Succulents need three things to grow and thrive: adequate water, ample light, and the right type of soil. But just how much light do these plants need? Do succulents need direct sunlight or can you keep one in a room with limited light?
There is no straightforward answer to this question because the needs of each variety of succulent will differ from another’s
Broadly speaking, succulents need about four to six hours of sunlight. However, some types of succulents are happy to receive less sunlight.
Too much of a good thing
When most people talk about succulents, especially cacti, they think about arid deserts with little to no moisture and the sun’s rays in full blast.
However, it is crucial to note that many succulents grow in semi-desert environments. In a semi-desert environment, a succulent receives more rainfall, compared to a real desert.
Furthermore, the plants that live in semi-desert environments are typically found in low-lying areas where they are shielded from direct sunlight by hills, trees, and rocks.
As a general rule, succulents need plenty of sunlight. However, direct sunlight can also prove to be harmful to these plants, causing sunburn damage. Prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and heat can even fry and kill a succulent. It can take less than an hour of direct sunlight to damage some types of succulents.
Some species of succulents that prefer the shade are vulnerable to sun damage. But even sun-loving species grown indoors are susceptible to sun damage when they are brought outdoors and not given enough time to acclimate to their new location.
The best way to acclimate a succulent to a new location is to put it there for a few hours each day. Increase its sun exposure daily until it gets used to more sun and heat.
It is also a bad idea to bring newly-propagated succulents outdoors. You have to wait for your new plants to mature before bringing them outside.
Bear in mind that sunlight hits a location differently, depending on the time of day. Take this into account when choosing a new outdoor location for your plant.
Growing succulents with little sunlight
As mentioned earlier, most succulents require hours of sunlight. But is it possible to grow these plants under the shade or in areas that receive minimal sunlight?
There are succulent varieties that prefer growing in the shade. This is a type of area that receives bright light but also provides shade. In such a location, the succulent gets the best of both worlds: enough sunlight to grow and protection from sun damage.
Some species of succulents have evolved to thrive in areas with minimal lights. But for the most part, you should provide your succulents with enough light, whether natural or artificial.
Succulents are hardy plants and can survive in low light conditions. But there is a major difference between surviving and thriving. Deprived of sunlight, your succulent will stretch its body, trying hard to reach a light source. Inadequate light also prevents succulents from reaching their true potential.
Another drawback of inadequate sunlight is that when combined with overwatering, it can make a succulent succumb to root rot.
Keeping sunlight-hungry succulents indoors
But what if you do not have a location in your home that provides enough sunlight for the succulent you are eyeing to get?
Is it possible to keep a sunlight-hungry succulent indoors? You can. However, you may need to make a few key adjustments if there is little natural light available in your home.
Different types of light
Before thinking of ways to add more light to your home, it is worthwhile to learn about the different types of light inside a home.
1. Direct light
This type of light refers to sunlight coming from windows located in the southern or western portion of your home.
Here, you are assured that your plants, especially your succulents, will get enough light directly from the sun.
2. Bright light
An area is said to have a bright light if it gets about an hour of sunlight before being obstructed. This type of light works for most indoor plants.
Medium-light falls on an area in a home that is between a window and a wall.
For the most part, the light is bright but not direct.
4. Low light
Areas with low light can refer to any of two things. First, that location does not get natural light. Second, if that area gets natural light, it is about seven feet away from the light source.
If you are unsure about what type of light comes into a room, you can do this simple test. First, get a piece of paper. Hold it about 12 inches away from your body. Next, face the light source and stand in front of it.
If there is a bright light in that room, you should be able to see a clear shadow. If the shadow is blurry, there is a medium-light in that location. Finally, there is low light in that room if you cannot see a shadow.
A remedy for low light
If there is little natural light inside your home, do not give up on your dream of collecting succulents, even varieties that require hours of direct light.
You can use grow lights to mimic sunlight or even provide better quality light to your succulents and other plants that may require direct light.
Sunlight is superior to both fluorescent and incandescent lights because it can provide plants with blue and red spectra. Fluorescent lights can only provide a blue spectrum while incandescent lights emit the red spectrum. A full-spectrum grow light mimics sunlight, providing both spectra.
Another advantage of using full-spectrum grow lights is that these can provide plants with a consistent amount of intense light.
Plants placed near windows get filtered light which is not as intense as direct light from the sun. Furthermore, sunlight filtered through windows often becomes obstructed, giving plants barely enough to grow.
To mimic direct sunlight, all you have to do is to position the grow light about six inches above your succulent. Grow lights use reflectors to intensify the light they emit.
Compared to direct sunlight, grow lights have less intensity. However, this deficiency can be easily offset by placing your plants under artificial light between 12 and 14 hours. That is more than enough to approximate four to six hours of direct sunlight.
Finally, grow lights can help you overcome the problems posed by temperature extremes.
Windows can intensify sunlight, making these locations virtual greenhouses. This can leave your plant damaged, especially during times of the day when light and heat can become too intense.
Grow lights can also help protect your succulents during winter, giving plants a steady supply of light and heat even when the sun can be barely seen.
Know your succulent’s requirements
There is no definitive answer to the question of whether succulents need direct sunlight. A lot of that stems from the fact that succulent varieties differ in their needs, including the type and amount of light they prefer.
Put ample time researching about the succulent you want to get before buying one.
Image: istockphoto.com / diliananikolova