents Need Direct Sunlight?

One reads again and again that succulents need a lot of light. In most cases this statement is correct. But do succulents need direct sunlight? Are there also succulent species that can cope with little sun? We’ll also discuss more on the debate “do succulents need sun or shade” in this article.

Bright, indirect light is suitable for succulents

Light is vital for all plants. They need it for photosynthesis, the process by which light energy is converted into chemical energy with the help of the green pigment chlorophyll. However, the different plant families naturally have different demands on the brightness of their location.

Lots of bright light

Most succulents need a lot of light. So you should give these plants a bright spot. However, direct sunlight can also cause problems, especially if the plant is not used to it. Read more about this in the section below. The safest place is near a window, through which a lot of sunlight falls, but which hits the succulent plant indirectly.

What’s indirect sunlight?

In this case, indirect light means that the light from the sun is first reflected by a wall or the like or filtered through a curtain. Some of the radiation is intercepted and the risk of burns is reduced.

How many hours of sunlight do succulents need?

Most of the desert succulents need about 5-6 hours of light a day. As a rough rule of thumb you can remember: the lighter the succulent plant, the more light it wants, for example orange or purple species. The darker the succulent, the less blazing light it needs. We have collected some examples for you at the end of the article.

do succulents need direct sunlight

Do succulents need direct sunlight?

Direct sunlight means that the rays hit the plant unfiltered. This makes a lot of energy available to them, which is excellent for some species. However, not all succulents can handle hours of direct lighting. Some species are prone to sunburn, which shows up as brown, dry patches. Should you find these signs on your succulents, move the plant to a more sheltered place immediately. It often takes a long time for the burned areas to heal.

Lots of sunlight

Succulents that stand outside are particularly at risk: If raindrops or irrigation water collect on their leaves, this can act like a burning glass. You should therefore make sure that your plants are protected from rain and that you do not hit the leaves or rosettes when watering.

Sunburn very often occurs with succulents if they are placed in the blazing sun in the spring after hibernation without getting used to it. It is better to proceed step by step: First, place your succulent plant in a bright place for 8-10 days without direct sunlight. After that, the plant should have adapted and you can take it outside. But keep watching for any spots on the leaves.


Direct sunlight is usually too much for offshoots and very young succulents. It is better to first place them in an indirectly lit place, where they can grow in peace and develop protection against sunburn.

You can read more about offshoot propagation here.

Incidentally, direct light through an east or west window is not a problem, because the sun is not as high here as in the south. The incident radiation is weaker and does not harm the succulents. Window glass also acts like a light filter.

Why succulents need a lot of sun

In the course of evolution, succulents have adapted to their natural environment.

Most species come from hot, dry areas with lots of sunlight. This is why they are also able to survive long periods without rain by storing water in their fleshy leaves – hence the name of the Latin sucus (juice).

Without sufficient light, the succulents turn pale, form long and arid growths, and eventually even die. Therefore, you should always make sure that your plants are not too dark.

If you have too little sunlight in your apartment, you can also use special plant grow lights to provide your succulents with the best possible care.

The light also influences the biorhythm of the plants. In the cold season, succulents notice that they get fewer hours of light per day. They go into a state of rest that promotes flower formation in the following year. Many species only bloom at all if they are temporarily in a cooler and darker environment.

Succulents shouldn’t be placed in the shade in winter either, but they need less light than during the growing phase. In our part of the world, this is regulated by shorter days anyway.

Can succulents get too much sun?

If a succulent is exposed to sunlight too quickly and too much, the exposed layers will burn. The succulent then gets spots with dark or bleached spots. In exceptional cases, the plant can die instantly. Unfortunately, when the damage is done, you can’t do much more about it. The scars of the burning are usually permanent and it can take a very long time for the damaged leaves to grow out.

Will succulents grow in shade?

Most succulents prefer sunlight, grow better and flourish if they receive the rays of the star king. However, there are also shade succulent plants that grow well in a bright, shady place, where direct sunlight does not reach. But beware, this does not mean that you can put them in the darkest place in your house, they grow well in places where there is no direct sun, but they need light to survive.

Succulents that need a lot of light

Here we have created a small overview of succulent species that are particularly light-hungry. After a reasonable period of getting used to it, you can cope with direct sunlight:

  • Mammillaria : This genus of cacti includes around 200 species, of which the white representatives want a lot of direct sunlight.
  • Agaves : After a period of acclimatization, most agave species can cope perfectly with the blazing sun.
  • Echinocereus : Also a genus of cacti, a total of about 45 species that come from Mexico and the USA.
  • Bryophyllum: These succulents form many small plantlets on their leaf margins, hence the name (bryon = sprout, phyllon = leaf).
  • Pencil tree: This succulent from the Euphorbia family loves the blazing sun. Attention! The juice is poisonous.
  • String of Pearls : This unusual succulent plant can handle a lot of direct light, but also grows well in partial shade.
  • Tree aeonium : This succulent plant comes from the Mediterranean region and can grow up to a meter tall. She loves the direct sun.

Succulents that do well in partial shade

There are also some types of succulent plants that can cope with lower light. A few examples of this:

  • Aloe : They do well in a partially shaded spot. Direct sunlight can cause the leaf tips to dry out.
  • Haworthia : Representatives of this succulent family also get along very well with a partially shaded location.
  • Gasteria : Since they often grow in the shade of other plants in the wild, these succulents can tolerate a place with less sunlight.
  • Kalanchoe : Some species like the bell-shaped Kalanchoe or the panda plant can be left in partial shade. The leaves of these plants may become lighter in this location, but the plant is very adaptable and can still grow well.
  • Sansevieria : Most of the sansevieria types are not very demanding and can handle little direct light.
  • Jade plant :  Although it does well in direct sunlight, the jade plant can also grow in partial shade. But it mustn’t get too dark.