Banish the thought that the different types of succulents need full sun to thrive in.More than a few succulents that can does well in low light.
Many succulents actually prefer bright, indirect light as opposed to full sun.But in this article we introduce succulents that thrive in sun-deprived rooms.
This makes them ideal for apartment dwellers and people with limited garden space. So even if you have filled up all your bright, sunny areas indoors you can still grow these low-light succulents in spaces that don’t get quite as much light.
Here is the list of 17 easy-to-grow, succulents that don't need light to thrive, that I will discuss in this article.(I’ve also added their individual growing requirements and a fun fact or two about some of them.)
But first, let me explain what “low-light conditions” are.
Basically, direct sunlight means the sun has no obstructions in reaching the plant and this usually occurs outdoors. Once indoors, most light can be considered “indirect”, even though an area may still be bright and sunny.
Low-light conditions refer to areas away from window sills, like on a dining room table, or a shelf against a far wall. But bright, filtered light is not low-light.
Low-light areas are often north-facing or in rooms that are darkened by outside shadows, from trees or other buildings.
So, you can have filtered light in a bright area (outdoors under a tree or indoors on a window sill). Or filtered light in a low-light area that does not get any “direct” sun during the day.
Low-light is not “no light”. So when you grow low-light plants in rooms with no windows at all, you may need to supply the succulent with 6 – 10 hours of light from an artificial light of some kind.
And a last tip, if you are displaying succulents in low-light conditions, it can only do them good to sometimes move them to an area that gets brighter, filtered light. Or set up an area with a grow light or two.
Every now and then, before your plants start to look pale and scraggly, boost them with additional light for a week or two and then return them to the low-light. This will extend the pot life of low-light succulents. Do this during the succulents growth phase.
Now that we have shone a “little light” on the issue – the LIST!!
17 Stylish Succulents That Actually Thrive In Low Light
Aloes, Haworthias and Gasterias
These three genera are related and can cross-pollinate to form rare and unusual hybrids. The hybrids are even more tolerant of low-light than the pure species and if you are a keen collector it is well worth the extra initial outlay to buy some of the hybrids available.Be warned though….collecting these beauties is addictive. (speaking from experience, LOL!) The upside is that soon you will have pups and the initial money spent is well worth it.
And if they don’t produce pups they can be easily propagated. (See How To Propagate Succulents)
There is a lot of controversy in relation to name changes and restructuring the taxonomy of certain aloes and haworthias.For the purpose of this article, I am keeping it simple and will use the old familiar names, with the new names in brackets.
Aloes come in all shapes and sizes. You will find dwarf and miniature species, that grow no bigger than 5 cm, to trees of over 10 meters in length! The smaller species are well suited to containers and can take low-light conditions well. Look out for Gasteraloes (cross between gasteria and aloe), they do exceptionally well in low-light.
1: Aloe Vera (Medicinal Aloe, Barbados Aloe)
This is by far the most popular and well-known aloe. The gel inside the thick, fleshy green leaves are full of healing properties.
General Care for Aloe vera
- Light – Bright, filtered light to thrive. If in low light area, a small indoor light will keep it looking fresh and fleshy.
- Water – Water once a week, let it dry out between waterings.
- Soil – Well-drained
- Feeding – Use a seaweed based organic liquid fertilizer. Feed fortnightly during summer months.
- Humidity/Temperature – Aloes prefer dry air so no extra humidity is needed. Cooler temperatures are preferred in winter with a minimum of 10°C (50°F)
- Decor tip – Display in pot on sills. Plant in mixed planter along with a trailing species and rosette species of succulent.
2: Aloe variegata (Partridge-Breasted Aloe, Gonialoe variegata)
This dwarf sized aloe has coral, tubular flowers in late winter, early spring. Its leaves are spiraled in three ranks. It really does do well in low lit areas and doesn’t need much attention. When it blooms it adds a lovely subtle ambiance to a room or desk.
General Care for Aloe variegata
- Light – Filtered light or low light with grow lamp is ideal.
- Water – Give plentiful water in summer months, during growth phase. Water less in winter.
- Soil – Well-drained
- Feeding - Feed every two weeks during active growth phase. Use standard liquid fertilizer.
- Humidity/Temperature – This aloe tolerates dry air and needs no extra humidity. Lower winter temperatures are good but not less than 12°C (55°F)
- Decor tip – Plant in attractive ceramic or clay pot and display on ledge, sill or mantle. Will brighten up any low-light area with it’s foliage and flowers. Perfect for office or work desk.
3: Aloe aristata (Lace Aloe, Aristaloe aristata)
This small aloe is very attractive and produces dense rosettes, with raised, white spotted markings.
General Care for Lace Aloe
- Light – Enjoys low-light or filtered light, keep out of direct sunlight.
- Water- Water once a week, allow to dry out between waterings. Water less in winter.
- Soil – Well-drained
- Feeding – Every two weeks with standard liquid fertilizer, only during active growth phase.
- Humidity/Temperature – Tolerates dry air well. Likes cool winter temps and can go as low as 7°C (45°F).
- Decor tip – Leave offshoots to mature on plant so that a beautiful, spreading clump forms. Display on desk or in bare, low-light corner of a room.
4: Haworthia margaritifera (Pearl Plant, Tulista pumila)
Low-growing with liberal spottings of raised white bumps on its fleshy, dark green leaves, both on the inner and outer parts of the leaves. Long flower stalk with greenish-white tubular flowers in midsummer.
General Care for Haworthia margaritifera
- Light – Low-light or filtered light
- Water – Moderate water in summer, Water sparingly in winter.
- Soil – If you grow this plant in a soil-based potting mix, feeding is unnecessary.
- Humidity/Temperature – Normal room temperature is good but provide winter rest period at around 10°C (50°F). It likes high humidity so stand the pot on a tray of moist pebbles.
- Decor tip – Great in clay pots to cheer up dark corners and shelves. Or place in arrangement with an assortment of small, individual pots of varying shapes, heights and colors.
5: Haworthia attenuata (Haworthia fasciata, Zebra plant,Haworthiopsis attenuata)
The H.fasciata is the less common of the two. There is a slight difference between the two species and it is easy to buy a plant that has been mislabeled. H. fasciata has a smoother inner leaf.Both plants have white, bumpy tubercles that give the outer leaves an appearance of stripes, hence the name Zebra plant.
This plant will form rosettes and clump, which adds to its pot appeal.
General Care for Haworthia attenuata "Zebra plant"
- Light – Low-light or indirect, filtered light although they do grow well in sunny outdoor areas if they are watered well.
- Water – Don’t over water and always give less water in the dormant growth phase which is during winter months
- Soil – Use a soil based potting mix if you prefer not to feed.
- Feeding – If the growing medium is not soil based, feed fortnightly with a standard liquid fertilizer. Only feed in active growth period
- Humidity/Temperature – Likes humidity. Stand in a pebbled tray and keep pebbles moist. Can take winter temperatures as low as10°C (50°F)
- Decor tip – Stand alone or group with other pots. Adds contrast to mixed arrangements.
6: Gasteria bicolor var. liliputana
This adorable little gasteria can be described as having “chubby” leaves. Its dark green leaves are variegated with white raised bumps in the center of each leaf as well as white, bumpy, raised margins around the round edged leaves. It can fill a 4” pot to start with.
In fact the leaves of this species won’t get much larger than 4” long and 2” wide.
It is extremely slow growing but when it eventually does start producing pups, it can be split and planted into individual growing pots or potted as a whole, into a decorative ceramic or clay pot, where it will make a very attractive display with all the little offshoots adding to its charm.
General Care for Gasteria bicolor
- Light – Low-light or filtered light.
- Water – Let pot dry out between waterings
- Soil – Well drained. Grows in rock crevices in its natural habitat
- Feeding – Will benefit from regular feeding during the growth phase.
- Humidity/Temperature - Can take moderate frost.
- Decor Tip - Looks great in rockeries. Plant into a shell or piece of driftwood.
7: Gasteraloe “Green Ice” Hybrid
This is one of many gasteria x aloe hybrids and as such it also tolerates low light well. The requirements are the same as for the G.bicolor.
I have added this to the list because it is one of a growing number of varieties that are becoming available online, making it easier for want-to-be collectors to start their collection wherever they are.
The only caution I would offer is that when you buy these plants online make sure it will arrive within a week to ten days.
If it takes longer than that, the health of the plant (which will probably arrive bare-rooted) will be in jeopardy.
General Care for Gasteraloe “Green Ice”
- Light – Prefers low-light or indirect filtered light. If it appears to start losing it’s variegated effect then move it to a better lit area. This applies to all variegated plants.
- Water – Water sparingly but do give it a good soak through. Water even less in winter.
- Soil – Well-drained sand or loam. You can add 1 part leaf mold to 1 part sand and 1 part loam.
- Feeding – Not needed if using a mix like the one I mention here.
- Humidity/Temperature– There is no need to provide extra humidity. It can take cooler temperatures in winter, just like the G.bicolor and the G.batesiana.
- Decor – Makes a good desk plant. Will add appeal to dark shelves in north-facing rooms or out on a patio or balcony. As long as it does not get direct sunlight this species will grow and flower in filtered light too.
8: Gasteria batesiana ‘Variegata’ or Ox-tongue
G.batesiana is a larger species than G.bicolor or G.bicolor var. liliputana. The leaves of G.bicolor are smooth and leaves appear opposite each other, as opposed to forming a rosette. The G.batesiana has rough, triangular, lanceolate leaves. Hence its common name, ox-tongue.
General Care for Gasteria batesiana ‘Variegata’
- Light – In the wild it thrives in shady spots, growing on step cliffs or between rocks. Indoors, low light is ideal.
- Water – Water moderately in summer months and much less in winter, during dormant growth phase.
- Soil – Sand or loam with added leaf mold is ideal
- Feeding – Only feed if you see the leaves turning a brown color, from the outer edge in. Use standard liquid nitrogen based fertilizer.
- Humidity – It may want some extra humidity in summer months. Use a mist spray or stand on a pebbled tray during hot months.
- Decor tip – In a pot on a north facing wall or room. Looks great displayed alongside other smaller succulents. Makes a striking appearance when potted in a white pot and placed in a spot with white or gray walls.
9: Sedum morganianum (Donkey’s Tail)
This striking succulent produces trailing stems that grow up to 3 ft (1m) long. They can take low light in the case of outdoor growing, when planted in window boxes on north facing walls.
General Care for Sedum morganianum
- Light – From direct sunlight to bright filtered light or dappled shade.
- Water – Water moderately in summer and sparingly in winter.
- Soil – Plant into pots using cacti succulent soil mix.
- Feeding – If using a ready made mix specifically for succulents, you won’t need to feed for the first year.
- Humidity/Temperature – Most Sedum species enjoy a light humidity over dry air and can take temperatures as low as 10°C (50°F) during its winter rest period.
- Decor tip – Plant in hanging baskets or window boxes. Old guttering makes the perfect container for these trailing succulents
10: Crassula ovata or Jade Plant and Crassula ovata hybrids (like Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’)
This Crassula species has a compact form with firm, ovate shaped leaves, which are shiny and green. Hence the common name ‘Jade Plant’.
Outdoors in perfect conditions, a single plant can reach up to 2m in height.As a pot plant it will take a long time to get too big for a pot. Although eventually it will need to be transplanted out in a bright sunny spot.
It produces masses of tiny pink flowers that grow in clusters, at times covering the whole bush. It will not flower prolifically, if at all, when grown indoors in low light. It will however make a very striking foliage plant for a time.
General Care for Jade Plant
- Light – Prefers bright, unfiltered light but grows well in lower lit areas for a season or two.
- Water – Water moderately in summer and sparingly in winter. (Complete guide about watering jade plant)
- Soil – It is not fussy with soil as long as it drains well.
- Feeding – Feed with standard liquid fertilizer mixed to half the specifications, once a month during active phase.
- Humidity/Temperatures C.ovata is drought resistant ans as such can take dry air. In winter temperatures can go as low as 10°C
- Decor Tip – Pot as part of a mixed planter or plant into a terracotta pot.
11: Kalanchoe tomentosa (Panda Plant)
This plant has velvet-to-the-touch leaves. They are gray-blue in color with deep brown, almost reddish, markings on the margins of the top part of the leaves.It is easy to care for and when given adequate light and water takes on compact growth habit.
General Care for Kalanchoe tomentosa
- Light – prefers bright filtered light but can take low light for short periods (up to 3 months at a time).
- Water – Water sparingly in winter and allow to dry out between waterings.
- Soil – well drained
- Feeding – once a month
- Humidity/Temperature – Likes dry air, keep at normal room temperature. Can go as low as 10°C in rest periods
- Decor tip – the unusual, texture and color of leaves makes this a perfect foliage plant for individual pots. Add top dressing of bright white pebbles to accentuate the plant’s foliage.
12: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (Flaming Katy)
This flower is grown for its vibrant, colored, long lasting flowers.
Once it has finished flowering, cut back and plant outdoors or move to a bright indoor area.
General Care for Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
- Light – Only place in low light when in full bloom. It prefers full sun or bright filtered light.
- Water – Water well in summer and during flowering. After flowering water sparingly.
- Soil – Well-drained
- Feeding – Only needed once a year to boost buds. Use a general 3:1:5 or 3:2:3 fertilizer.
- Humidity/Temperatures – Normal room temperature and dry air.
- Decor Tip – Liked for its bright, cluster of tiny, prolific, long lasting flowers.
13: Sansevieria trifasciata (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)
This is the star of the low light succulent show. The narrow pointed upright leaves and clumped growing formation make striking feature displays in low light areas.
Not only can the Snake Plant tolerate very low light conditions, it also acts as an air purifier.
General Care for Sansevieria trifasciata
- Light – Versatile plant that tolerates low light right through to filtered light and even direct sunlight.
- Water – Moderate water during active growth, less in colder seasons.
- Soil – Well-drained
- Feeding – Standard fertilizer, preferably liquid or slow release pellets. Feed once a month during spring and summer.
- Humidity/Temperature – Can take minimum temperatures of 12°C (55°F)
- Decor Tip – Plant into 30cm planter or larger. Ideal in dark corners or office environment.
A note on Sedum, Kalanchoe and Crassula
Sedum Kalanchoe, Crassula, Senecio and Echevaria. These are all herbaceous succulents from temperate regions but only a few of them will do well in low-light.
When we talk about succulents that prefer low-light we refer to succulents that can grow in this light without the aid of artificial lighting.As such, plants like Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Kalanchoe tomentosa (Panda Plant) and Senecio rowleyanus will not survive, over the long term, in low light conditions. Short term though, they will do fine. Move these plants to a brighter area during the active growth phase, or supply with artificial light from a grow lamp.
I came across many sites that are toting plants like these as low light plants. But they actually prefer indirect, filtered light, or dappled shade.
If growing outdoors they will enjoy early morning and late afternoon sun.So therefore they are not succulents that enjoy low light exclusively.
But there are always a few plants from each genus, like the ones I mention next, that grow beautifully in low light for short periods of time.
If left in low light conditions for too long the new growth will be disappointing in both color and form.
These pants will benefit from more light during the active growth phase and can be moved to low light areas during the winter rest period.
Epiphytic Jungle Cacti That Thrive In Low-Light
The next group of low-light loving succulents thrive in the treetops of rain forests. And they are all native to South America, Brazil specifically.
They enjoy high humidity and low light.
In their natural climes they often grow in soiless conditions. This makes them epiphytes. They will wedge between the forked branches of tall forest trees. Here they get ample shade and rely on the humid conditions of the jungle for moisture.
They therefore make really suitable house plants for low light conditions.
14: Schlumbergera truncata or Claw Cactus/Crab Cactus
Formerly known as Zygocactus, this plant has segmented stems with notched prickly edges.Bright, rose-pink flowers appear in late autumn or early winter.
General Care for Schlumbergera truncata
- Light – Grow in medium to low light most of the year and move to filtered light during winter. Don’t change light level when in bud or bloom to avoid buds or flowers from falling off.
- Soil – Rich, porous soil.
- Water – Water plentifully most of the year. Allow a break from watering once flowering stage is over.
- Feeding – Once a month during spring to autumn. Use liquid fertilizer. Never apply fertilizer to dry soil as roots may burn.
- Humidity/Temperatures – Normal room temperature and high humidity.
- Decor Tip – Plant into hanging baskets to show off the attractive flowers.
15: Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri x rosea
There are only two species in this genus. Like the Crab Cactus it is epiphytic. Today, most plants available commercially are hybrids of R.gaertneri and R.rosea. They produce showy flowers which grow from the tips of the stems, making them ideal for indoor hanging baskets.
General Care for Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri x rosea
- Light – Prefers low-light as this mimics the natural habitat.
- Soil – Being epiphytic means no soil is needed. Plant in hanging basket in with sphagnum peat moss and well drained soil.
- Water – Keep moist all the time but only if soil drains well.
- Feeding – Once a month during growing season. Use a general 3:2:3 fertilizer.
- Humidity/Temperature – Likes high humidity. Use mist spray between waterings to achieve this.
- Decor Tip – Great for hanging baskets or in a pot on a pedestal, where the foliage can hang down and show off flowers.
16: Rhipsalis baccifera or Mistletoe Cactus
This amazing cactus is an epiphyte with cylindrical stems that get to lengths of up to 3m (10ft). It has freely producing flowers that sometimes cluster together at one areole. It grows high up in forest trees where it can absorb moisture and nutrients from its immediate surroundings.
It loves humidity and deep shade, and as such makes the ideal hanging basket plant for a bathroom.
General Care for Rhipsalis baccifera
- Light Morning sun with deep afternoon shade is good.
- Soil To make your own mix add 2 parts peat moss to 1 part bark (or vermiculite) and 1 part coarse sand. A well drained slightly acidic soil is preferred.
- Water Although a well drained soil should prevent this from happening.
- Feeding Cut back to once a month when buds appear.And don’t feed in the rest period, after blooms have stopped flowering.
- Decor Tip Brighten up dark corners by placing on a pedestal where it can show off its long stems.
17: Zamiocalcus zamiifolia or Zanzibar Gem or ZZ Plant
This is a rhizomatous perennial. It gets up to 60cm tall. It is a plant that will thrive in low light but must not be left without water for extended periods. It is a tough plant but if you don’t care for it properly it will not flourish. When it is healthy the leaves are shiny and leathery and the stem will be slightly swollen at the base.
Unlike succulents that store water in the stems and leaves, the ZZ plant is a succulent that stores water in its rhizome. Leaf drop will occur if left without water for too long. The glossy, pinnate leaves are a feature and it does not recover well once leaves have dropped.
When given enough food and water it gets to be a real feature plant and becomes multi-stemmed.
It is a plant that can travel well so ordering online is not risky at all.
General Care for ZZ Plant
- Light – This plant does well in a wide range of light conditions but do avoid direct sunlight.
- Soil – Well drained soil.
- Water – Water regularly. It prefers to be in moist soil even though it is tough enough to withstand neglect, within reason.
- Feeding – Feed with a liquid, seaweed based fertilizer or a nitrogen based one. (3:2:1). Feed once a month during growth phase.
- Humidity/Temperature – This beauty can take a range of weather conditions, but avoid direct sunlight.
Wrapping Up – Where to get low-light succulents
As you can see, there are quite a few succulents that prefer low-light and many more that can tolerate it.As long as they receive a boost now and then with artificial or filtered light.
Succulents remain the most versatile, easy to grow plants.Their popularity never wanes and the variety is endless.
If your local garden center doesn’t stock a wide variety of low-light succulents, fret not!.
The number of reputable suppliers online is increasing all the time. And once you have your first specimen, you can almost be guaranteed that they will produce pups. Especially when cared for properly.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.