Succulents are becoming very popular landscaping plants due to their resilience and the ability to survive in poor soil without much water. But there is a lot of confusion about how much sun they need/ can withstand. So can succulents be in full sun?
The majority of succulents can and should be grown in full sun, though there are a few exceptions when succulents may need to be shielded from the sun's rays.
Succulent species or variety, whether the plants are grown in pots or ground and the part of the world you live in will determine whether or when you should grow your plants in full sun.
Our small succulent nursery grows about 300 different succulents species and types and most can live in full sun for the majority of the year.
The Best Succulents For Full Sun
Let's start with the types of succulents that like and need full sun to maintain their colour and shape. Most succulents are native to arid, sunny and exposed environments. They need the sun to keep their compact shape and very often the colour as well.
In our experience these succulent genera are suitable for a full sun position:
Others can be added to the list but in my opinion these are the most popular and i also have experience growing many species from the above mentioned in my nursery and succulent gardens.
There can be exceptions within the genus, though. For instance, Aeoniums like Kiwi, Suncup or Aureum do not grow well in full sun in countries with very hot summers, where temperatures can reach over 35 degrees Celsius (95 F). Arboreum and Schwartzkopf varieties cope fine.
Many people make the mistake of thinking all succulents are the same and what is good for one is good for the rest. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While some succulents will be fine in full all year round sun, others can perish.
It is always a good idea to check the label or ask the seller how much sun can a plant withstand on hot, cloudless, summer days.
Pot vs the ground
Next thing to consider is pot vs ground. In our experience, succulents grow best in the ground. They cope with extremely hot sun and heatwaves much better than their counterparts in pots.
Even during 40 C plus (104 Fahrenheit) temperatures, succulents planted in the ground tend to be ok in all day full sun. I think this is because the roots can stay relatively cool in the ground as the temperature is more constant.
Pots, however, can heat up to high temperature (especially if a pot is black) which can stress the plant, making it more prone to burns or even dying.
It is important to keep in mind that forecast temperatures is always measured in shade. So when you see the weather forecast, it predicts shade temperatures. In direct sun the heat is much more intense, especially if the sun is hitting a dark surface. Although, some people are dead against putting succulents in the garden as they believe the plants will rot if it rains too much, as long as the garden is not in a flood-prone area and the soil is fairly well draining, sun-loving succulents should do just fine in the ground.
In a countries with harsh winters, snow and frost, succulents should be kept in pots so they can be moved indoors during the worst of winter. Most succulents are frost tender and would not survive freezing temperatures. For more info on how frost hardy succulents are, see this article.
Location & Climate
Different parts of the world will have different summer temperatures and here in Australia, we struggle with heatwaves from about December to February. Unless you are one of the lucky ones and live by the coast, the mercury inland can often climb above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the shade.
It is almost impossible to be in direct sun for long periods of time. As mentioned above, succulents in the ground will cope better than potted plants.
In countries prone to heatwaves and hot summers, succulents in pots should be kept in afternoon shade in summer, or in a greenhouse with 30% shade-cloth. The shade-cloth will stop harmful UV rays from reaching plants but will let enough sun through to keep them compact and colourful.
When the weather is milder, the great majority of succulents can be grown in full sun. I've written a separate article on how to look after succulents in a heatwave here.
To conclude, most Succulents can be in full sun but always check that the particular plant you’re getting is suitable for a sunny position as there are succulents that prefer part or even full shade, especially in summer.
If you live in a country experiencing scorching summers, succulents have a better chance of survival in full sun when they are planted in the ground. Succulents in pots should be protected from hot afternoon summer sun.