Sun for Succulent Plants

A friend recently told me that they had done the impossible, they had killed their hen and chick plants in one day. The little succulent plants had been growing happily on a windowsill inside the house. On a summer day they were moved outside to enjoy some sunshine and promptly fried.

Sempervivum Cooked in Sun

Sempervivum burned to a crisp in the sun

Aren’t hens and chicks full sun plants though? Yes, they are, but when succulents grow inside they get pampered with constant temperatures and diluted light. When you move a plant from inside to outside it needs to be hardened off. This means that you gradually toughen the plant to survive outside.Succulent in the Sun

When it is cold outside hardening off your succulents means introducing them to cold temperatures. When it is hot outside it means acclimating them to bright sunlight. You can introduce more light by using reflected light, filtered light and limited light time. Reflected light is sunlight that bounces off an object like a wall. Reflected light is about half as strong as direct sunlight. Filtered light is light that passes through a screen, shadecloth or something similar. Limited light time is just that, slowly increasing the amount of time that a plant spends in the sun before being moved into the shade.

Succulent plants that are moved from indoors directly into the sun without a transition period will sunburn. Sunburn on succulents typically looks like brown spots. In extreme cases the entire plant will crisp and die.

Succulent Sunburn Spots

Sunburn spots on a succulent not properly hardened

So once you’ve hardened off your succulents and they are living outside, what is the ideal sun condition for them? The simple answer is that hens and chicks are full sun plants. When they are in their growing phase, putting out babies and new growth (springtime typically), they want as much light as possible. However, in warm locations like the southern states, during the intense heat of the summer succulents will actually do better with bright shade during the hottest time of day. Partial shade in hot summer weather helps hens and chicks to retain brighter coloring. In the winter, when the sun is weaker, they will also take all the sunlight they can get.

If you are planting succulents in the ground, or don’t want to bother moving planters around at different times of the year then remember this rule of thumb. Most succulents will grow happily with 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. They can have more, or they can be shaded for some of the day, but make sure they have at least that much direct sunlight.

Sunburn Plant

Plant tissue scorched brown from the sun

Young’s has lots of colorful succulents to grow in your garden!


1 Comment

  1. June 23, 2014    

    I am interested in propagating and growing a variety of Hen and Chicks.
    How much water and sunlight that is required, types of soil that is best to
    use etc. What is the life of a mother plant? I have one that has more than 40 chicks, but is turning yellowing. What have I done wrong? It is not an old plant but a huge one. I’m open for suggestions!!

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