While many succulents and cacti don’t need a lot of water to survive and thrive, the same is very rarely true when it comes to surviving and thriving in low-light conditions.
However, if you pick the correct succulent species, you can keep them in lower light. In general, for low-light locations, you want to look for succulents with lighter-colored leaves in greys or blue-greys rather than succulents with vibrant hues in purple, red, pink tinges or vibrant green. And if you can, rotate your plants to brighter locations from time to time to give them a boost of light.
Our top 13 succulents and succulent species for low-light conditions are:
- Aloe Varieties
- Jade Plant – Crassula Ovata
- Ponytail Palm Tree – Beaucarnea Recurvata
- Gasteria Varieties
- Haworthia Varieties
- Hoya Varieties
- Mother of Thousands – Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
- Scarlet Ball Cactus – Parodia Haselbergii
- Snake Plant – Sansevieria Varieties
- Holiday Cactus – Schlumbergera Varieties
- Crown Cactus – Rebutia Varieties
- Chain Cactus – Rhipsalis Paradoxa
It’s a real shame when people only consider succulents and cacti as outdoor plants. Many of us (me included) want to grow plants indoors where we can enjoy them more easily. And with the rise in apartment living, many of us don’t have the luxury of an outdoor garden space.
In reality, many people keep their succulents indoors where there’s much less direct sunlight.
Sure, you can keep them on a windowsill, but wouldn’t they also look great elsewhere around your decor? On a shelf or on a coffee table, maybe?
Some succulents are perfectly fine in low light, although they can do even better in brighter light. In an ideal world, you would rotate any succulent placed in a low-light environment to a brighter location from time to time.
So, if you have a bright windowsill and a couple of lower-light spots for your succulents, consider changing the location of each succulent every couple of months to ensure they get a period in the brighter location after their time in the darker spot.
Want photos? Here is our pick of 13 succulents and cacti that can do really well in low-light conditions.
The aloe genus comprises large tree-like species that can grow a staggering 30 feet high and small dwarf species and hybrids.
Over 600 species are considered to belong to the genus Aloe, with Aloe vera being the most widely known species.
They’re easy to recognize by their long, thick, fleshy leaves with a green or blue-green hue.
Many feature white flecks on the surface of the stems.
They often spread by producing offshoots and clusters.
Both the dwarf and the hybrid species can perform well indoors, as pot plants. Lace Aloe (Aristaloe Aristata or Aloe Vera are great plants for beginners.
Jade Plant – Crassula Ovata
The Jade Plant, Crassula Ovata, can tolerate low light levels. I have one on my desk, which is not a bright area, and it survives well.
Jade plants have firm, shiny, oval-shaped leaves that are dark-green in color. With woody branches, jade plants look like miniature trees.
They can flower in winter with clusters of small, white blooms that flower just above the leaves.
Crassula Ovata is a very resilient plant and perfect for beginners or those who know they’ll forget to water it!
Ponytail Palm Tree – Beaucarnea Recurvata
Don’t be fooled by the name – the ponytail palm tree is most definitely not a palm tree.
Also known as the elephant’s foot, it’s easily identified by its bulbous trunk, which is great for storing water, and the long, thin hair-like leaves that tend to flop downward, much like a ponytail.
If you decide to get one (or more) of these for your home or workspace, then be patient with it because it’s very slow-growing.
And also, bear in mind that they prefer bright light but can tolerate medium to low light for up to 6 months.
But critically, this species is under threat of extinction, so if you do get one, be sure to look after it.
Echeverias are quite a favorite of ours, with their gorgeous rosettes and layers of “petals”. And due to their beauty, there are a great many hybrid species around.
The rosettes can vary considerably across the genus. Some are on long stems with hanging rosettes, and others are tight and short-stemmed.
They are available in various hues and shades, and they can remain relatively small or grow to a generous 8 inches (20cm) wide.
Sometimes, the leaves are thin, sometimes thick, sometimes furry, and sometimes smooth.
Several species of echeveria can tolerate low light or partial shade. Look for the ones with lighter-colored leaves in grey or blue-grey. They’ll do better in low light than the more vibrantly colored purple, pink or bright green varieties.
Gasterias, like this one are easily identifiable by their thick, hard, succulent “tongue-shaped” leaves.
They’ve been nick-named ox-tongue, cow-tongue, and other names along this line for this very reason.
They come from South Africa, where they are predominantly distributed in both coastal areas and areas with lots of rainfall and shade.
Low light is not at all bad for gasteria, since most types would need at least some protection from intense heat or full sun. With too much sun, Gasterias will stress, and their tips will turn red.
They require little maintenance and grow best at room temperature in well-drained cactus compost and should be watered only sparingly.
Gasteria Little Warty is a great succulent for beginners, but there are a number of other low-maintenance gasteria types.
Haworthia is a large genus of dwarf succulents originating from South Africa. Their rosettes can have a variety of shapes and sizes, and there’s also considerable variety in the appearance of their leaves.
Many Haworthia leaves are dark, thick, tough and fleshy, while at the other end of the spectrum, there are soft, translucent, glassy-looking leaves.
Some Haworthia types are confused for aloe plants since they are so similar in appearance. The way to tell them apart is to run your finger along the leaf’s edge. If it’s smooth, it’s most likely a Haworthia, but if it has rough spikes or teeth, it is an aloe.
Many Haworthia species will grow well in low light conditions, and in fact, they will need some protection from the intense heat of the full sun.
Good choices include the Zebra Plant (Haworthia attenuata) or Haworthia cooperi.
Hoya plants have woody stems that can trail, like a vine. For that reason, they are typically placed in hanging baskets. The leaves can vary in both size and texture.
They are native to several parts of the globe, including Australia, East Asia, and Southern India. They are often referred to as wax plants or Hindu Rope.
Most hoya plants are succulents, but some are not. Some hoya plants have flowers shaped like five-pointed stars.
Hoya plants can handle partial shade. They do need protection from extremes of frost or intense heat.
They need regular water during active periods of growth, in the spring and summer. Water less in the winter to prevent rot. As soon as you see the leaves start to “pucker”, that’s when you should water them.
Pictured above is Hoya Kerri, the Sweetheart Hoya, easily distinguished by its beautiful heart-shaped leaves. Hoya Carnosa is another great plant for beginners.
Mother of Thousands – Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
Kalanchoe Daigremontiana originates from Madagascar.
They grow tiny plantlets on the edges of their leaves, which drop and grow just about anywhere they land.
Because of this, they are often referred to as Mother of Thousands.
They have thick, smooth, succulent leaves in various different shapes. The leaves can be smooth, and they can produce clusters of colorful blooms.
They are easy to grow and can survive low light conditions, making them suitable indoor plants.
That said, however, they prefer indirect bright light and can tolerate intense heat. They need well-draining soil and low humidity.
Scarlet Ball Cactus – Parodia Haselbergii
The Scarlet Ball Cactus is a popular ball-shaped cactus with silvery white spines that blooms showy deep orange flowers.
It’s a fast grower and a heavy bloomer that will flower for long periods of time and bloom regularly every year.
It’s native to Brazil and certain parts of South America. They are often solitary, but they can form clusters.
When it comes to caring for a scarlet ball cactus, it thrives best in direct, bright sun, but it can also survive in low-light conditions or in the shade. It needs protection from intense heat.
Snake Plant – Sansevieria Varieties
Sansevieria is a genus of 50+ varieties. They are native to southern Africa.
They are known by several names, including mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue, jinn’s tongue, bow string hemp, snake plant and snake tongue.
They have long leaves that point upwards and are usually green in color, while there are varieties with yellow edges also. They can live for over ten years and grow up to 5 feet tall.
One of the good things about Sansevieria is that they’re great for purifying the air by removing toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air. And because of this, they make for a popular houseplant.
They’re excellent succulents for beginners because they can tolerate neglect. They prefer medium to low indirect light – intense sun can damage them.
Holiday Cactus – Schlumbergera Varieties
This is another of our favorites. Schlumbergera is a distinctive, small genus of leafless cacti, with the green stems acting as the photosynthetic organs instead. They have pretty flowers that usually hang downward and have the appearance of a flower within a flower.
They are native to Brazil, where you will find them along the coastal mountains.
The most common varieties are the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera Bridgesii) and Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera Truncata), and they are called this simply because of when they bloom in the US and Europe (in the Northern Hemisphere)
Schlumbergera plants are relatively easy to care for. They are more tolerant of drought than many other houseplants. Like most cacti, they need to be watered only when the soil is dry.
Too much light causes stems to take on a reddish coloration; however, very low light levels will prevent flowering.
Crown Cactus – Rebutia Varieties
While Rebutia, also known as crown cactus, originate from Bolivia and Argentina, these days, they can be found in plant nurseries just about anywhere in the world. They tend to be small and globular, but they can also form large clusters.
We love the flowers they produce. They are often very showy and bright and relatively large in relation to the body of the cactus.
It does thrive best with at least some bright light, but it can easily survive indoors and with low light.
It requires very little watering, even for a cactus. You should always ensure the soil is almost bone dry before you water it again.
Chain Cactus – Rhipsalis Paradoxa
Rhipsalis are a rainforest species, mainly native to Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. They love plenty of moisture and cannot tolerate drought conditions, unlike most other cacti species.
In the rainforest, they naturally receive plenty of shade from the sun’s light, thanks to the dense tree branches that tend to hang over them.
Pictured above is Rhipsalis Paradoxa, a graceful plant with long, thread-like stems that can hang up to a staggering 9 meters long. It has several creamy-white flowers followed by fruits reminiscent of mistletoe.
They need shade or partial shade to grow well indoors and fast-draining soil.
We hope you’ve enjoyed browsing some of our favorite succulents and cacti for low-light conditions.
Other good options for low-light conditions include:
We’re sure you’ll agree there are some beautiful options for some of the less optimal plant-growing spots in your home.