Low Light Succulents That You Can Grow Indoors

by Max - last update on December 5, 2019, 5:11 am
Low Light Succelents

When we think about succulents, the images of vast desert landscapes often come to mind.

That also means lots and lots of sunlight.

However, succulents are a very diverse group of plants, not exclusively connected to deserts. It would surprise you where succulents can live. For example, epiphytic succulents such as the Christmas cactus live on branches of large trees. Can you guess what type of conditions does an epiphytic plant face?

Among other things, there’s the lack of light brought on by a usually massive canopy above an epiphytic plant. Yes, in the diverse world of succulents there are those who are surprisingly tolerant of low light conditions. And in their beauty and attractiveness, they do not fall behind their sun-loving cousins.

But first, let's point out that “low light” doesn't mean “no light”. All plants need light in order to perform photosynthesis by which they feed themselves. For a plant, low light means not being directly exposed to sunlight. For example, a spot in the opposing corner of an otherwise well-lit room. If you are facing north, even a spot close to the window can count as a low light spot.

In a room with no windows (e.g. a bathroom), you will have to provide a grow light, even for a plant tolerant of low light conditions.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's explore the weird and wonderful realm of low light succulents.

9 Types of Low Light Succulents

1. Sanseveria trifasciata, the Snake Plant

Sanseveria trifasciata, the Snake Plant

Origin: West Africa

Name: Sansevieria trifasciata

Family: Asparagaceae

Type: Succulent

Mature size: 2ft 6in by 8in

Hardiness zone: 10-12

Light: Partial shade

Water: Dry to moderate

Temperature: 21 to 32oC; not below 10oC

Soil: Well-draining, any type. Tolerant of poor and heavy soils

Soil pH: 4.5 to 8.5

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Filters indoor air pollution; mildly toxic to dogs and cats

Sanseveria is probably one of the best-know low light tolerant succulents, and one of the best-known house plants in general. Sanseveria is commonly known as the Snake Plant or, quite witty, the Mother-in-Law's Tongue. Although people consider Sanseveria a plant with a lot of cultivars of different shapes and sizes

The snake plant is considered indestructible, and not without a reason. This plant can tolerate a wide range of common houseplant mismanagement issues, from infrequent watering to low light, but will also do well in brighter circumstances. Yet, for vitality and good looks, it should receive optimal care. Do not overwater it and don’t let it sit in water. Keep them away from direct, intense sun’s rays. Although it will do just fine in a low-light spot, you should know that brighter positions bring out the color better, especially in the variegated cultivars.

Beyond the classic Sanseveria trifasciata, the genus offers plants in many forms. Besides variations in color, the length and the shape of the leaves also differs from species to species - Another highly popular and hardy species

One more interesting fact about snake plants - they remove formaldehyde and benzene from the air, so you can use them to slightly increase your indoor air quality. Also, since the leaves contain saponins, they are slightly toxic to dogs and cats.


2. Aloe vera

Aloe vera

Origin: Arabian Peninsula

Name: Aloe Vera

Family: Asphodelaceae

Type: Succulent

Mature size: 24-39 inches

Hardiness zone: 8-11

Light: Partial shade

Water: Dry, doesn’t require much

Temperature: Hardy to 0° Celsius

Soil: Sandy potting

Soil pH: 6.1-7.8

Flower Color: Yellow, green

Special Features: Medicinal properties, can be grown indoors and outdoors

Aloe vera is the best-known species from the large Aloe genus which offers a wide variety of plants. All Aloe species have thick, fleshy, dull green to bluish leaves and usually some spines on the edges. They reproduce by producing offshoots. Their sizes range from dwarf species to large tree-like species which can be 30 ft tall.

Aloe vera originates from the Middle East - Arabian Peninsula, to be precise, but it grows well in all warm climates - tropical, sub-tropical and arid. It is a popular houseplant, but it is also commercially cultivated for medicinal and agricultural use.

Besides Aloe vera which is the most frequent and iconic species of the genus, another great choice is the petite Aloe aristata (Lace aloe). It is an extremely resilient plant which is, besides the lack of bright light, able to tolerate temperatures as low as 40 degrees F.


3. Schlumbergera, Holiday Cacti

Schlumbergera, Holiday Cacti

Origin: Brazil

Name: Schlumbergera sp.

Family: Cactaceae

Type: Cactus

Mature size: up to 2 feet; up to 4 ft have been reported in the wild

Hardiness zone: 9-12

Light: Partial shade

Water: Moderate; let dry out in August

Temperature: Warmer climates

Soil: Soil with sphagnum moss

Soil pH: 5.6-6.5

Flower Color: Pink, Red

Special Features: longevity, regular flowering if taken care of well.

Epiphytes live in the canopies of trees, which means they are largely shaded from the sun. Holiday cacti - a group that includes the Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus and the Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri) - are just that, tree-living succulents which don’t need a lot of light to thrive. However, they do love humidity and a bit more watering than typical succulents.

These slightly droopy, segmented plants look their best when they are in bloom. And the lack of light is exactly what triggers them to bloom when the days start to get shorter in the autumn. Along with the shortening light exposure, for a successful bloom, the holiday cacti will need a dry season just before that - do not water them during August.


4. Rhipsalis

Rhipsalis

Origin: Brazil – Rio de Janeiro

Name: Rhipsalis baccifera

Family: Cactaceae

Type: Cactus

Mature size: 6-24 inches

Hardiness zone: 10-11

Light: Full sun, partial shade

Water: Moderate moisture

Temperature: Hardy to 23°F

Soil: Acidic, loose, rich

Soil pH: 6.1-6.5

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Easy to grow, great for containers and hanging baskets.

Rhipsalis is another rainforest epiphyte with limited needs for lighting. They do best in rooms facing East, since they enjoy some morning sun, and then shade in the afternoon.

Rhipsalis would make a very attractive addition to your succulent collection because it is so unusual. Rhipsalis baccifera, or the mistletoe cactus has long, cylindrical stems covered in small branches. At first the stems will grow straight, but it will start branching later. They can grow to be really long and can produce awesome clusters of white flowers.

Rhipsalis can easily be set up in a hanging basket. Also, it’s love for humidity makes it a good candidate for bathroom setups.


5. Haworthia margaritifera, Pearl Plant, Zebra Cactus

Haworthia margaritifera, Pearl Plant, Zebra Cactus

Origin: South Africa, near Cape Town

Name: Haworthia margaritifera,

Family: Asphodeloideae

Type: Succulent

Mature size: 3″ in height, 6″ in across.

Hardiness zone: 11

Light: Partial shade or sunny but not direct

Water: Sparsely

Temperature: 75-90°F.

Soil: Cactus mix with good drainage

Soil pH: 6.6 to 7.5

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Small, highly decorative, sensitive to overwatering

The adaptation to indirect light is what makes Haworthia such a good choice for indoors, even if you don’t get much sunlight. Still, for the best result, it would be great if the plant could receive bright or even direct sunlight during a certain period of the day.

As with many succulents, overwatering is the main enemy of Haworthia. Be careful with watering, especially in combination with lower light conditions.

Hawortias are a large genus of attractive small succulents native to South Africa. In their natural habitat, most of them grow under bushes and rock overhangs, which means they are adapted to shade and partial shade.

Haworthia margaritifera is a highly attractive miniature plant. With it’s vivid deep dark green basic color and white markings, sometimes it looks more like some miniature Christmas Tree than a like a succulent.


6. Sedum morganianum, Burro’s Tail

Sedum morganianum (burro's tail)


Origin: Mexico, Honduras

Name: Sedum morganianum

Family: Crassulaceae

Type: Cactus

Mature size: 24 inches

Hardiness zone: 11

Light: Full day, partial shade

Water: Medium watering

Temperature: 41-47° F (minimum)

Soil: Well draining soil

Soil pH: 6.1-7.8

Flower Color: Pink-red

Special Features: Hanging, indoor

Here is a popular succulent, also known as the Donkey’s Tail. All that mentioning of tails makes a clear point - Sedum morganianum is another succulent with long, hanging stems. It is made even prettier by its unusual oval leaves that have a soothing pale green shade, and the pinkish flowers that pop out in the summer.


7. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Flaming Katy

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Flaming Katy

Origin: Madagascar

Name: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

Family: Crassulaceae

Type: Succulent

Mature size: 12-18 inches

Hardiness zone: 8

Light: Shaded spot

Water: Dry, doesn’t require much

Temperature: 50°F (minumum)

Soil: A potting mix that drains well

Soil pH: 6.1-7.8

Flower Color: Pink, orange, red, gold

Special Features: Rich bloom

One of the most popular succulents often encountered in supermarkets and commonly gifted even to non-succulent fans, the Florist Kalanchoe or the Flaming Katy offers bouquet-like flowerheads of vivid colors. That is why it makes a great table plant or a desk centerpiece.

Kalanchoe is very tolerant of low light, but truth to be told, it will grow and bloom the best if it is in a brighter spot. If you put your Flaming Katy in a spot with too little light, you risk that it will grow long and lanky. Some trial and error might be needed to find optimal conditions.


8. Hoya obovata, Wax Plant

Hoya obovata, Wax Plant

Origin: Southeast Asia (India, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines)

Name: Hoya obovata

Family: Apocynaceae

Type: Succulent, vine

Mature size: ??" (lenght)

Hardiness zone: 8-11

Light: Bright to medium, no direct sunlight

Water: Scarce, only when it starts losing turgidity

Temperature: 50 degrees F (minimal)

Soil: Well-drained fertile soil

Soil pH: 6.0-6.5

Flower Color: White-Red

Special Features: Climbing plant, waxy leaves dislikes draft

The Hoyas are probably the most popular climbing, vine-like succulents and therefore a very common, old-school houseplants.

Hoya obovata is one a relatively fast-growing and resilient succulents, with dark green, waxy, thick, round leaves featuring tiny discrete speckles.

In general, hoyas like to be in bright spots, but Hoya obovata is hardier than average, and its resilience includes being tolerant to moderate light. It dislikes direct sunlight.

Like with many succulents, the biggest killer of hoya plants is overwatering. Because their leaves are quite thick, they are able to.store a lot of water, so make sure they are running out of it before reaching out to water them some more.

Hoya obovata is also sensitive to draft, so avoid drafty and busy spots.


9. Sempervivum tectorum - Common Houseleek, Hens and Chicks

Sempervivum tectorum - Common Houseleek, Hens and Chicks

Origin: Southern Europe, Mediterranean

Name: Sempervivum tectorum

Family: Crassulaceae

Type: Succulent

Mature size: up to 6 in by 20 in

Hardiness zone: 3 - 11

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Scarce

Temperature: 65-75 degrees F. Anything above or below and can be tolerated, but the plant enters a semi-dormant state.

Soil: Any well-drained soil. Tolerates growing on poor soils, rocks, and even roofs.

Soil pH: 6.6 to 7.5

Flower Color: white to reddish

Special Features: Extremely resilient

As the Latin name suggests, Sempervivum are plants that are almost impossible to kill. The genus with about 40 species is very popular in gardens and in succulent container setups. It grows well outdoors where it will not be picky about its location, but can also be grown indoors.

It can survive an amazing length of time without water. However, like with any other succulent, the best way to kill Sempervivum is by overwatering it.

Sempervivum has numerous medicinal properties and it has been used in folk medicine to treat a vast range of alignments, from ear infections to warts.

Besides the common houseleek, there 40 species in the genus, and some of them make even more attractive houseplants, such as Sempervivum calcareum and Sempervivum arachnoideum.

Is Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) shade-tolerant?

In various articles about low light succulents, you will find the Jade plant on the lists.

However, the claim that Crassula is ideal for low light conditions is not entirely true.

Personally, I’ve tried to raise at least two Crassula ovata plants in moderately low-light conditions, and they failed miserably. On the other hand, the one in my office window (with no direct sun most of the day) did perfectly fine with similar care. Coincidence?

If you take into account some reputable resources, they mostly claim that they need some shade to protect them from too much direct sunlight. But still, the dominant opinion is that they do need a lot of brightness.

The confusion probably arose from the fact that Crassula is such a hardy plant. Still, "hardy" doesn't automatically mean that the plant is indefinitely tolerant of poor light. In low light conditions, Crassula becomes anything but a resilient plant, and it is highly likely to slowly wither away and rot in the end.

I am not arguing that it is completely impossible to keep the Jade plants in low light conditions successfully. However, it can become a much more sensitive plant when kept away from a decent light source.

The same misapprehensions apply to Echeverias, ponytail palm, and other succulents that get full sun in their natural surroundings.

To Take Away

There are many highly attractive succulents that you can grow in low-light conditions, as long as you respect the fact that “low light” doesn’t mean “no light”. It means typical indoor light, away from the windowsill. As you can see in this article, all of these plants have specific requirements, with epiphytic plants generally needing a bit more moisture than “regular” cacti.

So if you don’t have a lot of light in your home, but love succulents - no need to despair. You will be able to find a lot of lovely species to turn your place into a little succulent kingdom.

What’s the succulent that you would choose for a shady spot? Have you had any particular success with growing these species without a lot of light? Leave a comment and let us know about it!

Low Light Succulents That You Can Grow Indoors

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