Why Do Succulents Need Sun
Just like all plants, succulents also need sunlight for photosynthesis. It refers to the process of converting light into chemical energy. However, unlike other plants, most succulents do not need direct sunlight, but they can do well with just indirect light. The light can be considered indirect if it is reflected by a wall or any other similar object before hitting the succulents.
It could also be when the light gets filtered through a curtain first. While direct sunlight is unnecessary, these succulents need any form of light within the visible spectrum for the process of photosynthesis. Even the lights from your office fluorescent, LED clip lightly, or typical old lamp can already contribute to their growth.
Benefits of Exposing Succulents to the Sun
Brightens Their Color
Many succulents’ leaves become more vibrantly colored if they get enough sunlight every day. This is due to the leaves producing more chlorophyll. The more chlorophyll a plant has, the more vibrant its coloration will be.
Forms Tight Leaf Clusters
If your succulent does not get enough sun, it will get etiolated. This means that the succulent stem will grow longer and the leaves spaced out a lot so that they can get as much sun as they can.
Promotes Faster Growth
Not enough sunlight will stunt the growth of your succulents. On the other hand, a succulent grows taller as it gets more sun. If your plants are getting enough sun, then you can expect them to grow faster and maybe even bloom and/or produce offshoots.
How Does Exposing Succulents to the Sun Work
Just like any other type of plant, succulents have chlorophyll in their leaves. These work by converting the light energy from the sun into chemical energy that the plant can then use. Along with the nutrients they get from the earth and water, sunlight is one thing that plants need to stay alive.
Pros and Cons of Exposing Succulents to the Sun
- Helps develop brightly colored leaves.
- Keeps the leaves nice and compact.
- Prevents etiolation.
- Can encourage flowers to bloom and castoffs to grow.
- Too much direct and intense sunlight can burn the leaves.
Types of Succulents That Can Handle Direct Sunlight
Although most succulents thrive more in the indirect sun, you can also find those species that thrive well when exposed to the sun. Among these succulents are the following:
- Sticks on Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli)
- Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe luciae)
- Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
- Century Plant (Agave americana)
- Silver Dollar Jade (Crassula arborescens)
Types of Succulents That Shouldn’t Be Exposed to Direct Sunlight
Unlike the previously mentioned succulents, the following are those that do not tolerate direct sunlight at all. Most of them cannot tolerate more than an hour of sun exposure, making them great indoor plants.
- Sansevieria cylindrica (Cylindrical Snake Plant)
- Crassula ovata (Jade Plant)
- Cotyledon tomentosa (Bear’s Paw)
- Haworthiopsis fasciata (Zebra Plant)
- Sedum morganianum (Burro’s Tail)
Sunlight Alternatives for Succulents
If you live in a place that does not get enough sun exposure or in an apartment with windows that are not big enough to let enough light inside, then you can rest assured that there are sunlight alternatives that you can use. Here are just a couple of alternatives for the sunlight that you can use to ensure your plants are healthy.
Fluorescent lights work for plants with low to medium sunlight requirements, so they mainly work for the succulents that need indirect sunlight. Modern fluorescent bulbs that you can use for this purpose come in long tubes that range in sizes, such as T5 and T12.
LEDs are the most popular and most common types of grow light available today. Aside from being energy-efficient, the LED lights also produce little to no heat. You can even program some of them to provide different levels of light intensity. It is also possible for you to get a LED grow light that comes in the correct light spectrum that your plants need.
Best Full Sunlight Succulents
Desert Pinwheel Rose
This is a medium-green succulent that can grow up to 3 feet tall, with the rosettes forming at the end of stems. It is one of the world’s best rose succulents. It produces big clusters of yellow flowers from mid-spring to early summer.
Prickly Pear Cactus
This type of cactus can grow up to 8 feet high if you don’t trim them occasionally. It can also bloom for a couple of weeks every summer, but the flowers usually last only a day.
This is a shrub that has pencil-thick branches, hence the name. It can grow to a height of 7 meters, so if you think of getting this plant, then have it planted in your yard, where it will have plenty of room to grow.
These are succulents characterized by their long and broad leaves. You can also see spikes growing out of their edges. These plants can grow anywhere from 3 feet to more than 20 feet tall when the flower stalk starts growing.
Blue Chalk Sticks
This succulent became popular because of the shape and bright coloration of its leaves. The Blue Chalk Sticks is a spreading succulent, so you need to plant this at a spot where it can have enough space to grow, like someplace where you want to cover. Another thing that is great about this succulent is that ground-covering succulents can survive winter.
How to Protect Your Succulent During a Heatwave
Step 1 – Identify which plants you need to protect
Not all succulents will die from a little heat, especially the ones that are native to desert climates. Some even have their own coping mechanisms, like changing color and closing the rosettes. Knowing which plants need protection will drastically lower the amount of work you need to do.
Step 2 – Move the plants that you can
The best way to protect your succulents from a heatwave is to move the potted ones indoors. Prioritize the newly planted ones and the younger succulents as they are more susceptible to sunburns.
Step 3 – Place a cover over the plants
You do not need to purchase a shade cloth. You can use an old sheet or curtain. Drape your shade cloth over the plants, preferably from 10 AM to around 2 PM, as this is the time of day when the sun is the most intense.
Step 4 – Water the plants as soon as the ground is dry
Although succulents can thrive with very little watering, that does not mean you do not need to water them at all. During a heatwave, the water in the ground may be totally drained, so once the soil around the base of the succulents has gotten quite dry, you should water them already.
How to Avoid Sunburned Succulents
Step 1 – Place your plants on the east side of your home
Direct sunlight coming from the east is not as harsh as the afternoon sun from the west. Moving your plants to the east side will allow them to get as much good sunlight as possible without getting sunburnt.
Step 2 – Put them indoors
If your succulent has low sunlight requirements, you can place it indoors. Just make sure that the spot gets enough natural light during the day. Also, keep in mind that hanging succulents have fragile stems, so you need to be careful when moving them.
Step 3 – Cover the plants with a cloth sheet
If you cannot move the plants, you can protect them from sunburn by covering them when the sun is harshest, between 10 AM to 2 PM.
How to Treat Succulent Sunburn
Step 1 – Don’t touch the leaves
Just let the leaves be. If you just let the succulent grow, the sunburnt leaves would eventually shrivel up and fall off.
Step 2 – Pick the damaged leaves and use them for propagation
The sunburnt leaves will have permanent scars anyway, so you can pick them off the stem carefully and then use them for propagating new plants.
Do’s and Don’ts When Exposing Succulents to the Sun
- Do know which plants do not do well in direct sunlight. That way, you can separate them and prevent them from getting exposed unnecessarily to the sun.
- Do acclimate the new plants gradually to sun exposure.
- Do place a cover over your plants when the heat gets a bit too high.
- Don’t place your succulents on the western side of your home.
- Don’t give up on a sunburnt plant, as it can still survive.
FAQ About Succulents and Sun Exposure
Can succulents grow inside without sun?
Technically yes, they can grow. However, you will need to supply them with artificial light, like an LED grow lamp. This is necessary for photosynthesis and supporting the plant’s growth.
What succulents don’t need sunlight?
All succulents need sunlight; a lot of them don’t like direct sun exposure. Almost all succulents can thrive on just indirect sun alone. However, you need to check the leaves often. Note that soft leaves are signs of overwatering, which is a common mistake made with indoor succulents.
How many hours of sunlight do succulents need?
Most succulents, like the premium Haworthia succulents, are more than happy to receive around 4-6 hours of sun exposure a day. However, not all succulents share the same requirements. Even succulent seeds need to have access to light, but ideally, it would just be indirect sunlight. The rule of thumb with succulents is that the lighter the shade of the leaves, the more sun exposure they need. On the other hand, a naturally purple succulent can do well in the shade.
Do succulents need direct sunlight or full sun?
Several succulents, like desert cacti, need more sunlight exposure. Other species, on the other hand, need indirect sun. This means that they should only be in a brightly lit area.
How long can succulents go without the sun?
It depends on the type of succulent you have. Low-light succulents mostly grow indoors for around 1-2 weeks. However, some do quite well in the shade that can last a bit longer, but not by much. If you want, you can decorate your working space with faux succulents, so you do not have to worry about the sun.
Can succulents die from too much sun?
Yes. Even though many succulents are quite hardy and will survive an intense heatwave, some may abruptly die when exposed to too much sun. For instance, a lot of pink succulents grow in dry places and they can survive heatwaves easily.
Now that you know that not all succulents particularly love being under the sun for hours a day, you should start rearranging your collection of succulents before they get sunburnt and eventually die. You can separate those succulents that do love direct sun exposure, so you can plan regarding the ones you can plant in your yard or garden.
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