Succulents and cacti are naturally found in arid environments (meaning places with little water, such as deserts). When grown indoors, it is important to mimic the lighting they would find in their natural habitat. Succulents and cacti tend to prefer bright areas with plenty of sunlight. If you do not provide your plants with enough light they will begin to stretch to reach for more light (this is a bad thing for the plants), fade in colour, and have stunted growth.
Indoor Lighting Options
There are two options for meeting the lighting needs for your succulents and cacti: natural lighting and artificial lighting. Natural lighting is of course the most economical since it’s free, but you will need a sunny window for this. Some apartment buildings face directions which are not sunny enough and in the winter there is much less sunlight. In these cases, your plants may require artificial lighting to thrive.
- Ideal placement is next to an east or west facing window during the spring, fall, and summer. South-facing windows are preferred during the winter.
- North facing windows provide the least light and are not a good choice for succulents and cacti.
- Your plants will do well in direct sunlight, unless they are inside a glass terrarium. Glass terrariums should only be placed in indirect sunlight, as the sunlight can magnify through the glass and burn your plants.
- Avoid sudden and drastic changes to lighting levels. If you suddenly move a plant receiving little light into constant direct sunlight, the leaves may discolour.
- Artificial lighting is best used to help plants thrive in the winter.
- Either fluorescent or LED lighting may be used. LED lamps tend to be more expensive to purchase, however they use less electricity and last longer. If you are planning to use your lamp quite a bit, the initial higher investment for LED lamps may be worth it.
- Carefully consider the wattage of the lamp you are purchasing. Higher wattage will be more expensive, but will lead to better results. Some lamps sold at big box retail stores are labelled as “grow lamps”, but the wattage on some of them is far too low to get any benefit. For LED lamps, look for a minimum of around 40 watts.
- Indoor grow lamps have varying spectra of light (the amounts of each colour of light). All plants will require blue and red light (green light is not absorbed, it is reflected, and that is why most plants are green) and will also benefit from additional white light. Look for a “full spectrum” lamp – this will meet the needs of most plants.
- Lamps should be turned on for at least 12 to 16 hours per day. Plants require at least 8 hours of darkness per day.
- The distance between the indoor grow light and your succulents or cacti should be approximately 12 inches. Higher powered lamps emit high levels of heat and may need to be placed further away.
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Final Indoor Lighting Tips for Succulents & Cacti
- Some succulents (such as haworthias or sansevierias) are fine with less or indirect sunlight.
- Plants should be occasionally rotated to ensure even growth on all sides.
- You can grow colorful, healthy succulents by your window, then bring them out to show off when guests come over. Make sure you return them to their well-lit area though!
Last updated January 22, 2019