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.
And this can be a real shame, because so 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?
Well, as long as you pick the correct plant, you can place your succulent away from a window. We’ve listed 12 succulents and cacti that can do really well in low light conditions.
The aloe genus is made up of both large tree-like species that can grow a staggering 30 feet high, and small dwarf species and hybrids.
There are over 600 species considered to belong under the genus of aloe, with aloe vera, the most widely known species.
They’re easy to recognize by their long, thick, fleshy leaves with their green to blue-green hue.
Many feature white flecks on the surface of the stems.
They often spread by producing offshoots and clusters.
In addition to their use for ornamental purposes, the really great thing about aloe plants is their widely known medicinal and cosmetic properties, and in skin care in particular.
Both the dwarf and the hybrid species can perform well indoors and as a pot plant or in the shade.
These are great plants for beginners.
Beaucarnea Recurvata (Ponytail Palm Tree)
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 in 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. They also need fast draining soil.
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 quite considerably across the genus. Some will be on long stems with hanging rosettes, and others will be tight and short-stemmed.
They come in a range of different hues and shades, and they can remain relatively small or grow to a generous 8 inches wide.
Sometimes the leaves are thin, sometimes thick, sometimes furry, and sometimes smooth.
Several species of echeveria can tolerate low light or partial shade. But if you do own one, you have to be careful not to over water it.
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 with lots of rainfall and shade.
Low light is ideal, since most species 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. And be sure to water the soil and not the leaves.
Hybrids occur easily and naturally, and they can be propagated by leaf cuttings.
Haworthia originate from South Africa, and is a large genus of dwarf succulents. 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 ones with soft, translucent, glassy-looking leaves, for better sunlight absorption.
Haworthia are often confused for aloe plants, since they are so similar in their 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, then 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.
Hoya plants are easily distinguished by their beautiful heart-shaped leaves, and how their wood-stem 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 far-reaching parts of the globe, including Australia, East Asia, and Southern India. They are often referred to as wax plants of Hindu Rope.
Most hoya plants are succulents, but some are not. Some hoya plants have flowers shaped like 5 pointed stars.
Hoya plants don’t need any direct sunlight, but partial shade is ok, though they will need protection from the likes of frost or intense heat.
They need regular water during active periods of growth, in the spring and summer, and they withhold water in the winter to prevent rot. As soon as you see the leaves start to “pucker”, that’s when you should water them.
Kalanchoe plants originate from Madagascar. They grow and multiply so easily – their plantlets easily root and grow just about anywhere they land.
Because of this, they are often referred to as “Mother of Thousands” or “Mother of Millions”.
They have thick, succulent leaves in various different shapes. The leaves can be smooth, but some can have fine, fuzzy hair. Better yet, they can produce clusters of colorful blooms.
They are very 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. Alternating darkness and bright light for several hours each day would be ideal.
They need well-draining soil and low humidity. To know when to water it, simply touch the soil, and if it feels dry, give it some water.
Parodia Haselbergii (Scarlet Ball Cactus)
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 looking after a scarlet ball cactus, they thrive best in direct, bright sun, but they can survive in low light conditions or in the shade. And they will need protection from intense heat.
They can do really well both indoors or outdoors. You should fertilize them in spring, when you should water them every 10 days, then more frequently in the summer, to once a week. Come fall, they’ll only need watering every 15 to 30 days.
Sansevieria (Snake Plant)
Sansevieria is a genus of about 70 species of succulent flowering plants. They are native to Madagascar and southern Asia.
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 years at a time 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.
This is another favorite of ours. Schlumbergera is a distinctive, small genus of cacti that are leafless, with the green stems acting as the photosynthetic organs instead, and pretty flowers that usually hang downwards, 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 and Thanksgiving Cactus, and they are called this simply because in Europe they were largely produced for sale in the period before Christmas, while in the US they were largely produced for sale in time for Thanksgiving.
Schlumbergera cultivars are said to be relatively easy to care for. They are more tolerant of drought than many other houseplants, but they do need moist soil.
Too much light causes stems to take on a reddish coloration; however, very low light levels will prevent flowering.
While Rebutia, also known as crown cactus, originate from Bolivia and Argentina, these days they can be found 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. Very similar in appearance to the old lady cactus.
Technically, 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 make sure that the soil is almost bone dry before you water it again.
So it’s safe to say that irregular watering and poor lighting, while not optimal, will not cause any real harm to it.
Rhipsalis is a rainforest plant, native to Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. And as such, they love plenty of moisture, and cannot tolerate drought conditions, quite unlike most other cacti genus.
And where they originate 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.
They are graceful plants with long thread-like stems and several creamy-white flowers followed by fruits that are reminiscent of mistletoe. And these stems can hang up to a staggering 9 meters long.
They need shade or partial shade in order to grow well indoors, and fast draining soil, and you should water them once a week, cutting back on the watering in the winter months.
They do not appreciate high temperatures, however, so this should be avoided.
We hope you’ve enjoyed browsing through 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. And now that you know about them, you can enjoy them in your own home.