Succulents are tough plants that can survive long periods of drought, but when it comes to light, how much sunlight do succulents need to grow and stay healthy? A common misconception is that they can survive out in the heat without shade or shelter.
Another common mistake is thinking that they can still look great with little access to sunlight. This is simply not the case.
We all love succulents that are fresh out of the garden center, with their perfect, compact shape. They’re practically pieces of art.
But if they don’t get enough sunlight, they won’t stay that shape for long. They’ll begin to stretch out and grow tall. If you’ve ever watched this happen to your succulents, you know how frustrating it can be!
Most of us understand that succulents need sunshine to survive, but unfortunately, sometimes these hardy plants don’t get as much sunlight as they need, and THIS is the moment in which they begin to lose their shape.
It’s a process called etiolation. Simply put, etiolation refers to a plant stretching out in search of sunlight.
As the plant stretches out, they start to appear “leggy”, with large chunks of stem in between each leaf. Or, it can make rosette-shaped succulents stretch outwards, which makes them lose their beautiful rose-like appearance.
You see, succulents are smart. If they’re not receiving adequate amounts of sunlight, they’ll literally move towards the nearest light source to get the sunlight they need.
Since they can’t move their pot themselves, they’ll move their stem and leaves. It’s actually pretty neat!
But here’s the good news: it’s an easy problem to address. What your plant needed all along was more sunlight exposure.
Etiolation actually reminds us to place our succulents in a sunny area of our home when growing indoor succulents. If you don’t want stretched-out succulents, pay attention to your plants!
If something doesn’t look right, try to address the problem quickly. That’s my rule of thumb when it comes to growing succulents and cacti.
I advise you to take note of your plant’s shape when you get a free moment. Are the leaves starting to stretch themselves outwards?
Is your succulent starting to grow leggy, with large pieces of stem growing between the leaves? This is a sign of etiolation, and you need to act fast if you don’t want it to continue.
You see, once etiolation happens, there’s no going back to the original shape. You can move your succulent to a sunnier spot so that it doesn’t continue to stretch out, but it will never revert back to what it was when you purchased it.
Fortunately, succulents can be propagated, which means you can take your succulent apart, propagate it, and get new babies out of your original plant in just a few months time.
In fact, that’s what I do with succulents that have grown leggy or unrecognizable. It gives me the opportunity to multiply my succulent collection without having to spend any additional money. That’s a win in my book!
So if you’re not happy with what etiolation has done to your succulents, you should give propagation a try. (If you want a step-by-step guide on how to propagate succulents, I wrote a propagating post on my gardening blog; I think you’d find it helpful!)
How Much Sun Do Succulents Need?
That’s a great question. Succulents love the sun, but they don’t want to get burned. They typically need about 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Indirect sunlight is usually better, especially during the summer and during those weeks between seasons when the temperatures change drastically from one day to the next.
As far as indirect sunlight, think of a spot in your home that gets lit up by the sun’s rays because of a nearby window or glass door. That spot stays sunny for hours each day, right? That makes it an excellent spot for your succulents.
Place your succulent planters on a dining table (like I did with my Christmas tablescape), end table, coffee table, kitchen counter, and even on the floor, as long as it gets access to bright light.
The spot you choose should be at least a few inches away from the window so that the sun doesn’t harm the plant on a hot day.
As I stated above, your succulents will let you know if they’re getting enough sun, you simply need to listen to them. In gardening, it’s always best to try to address the problem when you first notice it.
Paying attention to your plants will reap you healthier plants, whether it’s your succulents, houseplants, or garden flowers.
Yes, Succulents Can Get Sunburned
Outdoor succulents are far more prone to getting sunburned than indoor succulents are. This is because many times, succulents planted outdoors are planted in an area that doesn’t get any access to shade.
Once summer rolls around and temperatures reach above 90 degrees, succulents can go into shock. If you’re moving succulents out of your home and into your yard, do so gradually or place them in the shade away from direct sun.
Your succulents aren’t used to this new access to strong light, so they’ll likely burn if not acclimated first.
Many succulent varieties weren’t meant to be exposed to direct sun for hours on end, so if you notice that the leaves of your succulents have turned dark brown in some areas, they’ve most likely been sunburned.
Rosette succulents like Echeveria Lolas are especially prone to sunburn because they’re more delicate than hardier types like Firesticks and Agaves.
This is why you so often hear the advice that 6 hours indirect sunlight is ideal for succulents. They’ll still get the sunlight they need but they won’t be in danger of sunburn.
If your succulent already shows signs of sunburn, simply move it to a shadier spot. If not dead or too far gone, the succulent will do its best to heal itself and produce new leaves.
I hope this post helped you understand how much sunlight succulents need! If you’re dealing with succulents that have already stretched-out and you’re thinking of propagating them, head to this post about how to propagate succulents! It’ll walk you through the process, step-by-step.