You may consider yourself the perfect houseplant parent, taking care of watering, feeding, dusting the leaves and repotting when appropriate. But the reality is that houseplants rarely get the levels of light they need. Most areas of our homes have low light levels beyond the first couple of metres in front of a window. Only those of us with south-facing window sills can provide direct sunlight all day – the rest of us have to compromise with morning or afternoon sun. Then there are shady corners or north-facing rooms – what, if anything, will grow here?
Succulents and cacti are typically associated with hot, sunny conditions. Many of them, such as lithops, are native to the desert, so require as much light as you can afford, plus very strict watering regimes. Others are less fussy. Indeed, if you give these succulents too much sun they will suffer.
Most cacti and succulents are easy to care for, requiring very little care. As a general rule, grow cacti and succulents in free-draining or cactus compost, and water sparingly between the months of March and October – allowing the compost to fully dry out between waterings.
Browse our list of succulents and cacti that do well in shade. While some need shade to thrive, most are merely ‘shade tolerant’. That is, they thrive in well-lit rooms out of direct sunlight, but can cope with lower light levels.
More advice on growing succulents:
- How to take cuttings from cacti and succulents
- 12 of the best succulents to grow
- Six tips for growing succulents
Find the perfect succulent or cacti for your home, below.
ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia
The ZZ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is native to the forests of east and west Africa. It grows from underground tubers, and thrives in partial to full shade.
Mother-in-law’s tongue, Sanseveria trifasciata
Mother-in-law’s tongue is native to Nigeria. It thrives in filtered light but tolerates some shade. It’s also very tolerant of neglect.
Panda plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa
Panda plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa, is a hairy-leaved succulent that’s tolerant of partial shade. Position it near a west or east-facing window.
Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera
Christmas cacti grow on trees or rocks, in the mountains of south-eastern Brazil, which are typically humid and shady. They’re therefore perfect for growing in a shady bathroom or other humid environment with low light levels. The leaves can get dusty, so give them the occasional shower to keep them looking their best.
Mistletoe cactus, Rhipsalis baccifera
Mistletoe cactus is native to rainforests in North, Central and South America. It thrives in low light levels, and requires humidity, so is another good choice for a shady bathroom.
Most echeverias require sun to thrive but some, like Echeveria lindsayana, will cope with partial shade. Be careful you don’t water it too much, as too much water in shade can cause the plant to rot.
Wax plant, Hoya bella
Hoya is a genus of plants native to Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands. Hoya bella is a bushy perennial, bearing clusters of sweetly scented white flowers with purple centres. It’s ideal for growing in a hanging basket in the greenhouse or conservatory, and needs a minimum temperature of 10°C to thrive. Keep out of direct sunlight – partial shade is ideal.
Zebra plant, Haworthia fasciata
Haworthias are small, slow-growing succulents in the same family as aloes and gasterias. Haworthia fasciata is native to the Eastern cape of South Africa and has thick, dark green leaves with white horizontal stripes on the outside of the leaves. It thrives in partial shade.
Rebutia is a genus of small, typically barrel-shaped cacti, native to Bolivia and Argentina. It’s considered one of the most shade-tolerant of all the cactus genera. Plants bear large, free-flowering blooms in a range of bright colours.
Parodia is another cactus genus that does best with some shade. Native to South America, these ball-shaped cacti require a little more moisture than other genera, and thrive out of direct sunshine during the hottest parts of the day. Perfect for an east- or west-facing windowsill, where light levels vary throughout the day.