aloe vera succulent getting light

Can a Succulent Live Without Sunlight?(For How Long & Caring Tips)

Sunlight is one of the basic fundamental needs for the survival of most plants alongside the water. However, as succulents are regarded as highly adaptive plants and are often grown indoors hence many of us are quite confused about their sunlight needs. So…

Can a succulent live & survive without sunlight? A succulent is a photosynthetic plant that needs sunlight for energy so no it cannot live without sunlight. However many low-light friendly succulents can survive under grow lights comfortably i.e, without proper exposure to sunlight.

If you are growing a low light friendly succulent, it can manage to survive under poor exposure to sunlight even if artificial grow lights are not provided. However, it won’t grow vibrantly and even if it barely manages to survive it definitely won’t thrive.

Why no succulents can live without light?

All succulents require sunlight to make food and to obtain energy that helps them to carry out various activities which further helps them to stay alive.

Unlike humans, plants can make their own food via the process of photosynthesis but for that to happen they need a proper dose of sunlight. So when the sunlight source is blocked, the plant will try its best to adjust to the lower light conditions.

  • In their native conditions, most succulents grow under the abundance of bright sunlight so even though they are well accustomed to water deficiency and have adapted well to conserve every last drop of water, the succulents haven’t necessarily evolved that much to put up with lack of sunlight.

Certain other plants like members of the genus Orobanche habitually grow under extremely low light conditions and hence they have suitably adapted to the conditions by not depending on photosynthesis for their food and instead have switched to parasitic nature.

Hence no succulents can live completely without sunlight. The majority of the succulents will die under low light conditions out of starvation while some may live but won’t surely thrive under such conditions.

How long can succulents live without sunlight?

The majority of the succulents can live without sunlight for (10 to 14 ) days without any major signs of stress however after that mark its unknown territory and entirely depends on the succulent type.

Succulents are accustomed to growing in extreme conditions so they are quite hardy than other plants. They may survive to a few weeks without sunlight before giving up again this depends entirely on the succulent type.

  • If you are attempting to grow full sun friendly succulents that love 6 hours of bright sunlight( most cactuses) in a completely dark room, you will see acute signs of malnourishment within a week and they die in another few days.

Whereas if you keep the low light friendly succulents there, they may last longer. However, by longer, it means it can be anywhere from 8 days to 16 days before they start showing acute signs of discomfort.

So in case you are thinking of shipping succulents from one place to another in a completely dark box, you should attempt doing that within a period of 7 to 10 days max.

What happens to succulents in low light?

Under extreme low light conditions, the succulent will start becoming leggy and its overall growth or development will come to a halt. Its leaves will start to lose their color and 

In general, succulents are highly adaptive plants. At first, they will try their best to adapt to low light conditions. However, if the availability of light is really low, then after a few days the succulent will start to show signs of Etiolation i.e, it will start stretching out towards the light source.

This is like their desperate attempt to try reaching for more light by getting taller. Stretching out is the most obvious symptom that your plant is not in good health and you should change its location immediately.

  • You will notice signs of stunted growth and leaf discoloration.
  • The leaves will look pale and generally turns yellow as the chlorophyll pigments start fading owing to the lack of sunlight. Shortly they will start falling off.

The plant will lose its vibrancy and will give off an ill look. As the sunlight is compromised the food production will be low so the succulent will start shedding leaves and branches as it won’t have the required energy to maintain every single of its parts.

So How Much Sunlight do Succulents need to thrive properly?

Not all succulents have the same sunlight need but it can be safe to say most succulents do well when they receive indirect sunlight for about 4 to 6 hours a day.

There are some that prefer more than 6 hours of light whereas there are also others that can survive below 2 hours availability of sunlight.

  • The amount of sunlight a succulent will need depends entirely on the variety type. Some prefer full sun whereas others like the indirect sun. So you should bring home succulents accordingly.

In case you are growing them indoors, you can go for south or east-facing windows as those places get the best sun and succulents can take care of themselves there.

If you want to read more on this topic then refer to:

Which succulents dont need high sunlight?

Generally, colorful succulents need more sunlight than green colored ones. However, the majority of the greener succulents won’t survive without a moderate dose of sunlight. but there are a few low light friendly succulents that can survive even in gloomier of locations.

These include:

  • Snake Plants
  • Aloe Vera
  • Jade plant
  • Kalanchoe

For a broader list refer to:

How to Grow Succulents Indoors Without Sunlight?

The best way to grow succulents indoors without sunlight is by using artificial lighting or grow lights. However, there is no rule that you need to use grow lights only.
  • It can be fluorescent or LED lights. As long as it’s a full-spectrum light source(mix of blue and red wavelengths), it will support plant growth.
  • As humans, we need sunlight for a variety of vitamins however plants simply need the light source for making food. As long as they get light for a required amount of time, they will be happy.

If you want to get more creative you can opt for blue lights(Favours overall foliage development) and red light(favors blooming). However, using a suitable LED or fluorescent light will work just fine.

Timing of the Artificial grow lights for succulents

In case your rooms dont get any light whatsoever you should buy artificial grow lights or fluorescent lights and light them up near the succulents.
  • Keep an eye over the time so that they remain exposed to the light for a few hours and, not a whole day, as succulents need darkness for their development as well.
Roughly you should keep the lights on for 12 to 16 hours for the optimal growth of the succulents.
You can even buy artificial grow lights with timers that are tailor-made for the purpose of growing succulents indoors. The timer will help you to mimic the seasonal lighting very conveniently. In summer the light hours will be longer and lesser in winter.

How Close should you keep the succulents to the light?

There is a lot of debate regarding how close to the succulent you should place the light however maintaining a distance of 6 to 12 inches is ideal. If it’s too close then the plant can suffer from heating issues. If it’s too far, it won’t obtain the needed energy(source).

Some Extra Tips

  • Make sure the drainage system is top-notch. As the plants won’t get proper sunlight they will be much more prone to root rot so have them placed in a cactus mix soil rich in inorganic components.
  • Make sure you water only when the soil gets really dry, use a moisture meter for this purpose.

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