Light Needs for Succulents and Cacti

Succulents and Cactus are plants that originate from dry, arid climates that receive large amounts of sun and very little rain. In order for your succulents to thrive there are some things to consider to give your plants an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible. Succulents love bright areas, there is no question about it. However, depending on whether you are growing succulents indoors or outdoors, the light requirements are a bit different. 

If you are growing succulents indoors try to give succulents as much light as they can get. If you have an available southern or eastern facing window that’s the perfect spot. In some cases, the light from southern facing window may be too strong for the plant to be in direct light so always check the plant for signs of sunburn, and if so, move the plant out of the direct light to a spot with indirect light. You can also grow succulents in artificial light if desired, a small pot under a desk lamp is a great location, just be sure to give the plants as much light as you can afford. Indoor lighting is roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of the strength of direct sunlight so plan accordingly. A succulent not getting sunlight will require minimum 12 hours of bright light to reduce the effects of etiolation, otherwise known as stretching or reaching. 

Most succulents live outdoors and for the majority of the year this is the preferred environment to ensure lots of plant growth. When growing outdoors it is recommended to account for a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight. As a rule of thumb, morning sunlight is less harsh than afternoon or evening sunlight. Although these plants do grow in hot arid climates, some varieties are susceptible to sunburn if left in direct sunlight for most of the day. If you are bringing home a succulent for the first time, slowly introduce the plant to an area with full sun and monitor the plant for signs of heat damage or sunburn. Depending on the climate you live in, growing succulents outdoors is usually very low maintenance and more dependant upon the soil and water/humidity rather than light. 

We grow our succulents both indoors and outdoors depending on the age of the plant and variety. In the Pacific Northwest, our winters are colder than most succulents can handle outside of certain Sedum and Sempervivum varieties. Most of our outdoor plants are kept either in a greenhouse or brought indoors under our light system during the winter to ensure continued growth and survival in the less than ideal conditions. 

A common issue among succulent growers is something called etiolation. This occurs when the plant is generally healthy and continuing to grow but it is not receiving enough light. In this scenario the succulent will grow a longer stem with a larger gap between the leaves. In most cases, the stem will grow so long that the plant will bend or fall over and sometimes even break. The best thing to do in this case is find an area with more light for the plant. This may not always be possible, but it would be the first step to keeping the succulent short, stout, and happy.

Happy growing!