The most popular succulents are rosette shaped, come in a rainbow of colors, and can be purchased at a very low cost from garden centers and even grocery stores.
It’s not surprising that these tiny little plants with vibrant colors and a flower-like appearance are popular.
However, they often disappoint people after a few weeks, which commonly results in the plants being thrown away.
Sadly, many people who have bad experiences with these succulents assume that they can’t keep other houseplants alive either.
But the truth is that these beautiful little plants are not great houseplants and carry with them a bunch of myths that set people up for failure.
Today we will talk about why the stunning rosette succulents we see for sale everywhere are actually horrible houseplants.
Succulents need A LOT of light
Don’t believe the common myth that rosette succulents are great for low-light spaces! They are actually some of the most sun-loving plants.
These rosette succulents are used to thriving in harsh areas where they receive a lot of bright light and warmth throughout the day.
For example, some of the very popular succulents enjoy growing on rocks and cliffs with few nutrients, little rain, and lots of light. These plants help to prevent erosion, performing an important role in their native environments.
Many of the most colorful succulents keep their showy colors because of the amount of sunlight they receive.
Think of the high light levels as giving the plant a sun tan, which brings out its natural beauty. It is actually very healthy and normal for these plants to receive bright enough light for them to develop a myriad of colors.
When the plants receive too much sun, it is possible for them to develop white patches of sunburn or even black, crisped-up leaves.
Sunburn isn’t as likely to happen indoors (especially if you don’t live in an area that receives a lot of sun and heat year-round) because light levels drop so dramatically indoors, even on sunny windowsills.
Typically, when sunburn does happen indoors to succulents, it is more likely to be caused by a sudden and drastic increase in light.
For example, if you have had a succulent growing in a dim area of your home and then move it to a full sun window, it may burn because the current foliage wasn’t prepared for so much sun.
To prevent burning, the plant would need to be acclimated (where you slowly increase the amount of light a plant is receiving) over a week or two.
The more colorful a succulent is, the more light it needs
There are some succulents that are more suited for life as a houseplant, but it isn’t the colorful ones.
The more colorful the succulent is, the more light it needs to maintain healthy growth and color.
If the succulent isn’t getting enough light, it often loses its color
Sun-starved succulents are likely to appear dull and develop new growth that is greener or faded in appearance.
When succulents lack light, they stretch and become misshapen
Succulents have a biological drive to try to get the light they need. Plants not getting enough light will stretch their little leaves and stems upward and in the direction of the light source, assuming that if they stretch they will eventually reach more light.
This stretching behavior that some plants do to try to get more light is called etiolation.
Etiolation creates a much lankier appearance, which many people find less desirable. The stretched growth is also not as healthy or robust as it would be if the plant were receiving adequate light.
Succulents are easy to both overwater and underwater
Succulents are also sensitive to how frequently they are being watered in relation to how much light they are receiving.
Optimally, succulents do not want to sit wet for more than a couple of days, even when in bright light conditions.
They are often growing in rocky areas which provide no to little space for moisture to linger.
Succulents are able to use water regularly when they are receiving a lot of light
Light fuels the process that the plants use to create food (photosynthesis). And this process requires water.
If the plants are receiving very limited amounts of light, they aren’t able to photosynthesis efficiently which means they aren’t able to use the water they receive efficiently either.
Be wary of the potting mix you purchase your succulent in
Succulents are often planted in very moisture-retentive potting mixes when grown in hot greenhouses before being shipped to a store near you.
Then you buy those same succulents in a dense potting mix and bring them into your dimly lit, cooler home that is lacking the high amount of heat and light needed to evaporate and use the water quickly.
It’s a recipe for disaster and is why so many of us watch our succulents rot away.
If you do want to keep colorful succulents growing indoors, the best way to do so is by using grow lights.
Grow lights provide the opportunity to give plants much more light than many of our homes can provide.
This is especially useful for plants that need a lot of light like succulents, cacti, citrus trees, and more.
To learn more about grow lights, check out my blog post here: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Grow Lights – Part 1
If you are more interested in learning about succulents that can be grown indoors without the use of a grow light….
Check out next week’s post where we will explore some of these beautiful, much better-suited options for life in the great indoors. I’ll link it here once available!