Succulents remain among the most popular houseplants, but for those of us who lack a bright, sunny location to display them, they can be a challenge to grow. Most species of succulent plants crave as much sunshine as they can get. However, if your house or apartment lacks a sun-filled, north-facing window, there’s still hope. By selecting from the following list of low light succulents, you’ll still be able to grow these treasured houseplants with success.
How much light do low light succulents need?
In the northern hemisphere, south-facing windows receive the greatest amount of light throughout the course of the day. Windows that face east are brightest in the morning and those that face west receive sun in the afternoon and evening. North-facing windows have the least amount of sun streaming through them.
For most sun-craving succulent plants here in the northern hemisphere, a south-facing window is the best choice. However, all of the low light succulents discussed in this article gladly thrive in a west- or east-facing window too. A few of them will even survive in a dim, north-facing window, but I don’t recommend it because while they will survive, they definitely won’t thrive.
No succulent will survive with a complete lack of light, though. So, if you live in a basement apartment, have only a north-facing window, or if your space has no windows at all, consider purchasing a small tabletop grow light for your succulent plants, even if they are varieties of succulents that grow in low light. You’ll be amazed at how well low light succulents do when a small grow light is stationed over them for 6 to 8 hours a day. A good timer keeps you from having to remember to turn the lights on and off every day.
Now that you know how much sun low light succulents need, let me introduce you to some of the best succulents for rooms that don’t have much light.
The best low light succulents to grow as houseplants
I’ve divided my 12 favorite low light succulents into three groups:
- Varieties to display on a tabletop, desk, bookshelf, or bedside table
- Low light succulents that grow beautifully in hanging baskets
- Succulent plants for low light that produce beautiful flowers.
I hope you’ll find a few new plant babies to add to your collection.
Low light succulents for the tabletop
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 aristata. Oh how I love this plant! I’ve had several pots of these low light succulents for about 8 years now. The mother plants keep making pups (offsets) which I regularly divide, pot up, and share with friends. A great succulent houseplant for smaller areas, it reaches just 8 inches tall with a spread of about a foot. The thick, fleshy leaves store water for a very long time, so watering only has to occur a few times a year. Be sure to use very well-drained potting soil for lance aloe (a specialized cacti mix is best). Again, this succulent does best in bright light, but it’s also a successful low light succulent, if that’s all you have. When you do water, be sure to water the soil only and keep the rosette of leaves dry if possible.
Echeveria spp. Among the most recognizable succulents, echeverias come in a huge range of leaf colors and shapes. The variety is astounding. I personally find the gray/blue leaved selections perform better in low light conditions than the green, pink, and purple leaved varieties. If echeverias don’t receive enough light, their center stalk will elongate and stretch for the sun. For that reason, you should aim for location that gets at least 4 hours a day, if you can. Turn the pot a quarter turn every few days to keep the plant from stretching too far to one side. Echeverias don’t require much attention from their grower. In fact, it may seem that they perform better when you ignore them, at least in terms of remembering to water. I have several growing in my office in the winter (they’re on the patio in the summer) and only water them twice all winter long.
Kalanchoe tomentosa. The leaves of these low light succulents are covered in soft fuzz, which makes touching them irresistible for kids and grownups alike. Panda plant is a reasonably easy succulent to grow, reaching about 18 inches in height with a slightly narrower spread. The stems are thick, and they will elongate more in lower light than they do in high light conditions. I cut mine back by half a few times a year to keep the growth habit a bit bushier. The leaves are a 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 spp. My mother had a wax plant when I was young, and I’ll never forget the first time it flowered. The entire kitchen was filled with the most wonderful scent. While wax plants aren’t reliable bloomers, when they do strut their stuff, you’ll not soon forget it. Clusters of waxy, star-shaped flowers occur along the stems. These semi-succulent plants grow long vines with medium green leaves. Hoyas make a great trailing plant, or the vines can be trained to grow up and over a window. In their native habitat, the plants are epiphytic, with roots that cling to tree branches rather than grow in soil and vines that ramble through the tree branches. Hoyas are not difficult low light succulents to care for, though don’t over-water their soil or the plant could rot. Choose a potting soil that contains pine bark, perlite, and peat to best mimic its epiphytic habit. There are many dozen species and cultivars to choose from – it’s a great plant to collect.
Schlumbergera truncata and S. x bukleyi. These familiar holiday plants are great succulents for lower light conditions. Native to the South American tropical forest, Schlumbergera has leafless stems with flattened segments. S. truncata (the Thanksgiving cactus) has segments with a blunt tip and jagged margins. S. x bukleyi (Christmas cactus) has oblong segments with wavy edges. An epiphyte in its native habitat, S. truncata typically blooms around the time of US Thanksgiving. S. x buckleyi is one of its hybrids and is known as the Christmas cactus because it blooms about a month later. Both of these holiday cacti are great low light succulents. Their blooms are gorgeous. However, unlike many other succulents, these plants need to be regularly watered, though their roots should never sit in soggy soil.
More low light succulents
With these beautiful low light succulents, you can brighten even the dimmest corner of the room. For more succulents and other houseplants that thrive in low light, we recommend the book Grow in the Dark by our friend Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.
Want to learn more about houseplants? Please visit the following articles:
– The best apartment plants
– Pilea peperomiodes care
– Common houseplant pests
– Plants that grow in water
– Houseplant fertilizer basics