Succulents are still one of the most popular indoor plants, but for those of us who lack bright, sunny places to display them, their growth can be a challenge. Most succulents crave as much sunlight as possible. However, if your house or apartment does not have sunny windows facing north, there is still hope. By choosing from the list of low-light succulents below, you can still successfully grow these precious indoor plants.
How much light do low-light succulents need?
In the northern hemisphere, south-facing windows can receive the most light in a day. The east-facing windows are brightest in the morning, and the west-facing windows get the sun in the afternoon and evening. The windows facing north have the least sunlight passing through them.
For most sun-hungry succulents in the northern hemisphere, south-facing windows are the best choice. However, all the low-light succulents discussed in this article are also happy to thrive in windows facing west or east. Some of them can even survive in dim north-facing windows, but I don't recommend this because although they will survive, they will certainly not thrive.
However, no succulents will survive the complete lack of light. Therefore, if you live in a basement apartment with only north-facing windows, or your space has no windows at all, consider buying small desktop grow lights for your succulents, even if they are many types of succulents that grow indoors in low light. When placing small grow lights above low-light succulents for 6 to 8 hours a day, you will be surprised how they perform. A good timer can save you from having to remember to turn on and off the lights every day.
Now that you know how much sunlight low-light succulents need, let me introduce you to some of the best succulents for low-light rooms.
The best low light succulents to grow as houseplants
I’ve divided my 12 favorite low light succulents into three groups:
Dracaena trifasciata/Sansevieria trifasciata. The snake plant is also known as mother-in-law’s tongue. This African native is among the toughest of all of the low light succulents. Even if you’ve killed plenty of houseplants before, give snake plant a try. There are dozens of different varieties, with some growing to 4 feet in height and more compact selections reaching just a few inches in height. The long, flat, sword-like leaves are green and can be covered in various markings and variegations depending on the variety. Watering needs are minimal and maintenance on this plant is pretty close to zero. Though snake plant grows best in bright light, it also does just fine in low light conditions, though it will not grow as quickly as it does in bright sun. Put the plant outdoors for the summer, on a patio or deck, if you can. As with other succulents, overwatering is the kiss of death.
Aloe. Oh, how I like this plant! I have kept several pots of this low-light succulent plant for about 8 years. The mother plant keeps producing pups (offset), and I often separate them, pot them and share them with friends. A succulent houseplant suitable for small areas, it is only 8 inches tall and stretches about a foot. Thick fleshy leaves can store water for a long time, so you only need to water them a few times a year. Be sure to use well-drained potting soil to grow aloe spear (a special cactus mixture is best). Likewise, this succulent works best under strong light, but it is also a successful low-light succulent, if you have one. When you water, be sure to only water the soil and, if possible, keep the rosettes of the leaves dry.
Echeveria spp. Among the most well-known succulents, echeverias has a variety of leaf colors and shapes. The variety is amazing. I personally find that gray/blue leaf varieties perform better than green, pink and purple leaf varieties under low light conditions. If echeverias do not receive enough light, their central stems will elongate and extend towards the sun. For this reason, if you can, you should aim for a position that has at least 4 hours a day. Turn the pot a quarter turn every few days to prevent the plants from stretching too far to one side. Echeverias does not require much attention from growers. In fact, they seem to perform better when you ignore them, at least in remembering watering. I plant a few in my office in winter (they are on the terrace in summer) and only water them twice throughout the winter.
Longevity flower. The leaves of these low-light succulents are covered with soft hairs, and neither adults nor children can resist touching them. The panda plant is a succulent plant that is fairly easy to grow. It is about 18 inches tall and has a narrow spread. The stems are thick and they will elongate more in low light than in high light. I halve it several times a year to keep my growth habit thicker. The leaves are gray-green, with brown accents near their tips.
Ox tongue plant
Gasteria prolifera. I love the form of this plant, with its broad, thick leaves emerging in pairs from the central growing point. Be sure to use a coarse, well-draining potting soil for the ox tongue plant (and for all succulents, really). Ox tongues grow in light shade in their native African habitat, so they’ll readily adapt to low light levels in the home. The leaves often have patterns and markings on them, adding another element of interest. Always let the potting soil dry out completely in between waterings, and in the winter, they require even less water than during the summer months. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find one of the more unique varieties of these low light succulents that has yellow variegation or streaking on the leaves.
Haworthiopsis attenuate. This is the perfect succulent for beginners. Zebra haworthia or zebra plant handles high light, low light, and pretty much everything in between. The slender, spike-tipped leaves are green with white ridges, and they resemble a more petite aloe. The small offsets readily produced by the plants are easily divided and potted up to live on their own. Zebra plants are slow growers, and they do lean toward the sun in low-light areas. As a result, turn the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep their growth even. Keep watering to a minimum; at most once a month.
Rhipsalis spp. The skinny, finger-like leaves of mistletoe cactus are fleshy and needleless, and they cascade down from the center of the plant. Though they are succulent, mistletoe cacti are a native of the South American rainforest where they grow up in the trees as epiphytes. Unlike most true cacti, they don’t like full sun and they don’t like dry conditions. Morning or evening sun is ideal for these low light succulents. There are several different species grown as houseplants. Unlike the other succulents for low light on this list, this one needs to be watered regularly. However, care should be taken not to overwater either. If the soil is dry to the touch, water. If it feels damp, hold off a few more days.
Low light succulents for hanging planters
String of hearts
Ceropegia woodii. If I had to pick a favorite low light succulent for a hanging basket, I would choose string of hearts. They match their common name to a T, bearing tiny, variegated, heart-shaped leaves along string-like stems that cascade down in delicate trails. Sometimes also called the rosary vine, the stems produce little bulbils along their length, making them look like beads on a string. It’s a very easy houseplant to grow and may even produce tiny brown/pink trumpet-like flowers from time to time. The vines reach up to 3 feet in length. Water these low light succulents sparingly, allowing the soil to completely dry between waterings. They’ll thrive in both high and low light conditions, though blooming only occurs with ample sunlight.
String of pearls
Senecio/Curio rowleyanus. Another hanging succulent for low light conditions, string of pearls and its close cousins string of bananas (Senecio radicans) and string of tears (Senecio citriformis), are real attention grabbers. Looking quite literally like little green bubbles, the leaves occur on slender hanging stems that cascade down the side of hanging planters. Or, try growing them in a colorful pot and placing them on a bookshelf or plant stand where they can trail down to the ground. Their succulent nature means minimal watering is needed, and though they’ll thrive in high light levels, they also make a great low light houseplant too.
Sedum morganianum. These fun and funky low light succulents are about as easy to grow and propagate as you can get. Each fallen leaf readily develops roots and eventually grows into a whole new plant. They do prefer ample light, but also grow well with lower light levels. Water more in the summer than you do in the winter when overwatering causes the plant to rot. Their water-filled leaves occur densely along the stems and are a beautiful dusty green. The stems trail over the sides of pots and hanging planters beautifully. Burro’s tails are surprisingly fragile, so don’t be surprised if leaves and stems regularly fall off the plant with just a brush of your hand. Not to worry, though, because you can simply pick up the fallen bits, stick them into soil and make more plant babies in a jiffy.
Flowering low light succulents
Hoya When I was young, my mother had a wax tree, and I will never forget when it first bloomed. The whole kitchen is filled with the most wonderful fragrance. Although wax plants are not reliable bloomers, you won't forget them quickly when they swagger. Clusters of waxy star-shaped flowers appear along the stem. These semi-succulent plants have long vines with medium green leaves. Hoyas is a good trailing plant, or can train vines to grow and go over windows. In their native habitat, these plants are epiphytes with roots on branches, rather than growing in the soil and vines, vines passing through the branches. Hoyas is not a low-light succulent that is difficult to care for, but don't water the soil too much or the plants may rot. Choose potting soil that contains pine bark, perlite, and peat to best mimic its epiphytic habits. There are dozens of species and cultivars to choose from-this is a very good plant.
Schlumbergera truncata and S. x bukleyi. These familiar holiday plants are succulents suitable for low-light conditions. Schlumbergera is native to tropical forests in South America. It has leafless stems and flat segments. The segments of S. truncata (Thanksgiving cactus) have blunt tips and jagged edges. S. x bukleyi (Christmas cactus) has rectangular pieces with wavy edges. As an epiphyte in its native habitat, S. truncata usually blooms around Thanksgiving in the United States. S. x buckleyi is one of its hybrids and is called Christmas cactus because it blooms in about a month. Both of these holiday cacti are excellent low-light succulents. Their flowers bloom beautifully. However, unlike many other succulents, these plants require regular watering, but their roots should not be located in moist soil.
More low-light succulents
With these beautiful low-light succulents, you can even light up the darkest corners of the room. For more succulents and other indoor plants that thrive in low light, we recommend the book "Growing in the Dark" by our friend Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.