Sunlight, together with water, is a basic fundamental need for most plants to grow, thrive, and survive. But since succulents are often grown indoors and are considered highly adaptive plants, most people cannot help but wonder if they also need sunlight in the first place.
Can succulents grow without sunlight, then?
Succulents are photosynthetic plants that require sunlight for energy, which means that they cannot live with no sunlight. But a lot of low-light friendly succulents can comfortably survive even with just grow lights or without proper sunlight exposure.
If you have low-light-friendly succulents, these can manage to grow and survive under poor sunlight exposure even if no artificial grow lights are provided. However, the plants won’t grow vibrantly and won’t thrive even if they barely manage to survive.
Why Succulents Cannot Grow Without Sunlight
All types of succulents need sunlight for food production and acquiring energy that will help them perform different activities that will allow them to stay alive.
Plants, unlike humans, can produce their own food through photosynthesis. However, they need a sufficient amount of sunlight for this to happen. This means that if the source of sunlight is blocked, the plants will have to try their best in adjusting to the lower light conditions.
Most succulents in their native conditions grow under abundant amounts of bright sunlight. This means that even if they are used to water deficiency and they have adapted well to conserving water down to the last drop, succulents haven’t really evolved to the point that they can put up with the absence of sunlight.
Some plants such as the members of the genus Orobanche usually grow under very low light conditions, making them well adapted to the conditions since they don’t depend on photosynthesis for food production, switching instead to parasitic nature.
To put it simply, succulents cannot live with completely no sunlight at all. Most succulents will die out of starvation under low light conditions. While others may live, they will definitely not thrive under these conditions.
How Long Can Succulents Grow Without Sunlight?
Most succulents can live and grow without sunlight for 10 up to 14 days with no major signs of stress. But any time after this mark is already unknown territory and will completely depend on the specific type of succulent.
Succulents are used to growing under extreme conditions which makes them very hardy compared to other plants. These plants may survive for several weeks with no sunlight before they give up again entirely dependent on the succulent type in question.
If you are trying to grow sun-friendly succulents that prefer 6 hours of bright sunlight in a room that is completely dark, you will notice acute symptoms of malnourishment in just a matter of a week and will die in the next few days.
On the other hand, if you grow low-light friendly succulents in the same dark room, they may be able to last longer. But by longer, this means anywhere around 8 to 16 days before they start to show acute symptoms of discomfort.
This means that if you are planning to ship your succulents inside a completely dark box, you need to try to do it within a maximum period of 7 to 10 days.
What Happens to Succulents Under Low Light?
Succulents grown under extremely low light conditions will become leggy and the overall development or growth will stop. The leaves will also start losing their color.
Generally speaking, succulent plants are highly adaptive. They will initially do their best and try to adapt to the low light conditions. But if there is really low availability of light, after just a few days, the plant will start showing signs of Etiolation or will stretch out to the source of light.
It is like the plant’s desperate attempt to reach for more sunlight by growing taller. This stretching out is the most obvious sign that the plant is in poor health, and you need to put it somewhere else right away.
You will also notice some signs of leaf discoloration and stunted growth. The leaves will also look pale and will often turn yellow once the chlorophyll pigments begin to fade due to the absence of sunlight. They will then start to fall off soon.
The plant will also lose its vibrancy with an ill appearance. Since the sunlight has been compromised, the production of food will be low as well, with the succulent starting to shed branches and leaves since it no longer has the necessary energy to maintain each of its parts.
How Much Sunlight Do Succulents Need to Grow?
Not all types of succulents have the same requirements for sunlight. However, it is safe to say that many succulents do well if they get indirect sunlight for approximately 4 to 6 hours daily.
Some succulents prefer over 6 hours of sunlight while others can survive for less than 2 hours of available sunlight. The specific amount of sunlight that a succulent will need is entirely dependent on the type or variety. Some also prefer full sun while others love indirect sun instead.
If you plan to grow your succulents indoors, you can put them in windows that face south or east since these areas get the most amount of sun, and there, your plants can look after themselves properly.
How to Look After Succulents Growing Without Sunlight
If you keep your succulents in terrariums, in glass containers, or special arrangements, you need to keep them indoors. Many people typically love keeping these plants in offices where there is no sunlight.
When you plan to keep your succulents without sunlight, you need to care for them properly to ensure that they will grow and thrive. Below are a few things you can do for proper maintenance of succulent plants:
- Avoid overwatering your succulents.
- Fertilize your plants.
- Give your succulents good airflow.
- Use quality potting soil.
- Keep your succulent plants under alternative sources of light.
The next time you want to grow some succulents, make sure you give them the sunlight they need for them to thrive and survive for a long time.