Blog Cactus Do Cacti Need Sun

Do Cacti Need Sun?

Do cacti need sun? We answer it here in our latest blog! Keep reading to learn more.

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Kiersten Rankel
Jan 04, 2022

Succulents are extremely popular houseplants for all levels of experience, but especially for plant owners new to caring for a garden. Largely because they not only look beautiful, depending on the cactus but because they’re so easy to take care of! 

Like all plants, cacti need sunlight to grow and remain healthy. However, depending on the type of cactus, their sunlight needs can vary. Keep reading as we explore this beautiful plant and its sunlight needs.

What Does Sunlight Provide for a Cactus Plant?

Sunlight actually helps a plant make ‘plant food’ and provides essential nourishment. The process of photosynthesis is how plants convert different chemicals to provide for their growing needs. The conversion of these chemicals is what feeds the plant nutrition that helps it to grow and bloom. 

Whether you're planning to get a Christmas cactus, prickly pear cactus, Easter cactus, or whatever desert cacti you choose to have, make sure that they have enough direct sunlight. 

A succulent plant is unique in that though they do need varying degrees of sunlight depending on the type of cactus, a lot of their chemical conversions happen in low light, and then are completed when they have access to sunlight once again. 

It’s essentially a survival mechanism, allowing cacti to store carbon dioxide during the night, and then complete photosynthesis once the sun shines again. 

Photo by Turkeybutter12

How Much Sunlight Does a Cactus Need?

This can vary depending on the outdoor or indoor cactus plants. It’s hard to measure sunlight, you can’t exactly pour it in a cup the way you would water. Therefore, light needs are typically determined by how much light you expose the cactus plant to and for how long. 

Generally, most succulents do best with access to 10 to 14 hours of sunlight each day. If you’re not sure, be sure to check out recommendations for how to take care of a cactus from our app.

Typically, cacti don’t need sunlight around the clock because of the way they process sunlight. Since they store their energy during the day and pull in carbon dioxide at night, no more than 14 hours a day is plenty. 

In fact, you can probably get away with less depending on the type of cactus, though the sweet spot seems to be around 12 hours of sunlight each day. 

Are you seeing yellow spots on succulent plants? Read our resource on “why is my cactus is turning yellow.” Looking for a more detailed, step-by-step instructions on watering your plants? By using physics and machine learning to predict the water needs of any plant in any environment, the Greg plant care app will help you grow healthy plants with confidence. Download the app today!

What Kind of Sunlight Does a Cactus Need?

Though it can be easy to assume all cactus plants need hours of direct sunlight––after all, aren’t they desert plants?––the truth is some types of cacti do not need direct sunlight. 

In fact, some don’t do well with direct sunlight at all and could get sunburnt when exposed to full, direct sunlight, especially if the exposure is sudden and they are not used to the heat. Even if the direct sun doesn’t cause sunburn, it could still experience detrimental effects, like a brown or bleached appearance and stunted or unusual growth patterns. 

Suggest listing some of the shade tolerant cacti from here.

Generally, most cacti plants do well in dry environments with bright, indirect sunlight. If you are growing succulents in a garden, choose somewhere that’s somewhat shady to help protect them from potential sun damage. If you are growing your cacti inside your home, placing them in a bright room, perhaps near a southern-facing window, can be ideal. 

Can a Cactus Thrive Without Sunlight?

Unfortunately, cacti cannot survive without sunlight, much less thrive. They need a regular, daily source of light in order to remain healthy and grow. There are many different types of cacti, and some may do well using only an artificial light, so it's important to do your research before bringing one home. 

Something else to keep in mind is that a cactus plant’s needs can change depending on where they are at in their growing cycle. During a growing season, plants need more nutrition to fulfill their needs, which means more light. 

If it’s not a growing season, they can make do with less light for short periods of time. Cacti, in particular, can go a few days at a time with no light and be fine, but it’s not ideal for depriving them of daily access to light if you want them to truly flourish. 

Photo by Psrj1719

So, Do Cactus Need Sun?

The short answer to this question is yes, all cacti need sunlight. For best health and growth and blooming, preferably daily access to bright, indirect light for several hours per day, depending on the cactus type.

Additionally, though cacti can go a few days with no sunlight, it’s not ideal. Moral of the story? If you want a happy cactus, give it sunlight!