Succulents are hardy plants and the great majority need at least some exposure to direct sunlight to grow well. But not all succulents are created the same. While some can handle exposure to very hot sun, others can perish.
Below is a list of super hardy succulents we grow at our nursery and have tested in full sun, in some pretty intense heatwaves.
12 Best succulents for full sun
Graptoveria Fred Ives
While many other succulents will also happily live in full sun (depending how strong your summer sun can get), i have purposefully picked these 12 as they are hardy and quite different to each other. The colours and shapes would create a beautiful and varied succulent garden.
In moderate climates many more succulents will handle being in full sun. But once temperatures start climbing north of 30C/86F some may start to suffer. It is not the temperature that matters as most succulents will handle high temperatures over 40C/104F if they are in shade. It is exposure to direct sun’s UV when it’s very hot. These UV rays can burn succulents just like they can burn human skin.
Forecast temperatures are also shade temperatures, not what you actually get in full sun. While the weather app may be saying its 30C, if you put a thermometer in the sun, it will several degrees higher.
The above plants have all survived extreme heatwaves we have experienced at our nursery, west of Sydney, Australia. The highest temperature we have clocked so far was around 46C/114.8F and these succulents were exposed to full, afternoon sun.
In some circumstances even these succulents can burn in full sun, but they are unlikely to die and will end up growing out of the burns.
Advanced succulents will always be hardier. More established they are, higher the temperature and sun exposure they will cope with. Young plants with small roots and cuttings are a little more touchy and it is advisable not to expose them to hot, afternoon summer sun until they grow bigger and harden up.
Succulents in the ground will always be more resistant and hardy than succulents in pots, especially when exposed to full sun in a heatwave. Pots can heat up significantly and cause so much stress to a plant that it will die.
In the ground the roots will stay relatively cool and hydrated which can help in extreme weather events.
Many of the succulents above also have a good coating of farina on their leaves. Farina is a powdery substance and protects succulents from sunburn.
Now let's briefly have a look at each one individually.
Aeonium Schwarzkopf can grow to approximately 1.5m and produces multiple rosettes. It has also been nicknamed the Aeonium tree due to its appearance of a brown stalk and multiple branches, each ending in a rosette.
The colour of the rosettes will change throughout the year and will be most intense in winter. As the name suggests, the rosettes can almost become black.
Aeoniums are monocarpic, meaning they die after flowering. But fear not, the whole plant is unlikely to die, only the flowering rosette.
The blue-green colour and white spines make this succulent quite a standout. Individual plants can reach about 50cm height and width. Aloe Spinossima has a clumping habit and produces offsets around the bottom of the plant.
Crassula Ericoides has to be one of the toughest plants we grow. It can survive some very harsh conditions in pots as well as the garden.
As a bonus, it also looks very cute and propagates easily. This succulent grows as a low shrub with multiple branches. It can reach about 20cm high and 40cm accros.
The small, triangular, green leaves are stacked up into a pyramid and resemble a mini version of the popular Buddha's Temple Crassula.
Crassula Ovata is one of the most popular succulents out there. Also called the Jade plant (as are many other succulent with oval leaves) Crassula Ovata grows as a medium size bush to about 1.5m.
The trunk and the branches are thick. The leaves are oval and green. In winter or when stressed, red colour will come through around the leaves edges.
This succulent is super hardy and will cope with full sun even during heatwaves.
Delsoperma in general are very good full sun succulents. They are prolific bloomers and come in a great array of colours.
The growth is usually quite low, though the are Delosperma varieties that can grow to about 15cm high.
Delosperma are fantastic ground cover succulents.
We absolutely love Echeveria Prolifica as it is both hardy and a very attractive plant. It will grow in full sun in pots as well as the garden.
The small rosettes (approximately 5cm in diameter) produce multiple offsets and create a carpet of gorgeous blue-pink rosettes.
Echeveria Prolifica spreads and propagates very easily and even the tiniest leaf will grow into a new plant.
Also know as the Ghost plant or Ghostie, Graptopetalum Paraguayens is a beautiful spreading succulent with pale pink rosettes that will intensify in colour when stressed.
Individual rosettes can reach to about 10 cm across and can spread indefinitely if there is enough root space.
Graptopetalum Paraguaynes is a resilient succulent that will have no problem living in full sun.
Graptoveria Fred Ives
Graptoveria Fred Ives is a gorgeous and easy to grow hybrid. The deep pink colour will change throughout the year.
This succulent can grow quite big and is a great additions to larger gardens. It has a spreading habit and will easily grow from leaves and cuttings.
Thanks to its hardiness Graptoveria Fred Ives is ideal for full sun gardens.
Portulacaria Afra, also known as the Elephant bush or Jade plant is another popular succulent found in gardens and collections all around the world.
This shrub like succulent can grow over 2m high and is a fantastic and hardy screen bush.
It is also perfect for a full sun position
The small, compact rosettes of this generous groundcover succulent are a superb addition to any full sun garden.
Sedeveria Maialen is a fantastic spreading plant that will stand out in rockeries or around the edges of the garden.
It's also suitable for pots and will spill over when planted at the edge.
The red jelly beans, as this succulent is best known, is one tough cookie. It will easily survive full sun and hostile conditions such as poor soil, gardens with little soil depth and cramped conditions.
The shiny leaves can turn red in the cooler months or when the plant is stressed.
Sedum Rubrotinctum is a great groundcover and edging plant that will grow down walls and rocks.
Senecio Serpens or blue chalksticks adds a fantastic blue colour to a garden and really stands out amongst other plants.
Its spreading habit makes it a perfect groundcover.
But Senecio Serpens is not just a pretty face. This succulent will easily grow in a full sun, even during heatwaves.
It is best suited to gardens as the roots can quickly get crowded in pots.
Other great succulents for full sun
There are, of course, many other succulents that are suitable for a full sun position.
Many Crassula varieties such as Gollum, Red Coral or Blue Bird are also suitable for full sun.
Thick leaved Sedum like Clavatum, Pachyphyllum or Lucidum Obesum are very hardy.
Graptopetalum, Sedeveria, Graptopveria, Graptosedum varieties should also get a mention. While some have been hybridized for their looks rather than hardiness, the majority grow very well in full sun and are generally very colourful.
Some of you may wonder why i haven't been mentioning Echeveria as much. Well, Echeveria as beautiful as they are, can be a little tricky. While there are some super hardy varieties such as Orion, Violet Queen or Elegans, many are just not that hardy and can easily burn in full sun (depending on the intensity of the sun).
Lots of new Echeveria varieties have come out in recent years and the focus when creating them has been on how they look, as opposed to how resilient they are. I often find new Echeveria hybrids are sensitive to full sun on hot days and also not tolerant of humidity and too much rain. There are, of course, exceptions.
In conclusion, there is loads of beautiful succulents out there that will be just fine in full sun and will thrive without too much fuss.