How Much Light Do Succulents Need?

Share on pinterest
Pin this for later

What's inside

So, how much light DO succulents need?

Short answer is that the light that succulents need depends on a few things and not every succulent can handle the same amount of sunlight. Real helpful, huh?

Read on to find out what it looks like when succulents need more light. 

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Aim for about 6 hours of sunlight every day to start

etiolated variegated echeveria subsessilis/desmetiana needs more light
This Echeveria is in the early stages of etiolation. The bottom leaves are bending down. This is reversible by giving it more light.

Six hours would be the median amount of time your succulents should be getting direct sunlight in order to stay healthy. Some like more, some like less. Get to know your plants and observe them to learn what kind of light requirements they have. 

Succulents need lots of light for photosynthesisphotosynthesis The production by a plant of compounds required for its growth, promoted by light acting on the plant's chlorophyll. Also needed in the process are water and carbon dioxide. whether it is from the sun or from supplemental grow lights. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy.

Learning how much light to give your succulents is a process of trial and error. Do observe your succulents and learn the signs that they’re not getting enough light. As soon as you see one of those signs, adjust the lighting situation by moving the succulent to a different location.

Another thing to observe and learn is the light exposure of different parts of your yard or house so you have an idea of where to move your succulents when they’re telling you they need more or less light. 

severely etiolated echeveria bluebird
This Echeveria 'Blue Bird' is completely unrecognizeable because it has been deprived of adequate sunshine for way too long underneath a shelf.

Signs that your succulents aren't getting enough light

When a succulent doesn’t get enough light, a few things can happen as a natural response to light deprivation. This is called etiolation. Below are the characteristics of an etiolated succulent.

etiolated echeveria chroma succulent plant
This Echeveria 'Chroma' could definitely use some more light. It has completely lost its compact rosette shape.
  1. It’s color will become less vibrant and more pale. (Reversible)

  2. Leaves will bend downwards to increase the amount of surface area exposed to light. (Reversible)

  3. The main stem will elongate or curve in order to reach more light. You may have heard people refer to leggy succulents and this is what they mean by that. (NOT Reversible)

Pale Color

An etiolated succulent is also often paler than its well lit counterpart. This is because less light means less photosynthesis and less chlorophyll production which produces the deep coloring.

This can be reversed by giving your succulent more light gradually so it doesn’t burn.

stretched out echeveria olivia succulent plant
See how long the stem of this Graptoveria 'Olivia' has gotten?

Leaves Bending

Leaves bending down or flattening is usually the first sign that a succulent is not getting enough light. This is especially noticeable in rosette shaped succulents like echeveria or sempervivum. Their reaction is to increase the amount of exposed surface area in order to receive more light.

This can be reversed by giving your succulent more light by gradually moving it to a sunnier location or by using a grow light.

Stretching

Another way succulents show that they’re not getting enough light is by stretching. Some succulents are naturally “leggy” so if you’re not sure, just look up the name of your succulent and you’ll be able to see what they should look like if given proper light conditions. When starved for light, succulent stems will elongate rapidly to reach a light source.

The stem grows faster than the plant can create new leaves, so there’s lots of extra space between leaf sets or nodes. This also allows more light to penetrate between the leaves. While all of this new, quick growth may look neat, the plant is weaker and unhealthy. 

Stretching cannot be reversed so it is important to know what the first 2 signs look like in order to avoid the stretching.

Etiolated plants are not thriving. They are weaker than their appropriately lit counterparts because their energy is being used to search for a light source rather than grow as nature has intended. Their leaves are also smaller because they simply don’t have the energy to make bigger leaves.

Etiolated plants are thus, more susceptible to opportunistic bacterial and fungal diseases. They are also more susceptible to mealy bugs. Why? Mealy bugs LOVE new growth and etiolated plants have lots of that. 

String of Dolphins gets flat to increase the light catching surface area.
String of Dolphins gets flat to increase the light catching surface area.

How to fix an etiolated succulent

etiolated echeveria blue bird
Echeveria 'Blue Bird' showing the first signs of etiolation with its bottom leaves bending down to create more light catching surface area.

Behead the leggy succulent and replant the top because it won’t shrink back down to normal size. If the lighting situation doesn’t improve, the new growth will continue to etiolate and further weaken the succulent.

Give it the appropriate amount of light for the new growth to come in compact. 

You might also be watering your succulents too much.

Etiolated succulents grow really fast. Could your watering habits be contributing to etiolation? If you have etiolated succulents, try holding back their water to slow the stretching. 

See my Guide to Watering Succulents So They Don’t Die

Signs your succulents are getting TOO MUCH light

sunburn damage on an echeveria afterglow
This Echeveria 'Afterglow' has sunburn damage on its leaves after I didn't acclimate it to full, direct sunlight slowly enough.

If your succulent gets too much sun, too quickly, it will burn. You’ll see rough, brown patches on the leaves which were previously beautiful and unblemished.

Sunburn on succulents is physical damage that can’t be reversed. You’ll just have to wait for it to grow out. 

In the meantime, protect your succulent from further sun damage by putting it under an umbrella. Sun damaged succulents are more susceptible to pests and diseases because that tissue has become weakened. 

If you found any of this info helpful, please share it on your favorite social network! I truly appreciate it!
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
More Guides