What Happens When Succulents Get Too Much Sunlight?

Are you thinking of planting your succulents in a sunny spot, but aren't sure if they will get too much sunlight? Most succulents can tolerate sun, but what happens when they get too much? In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley takes a look at what you can expect to see after your succulents have too much sun exposure.

A cement pot houses a captivating variety of succulents. Their fleshy and thick leaves showcase a remarkable diversity of shapes and sizes, creating a vibrant tapestry of botanical beauty. The succulents display an array of colors ranging from majestic shades of purple to lush gradients of green, forming a stunning natural spectacle.


Succulents are beginner-friendly plants that love the sun. Light can make or break your succulent, but finding the right location can be tricky. When succulents are grown in low light, they tend to get pale and thin, but what happens if they are exposed to too much sunlight? 

It’s crazy to think that a tropical or desert plant can get stressed by excessive sunlight, but it can happen. When succulents receive too much direct light, it can cause damage to the leaves which may not be irreversible.

This article explains what happens to succulents when they receive too much sunlight, and how to fix it.

Short Answer

When you place a succulent in too bright of light, the plant can become discolored and over time will die. This discoloration is commonly referred to as sunburn or sunscald. These burnt patches can be brown, black, or red in color. If caught soon enough, the plant will regrow and shed the damaged tissue. The key takeaway is if your succulent is showing signs of sunburn, you need to act quickly.

There are hundreds of different succulents and depending on your variety, they will require different intensities of light. There are varieties that can tolerate lower light such as haworthia or kalanchoe. Others may require bright, direct sunlight like hens and chicks or echeveria.

Long Answer 

A close-up on the crown of a potted succulent plant reveals a charming sight. Its small green leaves exude a sense of delicacy and resilience, as they gracefully adorn the rich, dark soil nestled within the black pot. It captures the intricate details of a miniature botanical wonder.
Excessive brightness in the location of succulents can lead to issues.

Succulents are noted for being low-maintenance. You can place them on bookshelves, well-lit bathrooms, and sunny window sills. But when you place your succulent in a location that is too bright, problems can arise.

The leaves can become quickly damaged by the sun. Luckily, if sunburn is caught quickly, the succulent’s chances of survival are fairly high. 

No matter what succulent you grow, you need to provide proper care to prevent damage or death. Every succulent has different care requirements, so understanding the ideal conditions for your succulent will set you up for success. Here are some factors to consider:

Direct vs. Indirect Sunlight 

Resting on the grass near a towering tree, several potted succulents create a serene tableau. The blurred background hints at a lush green canopy of leaves, adding a touch of tranquility to the scene. Amidst nature's embrace, these potted succulents find their place, bringing a touch of life and vitality to the peaceful surroundings.
The distinction between bright and indirect sunlight can dramatically impact plant health.

Understanding the difference in sunlight will help determine the proper location for your succulents. Whether you grow them indoors or outdoors, you must find a proper location to prevent problems. Two common terms used to describe light for plants are direct and indirect. 

Direct Sunlight

Direct light is often called full sun and indicates a requirement for at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Bright, direct sunlight isn’t filtered and can be pretty intense for some species.

Larger plants or buildings do not block this light, and the heat from direct sunlight is the most intense during the afternoon. This is typically when sunburn occurs because many species can’t handle intense direct sunshine. However, many houseplants are adapted to direct sun.

Indirect Sunlight

Indirect sunlight is the most common form of sunlight that succulents prefer. Often, this can also be considered full sun, but the sun does not shine directly onto the plant. Indirect sunlight is easier to achieve indoors than outdoors. When growing outdoors, provide partial shade throughout the day to help create a more indirect light environment. 

Understanding the difference between bright vs. indirect sunlight is important to the health of your plants. Do some research on your specific type of succulent to help you create the best environment possible to help prevent sunburn. 

Factors That Contribute To Sunburn 

A close-up on a succulent plant reveals its distinctive characteristics. Its pale leaves, tinged with hints of subtle hues, catch the eye. However, upon closer inspection, noticeable discoloration becomes apparent—a result of the plant's encounter with sunburn. This blemish stands as a testament to the succulent's resilience in the face of challenging conditions.
Consider how much water you provide during the warmest months.

You might be surprised to know that the sun is not the only thing that can cause sunburn in succulents. Research shows that too much sun can actually harm photosynthesis when combined with other environmental stressors.

While the sun is the number one factor, a few other conditions increase the succulent’s chances of sunburn. Combinations of high temperatures, dry soils, and intense light can cause extreme stress, resulting in sunburn. 


Even though succulents can withstand high temperatures, excess heat in combination with sun or dry soils will cause them to burn. Many plants will be healthy if surrounding temperatures are in the 50 to 60 F.

Ideal temperatures range from 60 to 80 F, depending on the variety. But temperatures tend to exceed the 80 F mark during the summer months. This is when we need to provide extra care. 


Another factor to consider is how much you’re watering. Succulents love drier soils, but drought can be harmful in combination with high temperatures and intense sunlight. During the warmest months, succulents should be watered regularly to prevent stress.

Succulents store much of their water supply in their leaves, and moist soils allow these leaves to stay full and plump.

When soils are dry, they will begin to use the water in their leaves, causing the plant to be more susceptible to sunburn. Pay close attention to your plants during the hottest months to catch sunburn before it is too late. 

Signs of Sunburn 

A close-up on a potted succulent plant, we witness a captivating sight. The majority of its green leaves exude vitality and health, but those in the center bear the marks of sunburn—a testimony to the plant's exposure to intense sunlight. The edges of these leaves have dried and turned a rich brown, offering a striking contrast to the plant's vibrant hues.
The symptoms of sunburn in indoor succulents may appear differently compared to outdoor ones.

Succulents are great at telling you they are stressed. When your plants are struggling in excess sunlight, the signs are pretty easy to identify:

  • The leaves will develop discolored patches.
  • Depending on the succulent type, discolored patches can be brown, black, red, yellowish, or tan. 
  • The signs typically start very pale and progress to a much darker color.
  • The patches may start at the tips of the succulent leaves and progress down.
  • On wider-leaved succulents, you may see patches of damaged or discolored tissue rather than tip-burn.
  • These discolored patches will be rough to the touch (healthy leaves are smooth).

Typically, the more severe the sunscalding, the darker the patches will become. These dark patches eventually become scarred, causing a rough texture on the leaves. Every species and cultivar may display sunburn differently, but pay attention to these discolored patches as a sign something is wrong. 

Indoor succulents may present symptoms of sunburn differently than those grown outdoors. Since indoor plants have filtered or more indirect sunlight, their symptoms may be yellowing or browning of the leaves. 

Treating Sunburn

A potted succulent plant stands out with its vibrant green leaves, accentuated by red pointed tips, create a visually striking display. The plant's roots find nourishment in the rich brown soil contained within the sleek black pot. In the company of other potted succulents, it becomes part of a captivating arrangement, showcasing the beauty and diversity of nature's creations.
Remove succulent leaves that show 70 to 80 percent sunburned tissue to promote optimal growth.

The best way to treat sunburn is to move the plant to a shadier location. Plants receiving too much sun often respond quickly and positively to a move.

Gradually Shift Light Conditions

Choose a location that provides less direct sunlight or provides a bit of shade throughout the day. Gradually increase or decrease the amount of light rather than creating sudden changes.

Know Your Variety

Understanding your variety of succulents is vital, as some require less sunlight than others. For example, haworthia or kalanchoe tolerate lower light, while hens and chicks and echeveria like bright, direct sunlight.

Act Quickly

When you notice sunscald symptoms, you need to act quickly. If you fail to move your succulent, then the scorch will progress. Eventually, the sunburn will become so severe it will kill the plant. If you catch the plant right away, it will most likely grow out of sunburn.

Remove Damaged Leaves

Remove the leaves from the plant if they are 70 to 80 percent sunburned. Anything less than this percentage generally grows out of the burn. The plant puts a lot of energy into repairing damaged leaves, so removing them will help the succulent focus energy toward recovery.

Outdoor Plants

Moving succulents that are planted in the ground is difficult or impossible. The best thing you can do is provide shade with taller plants or use a shade cloth. Try to provide shade during high noon into the afternoon. This is the hottest temperature and most intense sunlight of the day.

Final Thoughts 

If your succulents are receiving too much sun, it is key to be proactive. Moving your plants or providing shade is crucial to saving and protecting your succulent.

Keep in mind that temperature and soil moisture also impact the development of sunburn. Depending on the severity of the sunburn, your plant can recover once it’s moved. More severe cases will most likely kill the plant in a short amount of time.   

Hens and Chicks Plant Growing in Garden. There is a single plant near other offsets.

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