Succulents For Low Light

There are a handful of succulents that will tolerate low-light.

There are a handful of succulents that will tolerate low-light.

If you are reading this, then you most likely have experienced what happens to succulents when you ignore what you read on the tag or what that lady at the garden center said - succulents need bright light, and lots of it! So, you smile and nod and drive home with your new little echevaria and promptly place it in your dim, damp bathroom. Roughly two weeks later you notice one of the following things: 

  • Your little echevaria isn't so little anymore. In fact, it is about 2 feet tall and beginning to take over your toothbrush.

  • It has taken on this sickly colour, sort of like vomit.

  • It has turned into a pile of mush.

  • It has completely disappeared?

A leggy succulent searching for light.

A leggy succulent searching for light.

We have all been there, I've been there, many times. Right plant (for you) wrong place (for it). The tallness and fading/gross colour is from lack of light. The mushyness/disappearance is from too much water and not enough evaporation. So, let's set ourselves up for success and look at some succulents that will tolerate low light! But first let's establish some ground rules:

  1. Plants need full spectrum light, either from the sun or from special light bulbs called grow lights. No, not your mid-century-mod chandelier with LED's.

  2. All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti. In order for a succulent to be classified as a cactus, it must have areoles - small round cushion-like mounds where the spines come out.

  3. Bright, indirect light is a nice bright location where sunlight may be near, but never touch the plant. Direct light is a location where the sun may shine on the plant for 4+ hours. Low light is a location far from, yet still in view of a window and northern exposure.

Keeping these three things in mind, here are some succulent genera that will tolerate low light!

Hawarthia

This is a large genus from South Africa, related to the Aloe. They do exceptionally well in low light, yet require more water than most other succulents and will begin to turn red/orange if stressed.


Gasteria

This Hawarthia and Aloe relative is super easy to grow and comes in some wacky shapes and colours.


Rhipsalis

One of my favorite succulents! This guy is an epiphytic (grows on the surface of other plants) cacti found in tropical rain forests, and therefore needs adequate humidity.


Hatiora salicornioides

 A woodier cousin to Rhipsalis with a more sprawling upright habit, giving it an underwater coral reef vibe.


Cactus

Cacti grow best when they receive 4+ hours of sunlight a day, but they will tolerate lower levels. Just don't expect to see it flower or mature in your lifetime.