Succulents are the number one choice for houseplants, but this may not be the case for people who didn’t have an area where they could let these succulents experience the most sunlight. In such a case, no matter how much you badly want to grow these succulents, you might have a hard time since they need sunlight.
If you find yourself in this situation, you might be tempted to try the synthetic version, but we tell you, don’t give in to the temptation yet. You still have one shot at bagging that real and live succulent for your home. While most of the popular succulent species now crave to get as much sunshine as they can, some varieties only need minimal sunlight.
You see, if you live in a house with a north-facing, sun-filled window, you can still aim for the less sun-craving succulents. If you live somewhere in the northern hemisphere, know that a south-facing window will give you the greatest light all through the day.
In the morning, east-facing windows receive the most sunlight, while western-facing ones receive the most sunlight in the evening and afternoon. The least window that will get sunlight is the north-facing ones. This only means that those who intend to bring succulents into their homes still have the chance to make these plants live and thrive.
No matter how low or high their need for sunlight is, the thing with succulents is that they wouldn’t live in the total absence of light. Meaning to say, there is a meager chance for them to survive in your basement or areas utterly devoid of light.
If you insist on placing your succulents here, one option is to get yourself a tabletop plant grow light. You will surely be happy to see your succulents thrive under these lights. Station these lights over your plant for six to eight hours per day and see them grow differently.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss the many varieties of succulents that can grow and thrive even under minimal light. Surprisingly, there are quite a few varieties you can choose from just in case your planned location for these succulents is far from your doors and windows. We’ll also discuss a few tips on how you can take care of these plants for them to thrive. So, read on and brace yourself for smart low-light succulent growing tips.
What Are Low-Light Succulents
Low-light succulents, just like its name suggests, are various succulents that can still manage to grow and prosper even under environments with minimal lighting conditions. As you are already aware, succulents, in general, are lovers of sunshine.
Though they are drought and cold-resistant, they can suffer from etiolation if they don’t get enough sunlight. When you see your succulents stretch upwards and get taller, that means they’re reaching for more sun.
While there are naturally tall succulents, there are also those naturally thriving in lesser than usual sunlight — and that’s what you call the low-light succulents. But how do you know how much sunlight should your succulent get?
According to experts, the lighting requirement of these succulents depends primarily on their species. Some succulent species, most especially the cactus, will do very well when exposed to direct sunlight. Others can get sunburned when exposed to the same lighting conditions. So, before you bring home a plant, it pays that you research first to see if they would thrive in direct sunlight or indirect bright light.
Benefits of Low-Light Succulents
One of the best advantages of having low-light succulents at home is their versatility placement in your home. Since they can thrive with minimal sunlight and even under tabletop grow light, you can place them in your basement, bathroom, windowless bedroom, or anywhere you want. You can simply bring them out once every day for them to get a bit of sunlight, and they’ll survive.
And since they don’t need that much sunlight, they also require less maintenance and effort from you. This means that even if you leave them to fend for themselves – for as long as you water them sparingly – they’ll grow beautifully.
Make Your Home More Beautiful
Their aesthetic value is also one of the many benefits offered by these varieties. Later on, as we move forward with our discussion, you’ll learn the different types of low-light succulents, and you’ll also discover that most of them are aesthetically pleasing. This only shows that they can be used as decors and complimentary fixtures to your home spaces.
How Do Low-Light Succulents Work
Cacti and succulents need sunlight to grow abundantly. Plants need to absorb light so that they can turn it into energy through photosynthesis. If you want to provide your plants with adequate light, growing your succulents indoors can pose a significant challenge since this might require experimentation on your end. Plants that don’t get enough sunlight just don’t develop properly.
Though succulents don’t necessarily die from not getting enough sunlight, they grow differently. And most of the time, they look funny. Over time, these plants will only grow weaker, more discolored, and more distorted. They will also start stretching as if they’re reaching for the sun.
But despite this fact, it’s still very much possible to grow these succulents under artificial light since, unlike us, they only need light from sunlight, which means to say that they’re not after the natural rays of the sun to photosynthesize and develop. Any form of light, artificial or natural, is sufficient for them. And this is the secret to their growth.
Plus, some varieties love so much sun, but some only need little of it to thrive. Their nature dictates that they don’t need too much sun to fulfill all the physical processes inside their bodies necessary for their survival.
Pros and Cons of Low-Light Succulents
One of the many pros of low-light succulents is th3 they’re easy to grow. You don’t have to be a pro to grow and make these succulents thrive. Since they only require less sunshine, you can still grow them in a house where there’s limited sunlight. Aside from this, it’s also a significant advantage that these plant species won’t etiolate even when they don’t get as much sunlight. LED light is even enough for them to grow beautifully.
On the negative side, one notable point is that you have to spend more on the plants’ lighting needs when you intend to bring them indoors. Most of the time, those who invest in grow lights spend more on the light than on the plant.
Types of Low-Light Succulents
Succulents bloom at different times of the year, but they can adapt to hot and cold environments regardless of their season. Here are the different types of low-succulent plants, along with their descriptions.
This plant is one of the most famous succulents used as a home plant because of its low light tolerance. It’s also known as Sansevieria and the Mother-in-Law’s plant. It also comes in a plethora of sizes and shapes. Experts brand this plant as indestructible because it can tolerate countless houseplant mismanagement issues.
For one, they will continue to thrive even if there’s less than ideal light and water. They will also grow well when these two elements are abundant. However, you have to take note that in variegated cultivars, the plant will have better color if they’re well-positioned in a well-lit place.
This is the botanical name of the more commonly known panda plant. This plant is straightforward to maintain and care for. It has velvet-like and furry leaves that look exactly like a cat’s ears — a characteristic that is attributed to its name ‘pussy ears.’ When full-grown, this plant can grow as tall as 1.5 ft, with thick stems that grow branches and leaves. When you choose to prune them, you would be happy to see a bush or tree-like look with branches growing below pot-level.
This is another succulent plant variety that is well-known as a house plant. People went crazy looking for this plant during the quarantine since they want it to be a part of their plant collection. This has oval-shaped, fleshy leaves and woody, thick stems that look like small tree trunks. If you give your jade plant some tender loving care, it can grow as high as three to six feet tall. And because they only grow slowly — at around two inches per year, you can enjoy watching them thrive.
This is distinguished from other succulent varieties by its polka dots warts that earned its namesakes, such as cushion aloe, star window plant, pearl plant, and zebra cactus. They are thriving in South Africa, where they’re also generally seen as small, only around 3 to 5 inches tall. While some of them are only this small, others can shoot out even taller than blooming spikes. They’re also loved because they’re not toxic to pets.
This rainforest epiphyte is another succulent that only needs limited lighting. They grow best in rooms with East-facing windows where they get the most morning sun and afternoon shade. This succulent is also an excellent addition to your succulent collection for its unusual look. They have cylindrical stems with small branches. These stems start to grow straight and eventually branch out later as they also produce white flower clusters. You can set it up in a hanging basket for that perfect bathroom or balcony set-up.
These epiphytes thrive in tree canopies, where they’re almost fully shaded from the heat of the sun. They are a group of other cactus varieties that include Easter cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Christmas cactus. They are tree-living succulent varieties that don’t need a lot of light to grow and prosper. On the other hand, they prefer more watering and a bit of humidity than different succulent types.
This is a succulent shrub that has a densely branched stem with hairy bear-like leaves. They can grow as high as 50 centimeters or 20 inches tall. This is also a flowering plant species belonging to the Crassulaceae family that’s native to South Africa. They are an evergreen shrub with chunky, large ovate green, fuzzy leaves.
Burro’s Tail, Sedum Morganianum
More popularly known as Donkey’s Tail, this succulent comes with long, donkey tail-like hanging stems. It’s even made prettier by its unusually shaped oval leaves complemented with its pinkish flowers and pale green soothing shade that pop out and thrive during summer.
This succulent species is the most popular among the wide succulent varieties in the Aloe genus. It shares the dull green, fleshy, and thick leaves its other aloe family to have. It also has spines on its edges and reproduces through offshoots. They can also be as small as the dwarf species or as tall as the tree species that rise as high as 30 feet.
Though it has been named as ponytail palm, this variety is not in any way a true ‘palm.’ As a matter of fact, it resembles desert plants belonging to the Yucca and Agave genera more. They usually have a domed, large stump that tapers off into slimmer stems. You can also see rosettes made of leathery, green, long leaves develop as the ponytail palm ages. In an indoor setting, its leaves can grow as long as three feet; outdoors, they can grow twice the length.
More commonly known as the ZZ plant, this succulent variety has dark, attractive, broad green leaves that can add character and aesthetics to homes and offices. The good thing about this species is that it’s exceptionally tolerant to low-light, drought, and neglect. They grow so well in these conditions without throwing a fit.
Its smooth and waxy leaves easily reflect the sunlight and also immediately brighten the room. They grow slowly, and when they’re fully mature, they’re around two to three feet. According to a study conducted by NASA, this plant is amazingly adept at inhaling copious amounts of air toxins like benzene, toluene, and xylene.
This plant is known for its compact and small size, perfect for pot and container growth. They could also be great additions to your xeric garden.
This plant also has varying textured leaves that are mostly rough to touch. These leaves are thick, stiff, and flattened in many species, which earned their common names, such as cow tongue, ox tongue, and lawyer’s tongue.
Some varieties come with warts; others with pastel and black colors. They flower in spring, usually with stomach-shaped blossoms. This is precisely the reason why the plant is called Gasteria.
This plant belongs to the Polypodiaceae family, and it has a bizarre appearance that earned its spot in conservatories. With 17 species found in South America, Asia, and Africa, this plant is epiphytic and thrives by growing in other plants. It has two forms of leaves — elongated and repeatedly forked, known as staghorn, and the bowl-shaped and flat one. Also known as mantle leaves, this species has roots that absorb nutrients and moisture.
This is one of the most adaptable plants that are fit for households. They are easy to grow and resistant to less-than-ideal conditions like neglect, low-light, and less water. They can make a lovely statement piece anywhere you put them — from mantles to tabletops. Its beauty is even enhanced by its arching leaves when styled as hanging plants. These plants also earned the reputation of being nearly impossible to kill.
Also known as the crown of thorns, this perennial, herbaceous, and deciduous shrub has greenish flowers and bright green leaves. Its flowers are often enclosed with bright and long-lasting bracts of yellow or red. They are generally loose, irregularly shaped, and spiny, adorned with blackthorns. It’s also believed to be the stem used to make Christ’s crown of thorns because of its Middle Eastern historical presence.
How to Choose the Best Low-Light Succulents
Type of Soil
Generally, succulents are sensitive to moisture. Its roots will quickly rot when they are overwatered, and the soil retains too much water. In that case, you need to go for the right potting mix — one that has good drainage capacity. Even the low-light types resistant to overwatering and neglect will grow better if they’re planted in the correct type of soil.
Succulents are known for being low-maintenance. This means that they will thrive even if you’re not very particular with their needs. When it comes to watering techniques, it’s better to underwater than overwater them. This will keep its roots in good and healthy condition.
Type of Pot You Use
The kind of pot matters significantly when you’re growing low-light succulents that are bound to grow bigger and stretch upwards as time passes by. It’s enough for small varieties to choose the pot that’s fit for its size and simply repot once every 12 to 18 months. As for the overarching types, choose terracotta pots that have better water draining capacities.
How Much Natural Light It Gets
Low-light doesn’t mean no light at all. If buying a grow light is out of your options, make sure to bring out your succulent at least once every day for it to get a taste of the sun. If not, simply place them in the area of the house that can capture a minimal amount of sunlight. But, if this is also out of the question, the best option is to set-up LED lights from where your low-light succulent can get light for their growth.
How to Grow Low-Light Succulents
Step 1 – Repot your succulent in the correct container
As soon as you bring home your newly-bought succulent, make sure to repot it from its nursery bag. Choose a terracotta pot since this has good water-draining capacity. This will make sure that your soil won’t hold moisture that might rot the roots.
Step 2 – Only use the right potting mix
The right potting mix is the one that has a good draining capacity. Stay away from regular potting mixes since they hold water longer. When in doubt, choose a cactus mix.
Step 3 – Choose an area in your house where your succulent can still access natural light
To recap, a south-facing window will give you the greatest light all through the day. In the morning, east-facing windows receive the most sunlight, while western-facing ones receive the most sunlight in the evening and afternoon. The least window that will get sunlight is the north-facing ones. This only means that those who intend to bring succulents into their homes still have the chance to make these plants live and thrive.
Remember that no matter how low or high their need for sunlight is, they wouldn’t live in the total absence of light. Meaning to say, there is a meager chance for them to survive in your basement or areas utterly devoid of light. If you insist on placing your succulents here, one option is to get yourself a tabletop plant grow light. Station these lights over your plant for six to eight hours per day and see them grow differently.
How to Take Care of Low-Light Succulents
Step 1 – Never overwater
Again, the hard and fast rule when growing and maintaining succulents, regardless of variety, is never to overwater them. When you have to choose between overwatering and underwatering, go for the latter.
Step 2 – Low-light doesn’t mean devoid of light
When you can’t afford natural light for your succulent, set up a tabletop grow light or LED lights where they can source the light they need to photosynthesize.
Step 3 – Repot once every year or 18 months
You need to repot your succulents once every twelve to 18 months because they might have outgrown their pots, and their roots might need more room to stretch themselves. Take note that repotting might cause stress to the plant; hence, you must be careful as you move them.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
Succulents are relatively cheap to buy, grow, and maintain, so you don’t have to break your bank account if you want to develop one. In this case, spending more doesn’t necessarily apply. You can also propagate your varieties of rare and expensive succulents, so you don’t have to spend money on that. You might only pay more if you want to invest in costly vases and pots or improve your garden landscape by adding retaining walls where you can hang and drape your premium rare succulent varieties.
Do’s and Don’ts With Low-Light Succulents
- Do know that mixing your own succulent soil is easy.
- Do utilize natural materials like stones since rocks can be used to repot succulents.
- Do invest in tabletop grow lights to let your low-light succulents thrive.
- Do understand the nature and growth requirements of your chosen succulent variety.
- Do avoid overwatering your succulents.
- Do grow succulents from seed to add new plants to your collection.
- Do take time to choose the perfect pot for your hanging succulents.
- Don’t completely disregard the need for your low-light succulents of natural light.
- Don’t let your low-light succulents grow in a zero-light area.
- Don’t overwater your succulents.
- Don’t use plastic pots instead of terra cotta ones.
Quick Tips to Successfully Grow Low-Light Succulents
- Low-light succulents need some light. While faux succulents can look real and thrive in no light areas, the same rule doesn’t apply to low-light succulents. They still need light.
- Choose the right plant. Choose the type of succulent that can grow and prosper even in low light or shade. World’s best black succulents and colorful ground covering succulents won’t grow in the same conditions.
- Set a watering schedule. Water them from time to time, but not so often since they won’t be exposed to the sun. This means that the excess water won’t be absorbed by the sun. Water them sparingly and only when required.
- Expose them to sunlight. Even if you position your low-light trendy pink succulents or one-foot-tall succulents indoors, make sure to keep them near your door or window from time to time. They can’t survive in zero sunlight.
- Choose the right type of container. Be mindful of the container you’re using. Take note that with succulents, proper drainage is just as important as the size of your pot. Rose succulents grow in curved layers, so they will need a bigger container. Also, go for pots with appropriate holes for drainage.
- Fertilize. Succulents keep the nutrients and water in their stems or leaves; that’s why they don’t necessitate fertilizing. However, it’s still a good idea to fertilize them once a month or whenever necessary.
FAQ About Low Light Succulents
What succulents do well in low light?
The succulents mentioned and discussed above are the varieties that can thrive and stay healthy even in low-light conditions. To get to know these varieties, go back to the discussion under types of low-light succulents.
Is LED light enough for succulents?
Yes, LED grow lights can provide your succulents with specific light wavelengths. Succulents only care about red and blue light. LED grow lights offer succulents with a narrow light spectrum that effectively grows succulents and is also heat and energy-saving.
Can you grow succulent without any light at all?
While this is not an ideal environment for succulents, they can be worked on and controlled. Succulents, just like other plants, only need light to grow. Meaning to say, sunlight can be dispensed with when we’re talking about growing succulents. It doesn’t matter where the light originates. For as long as they get the spectrum of light they need to grow, they’ll live prosperously.
Can succulents survive with indoor light?
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, succulents can grow even under tabletop grow lights or LED grow lights. This means that they can survive with indoor lights.
Can lack of light make succulent soil moldy?
Yes, it can. Since light is meant to absorb the soil’s excess moisture, the ground will only grow in its absence. And as we know, molds thrive in dark and damp areas.
What color LED light is best for succulents?
Just like other plants, succulents prefer the red and blue light spectrum for it to grow.
How do I know if my succulent needs more light?
You will know if your succulent needs more light if you see them stretch upward as if reaching for the sky. That only means that they’re reaching for more sunlight. You will also notice its color to be more translucent and its body to be weaker and slimmer than usual. All of these are tell-tale signs that your succulent needs more watering.
Succulents are generally easy-to-grow plants. However, it doesn’t mean that you can completely disregard their basic needs. Before you grow any type of succulent at home, make sure that you know if they’ll thrive in the environmental condition where you intend to store them. If you can’t give them access to natural sunlight, at least be a responsible succulent parent and set-up a grow light for them. If you can’t get them a grow light set-up, do the extra mile and send them out in the sun once every day. Yes, they may be low-key and low-maintenance plants, but they still need the basics to survive.
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