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Can Succulents Die From Too Much Sun?

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

It can be quite hard to find the perfect growing spot for some succulents and the amount of conflicting advice does not help.

While succulents have the reputation of being indestructible, the truth is that lots of these plants can be quite difficult to grow. The secret is to know the type of succulent, keep climate in mind and where it’s going to grow (pot/ground). So can succulents die from too much sun?

Succulents can die from too much sun. While many succulents are hardy and will survive full sun even during heatwaves, some can die quite abruptly when exposed to full sun.

Let’s have a closer look at succulents and the reasons behind them dying from being exposed to too much sun.

Succulents That Are Unsuitable For Full Sun

It may come as a surprise to some but not all succulents like to be in a lot of sun. While it’s true that the majority need a decent sun exposure to maintain colour and shape there are succulents that prefer shade over sun.

Here is a list of plants we know off that prefer bright shade/ filtered light over full sun. Some can survive, but most will suffer and can die from being exposed to too much sun.

  • Aeonium Suncup

  • Ceropegia Woodii (Chain of Hearts & Variegated Chain of Hearts)

  • Euphorbias (a great deal of Euphorbias will not do well in full direct sun, especially in summer)

  • Gasteria (plants in this genus can burn in full sun)

  • Grafted Cacti

  • Graptoveria Amethorum (burns in summer sun)

  • Haworthia (all Haworthia we grow are happier in bright shade/filtered light and dislike direct sun)

  • Monanthes Polyphylla (dislikes heat and full sun in summer)

  • Orostachys Iwarenge (afternoon full sun in summer will very likely burn these plants)

  • Rosularia (some sun in cooler months, but not in summer)

  • Rhipsala

  • Sempervivum Arachnoideum

  • Senecio Rowleyanus (String of Pearls)

  • Senecio Radicans (String of Bananas/Chillies)

  • Peperomia

Assorted Haworthia
Haworthia are best kept in bright shade or filtered light.

Monanthes Polyphylla
Monanthes Polyphylla

Succulents In Pots

We have covered succulents in ground vs pot in many of our other posts but it’s an essential bit of info to repeat. Succulent grown directly in the garden are much more hardy than succulents grown in pots. In our experience, garden succulents should be able to withstand full blast of summer sun, even during heatwaves.

In our part of the world (Sydney Region, Australia) temperatures often go over 40C/104F in summer. It is important to note that temperatures in the weather forecast are shade temperatures and so direct sun temperature is usually much higher. Try putting a thermometer in direct sun and you’ll be very surprised at the difference.

In the cooler months most succulents, apart from the shade lovers above, should happily live in full sun both in he ground and also in pots. In summer, however, roots of succulents in the ground can stay much cooler than the roots of plants in pots. Pots, especially if they are black, can heat too much and essentially cook the plants.

We recommend that succulents in pots are shielded from full afternoon sun in the height of summer as it can be too much stress for them, causing sunburn or death.

At our nursery a 30% shadecloth is pulled overhead for the afternoon whenever we expect temperatures over 35C (95F) and full sun. The plants in the ground are left to their own devices. For more on succulents in pots see our article here.

Succulents in pots
Succulents in pots are more likely to die from too much sun than succulents growing in the ground.

Succulents In Different Climates

If you are one of the lucky few that live by the coast in a temperate climate with no frost in winter and summer temperatures around the 30 C (86F) mark (coastal Sydney is one example) your succulents should never be in situation, even in pots, where they die from too much sun.

In cold climates with below zero temperatures, succulents need to be brought in as they are not frost hardy, but in summer they should also be fine in full sun

If your climate gets hot summers with temperatures often climbing above 35 C (95F) then your succulents are in danger of dying from too much sun. As discussed above, pot plants will need a bit of care and protection.

Succulents planted directly in the garden should withstand the hot summer sun but make sure they get enough water and you can even mulch them to retain water in the soil. This will not rot your succulents, as long as the succulents are not in gardens that can flood/ stagnant water for extended periods.

Young Succulents & Cuttings

Succulents in propagating trays
Small succulents with not many roots can easily die from too much sun in the warmer months.

Small succulents with only few roots & succulent cuttings that have just been planted in the garden/pots are extra vulnerable and can die even at lower temperatures if exposed to full sun.

We recommend not exposing freshly cut succulents to harsh sun. It is important that sun-loving succulents have some sun, just not in the afternoon when the sun is strongest. If they are raised in complete shade, the cuttings will loose colour, shape and their hardiness which means they will have to be reintroduced bit by bit to a sunny environment.

Nursery Succulents Raised in Greenhouses

Although greenhouses are essential in producing pretty succulents by keeping them in a stable environment, they also may sometimes produce plants that are not as hardy as those grown in the elements.

Large nurseries often opt for the safety of greenhouses due to less maintenance of plants. Most covers for greenhouses have an element of shading and the plants are never exposed to full sun rays. This can mean that these plants are more likely to die from too much sun once they are not protected by the cosy greenhouse.

Our nursery is tiny compared to some super nurseries out there but we can afford to grow plants outdoors, raising very hardy plants. We do sometimes loose out when, for instance, a large bird decides to have a walk on the tables knocking precious plants off as they go or having fallen leaves make a mark on the leaves. But it is a risk i'm willing to take.

Plants raised by us can go straight in the garden, in a sunny spot whereas greenhouse succulents may need to be slowly introduced to their new growing environment so the leaves or the whole plant does not burn.

It can be a bit hard to tell nursery plants from outdoor grown ones and so our advice is to be a bit cautious with new plants and not place them straight in full sun,, especially on very hot days. Give them time to adjust and increase their exposure to direct sun a bit every few days.

In conclusion, succulents need the sun but also have to be sometimes protected from it. No plant or animal likes being exposed to extremely hot sun rays, but some are adapted better than others.

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