At your office, you mostly have low light to work with, but you’d still like to grow some succulents. You’ve done a bit of research though and it seems like every succulent species you come across needs three hours or more of direct light. Do there exist any succulents that do well in low light? We dug around to bring you more information.
What are the best low-light succulents for the office? If your office only gets low light, consider the following succulent species:
- Bird’s nest fern
- Dutchman’s pipe cactus
- Ponytail palm
- Squid agave
- Scarlet ball cactus
- Kiwi Aeonium
- Snake plant
- Foxtail agave
- Claw cactus
- Zanzibar gem
- Flaming Katy
- Panda plant
- Crown of thorns
- Devil’s backbone
If some of these succulents are new to you, then you’re going to want to keep reading. In this article, we’ll cover each succulent in more detail, explaining its history and growing conditions. Your office is about to be very green!
22 Great Succulents for Growing in Low-Light Offices
Bird’s Nest Fern
Ferns are no strangers to this blog, but the bird’s nest fern or Asplenium nidus is not your average fern. That’s mostly because it’s an epiphytic succulent, not a true fern. Its native growing environment includes such parts of the world as eastern Africa, India, Christmas Island, Polynesia, Hawaii, eastern Australia, and southeastern Asia. Out in nature, the fern has been found to reach up to 7.9 inches wide and 59 inches long!
Indirect or filtered light, such as that from a northernly-facing or eastern-facing window, will allow your bird’s nest fern to sprout its trademark bright green, crinkled leaves. Like most succulents, you want to water until the houseplant’s potting mix is moist without being soaking wet.
The Rebutia resemble cactus balls, giving them quite an interesting look. As a Cactaceae family member, Rebutia come from Argentina and Bolivia. Their most distinctive trademark is the large, colorful flowers that almost outsize each Rebutia ball. These flowers come in a range of vivid hues, among them neon pink, white, lavender, electric purple, orange, and bright red.
You’ll want some Rebutia in your indoor office garden for sure, especially once you realize you can get away with low light conditions for a lot of species of this cactus-like houseplant. That said, if you are able to give them direct sun from time to time, you might see brighter flowers from your Rebutia, so it’s worth doing, if you can.
Dutchman’s Pipe Cactus
The Epiphyllum oxypetalum goes by a lot of fun names, such as the Dutchman’s pipe cactus, and some indoor gardeners also call it the Queen of the Night. We’ll stick with the former nickname for the sake of this article, but this flowering succulent is quite highly-regarded nonetheless. Yet another Cactaceae family member, the only time the Dutchman pipe cactus blooms is during the evening and early morning hours.
While this succulent can thrive on just low or filtered light, you do want to be careful with it being in low humidity or dry air environments. Ideally, you’ll want the humidity around your Dutchman pipe cactus to be between medium & high to make sure it will bloom properly.
Next, we’ve got a rather common indoor plant, the ponytail palm. We’ve actually written about the Pony tail Palm before in a related article titled “Indoor Trees That are Easy to Care For“.
Although the name might fool you, the ponytail palm or Beaucarnea recurvata is not an actual palm tree. Instead, it belongs to the Asparagaceae family while other palms are part of the Arecaceae family. In Mexico, you’ll find one of the oldest ponytail palms ever, as it’s 350 years old!
Now, we’re not going to say the ponytail palm outright prefers low light, because it doesn’t. If it had a choice, it’d have nothing but bright light, but it won’t die in dim lighting conditions either. Water your indoor plant on a three-week basis (sometimes two weeks if the soil is really dry) and crank up that humidity if you can in your office.
The squid agave, sometimes referred to as the spider agave, also goes by the scientific name Agave bracteosa. Natively, you can only find it in very specific areas of Mexico, such as Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and the Sierra Madre Oriental. That’s because the squid agave grows from 1,700 meters up on slopes and cliffs.
If you’re planting your own squid agave in your office, use either a container or a rock garden. These vessels will mimic the growing conditions the squid agave likes best. A little bit of northernly or eastern-facing light, which is often quite indirect, serves this houseplant well, too.
Scarlet Ball Cactus
If you liked the Rebutia, then you might also consider adding a scarlet ball cactus or several to your indoor office garden. The Brasilicactus Haselbergii is known for its ball shape and distinct color, which is quite unlike other cacti. That’s because, despite being called the scarlet ball cactus, its spines are white or silver in color. It too grows a flower, but unlike the Rebutia, it’s a single flower that doesn’t outshine the cactus.
This Brazilian houseplant does do better in sunlight if you can provide it, as that will encourage growth of its bright orange or red flower. If the scarlet ball cactus only gets dim light though, it will live. Just make sure you’re watering it every now and again and you’ll be good.
A more “traditional” looking succulent, the Kiwi Aeonium has a pale green base with pretty leaves that are decorated with red edges. It’s not exclusively an indoor plant, as it also does well in the heat and sun of outdoors. Despite that, certain Kiwi Aeonium plants sit inactive during one of the most popular growing periods for houseplants, the summertime.
Other species don’t have a dormant stage at all throughout the entire year, so they can grow, grow, grow. Put yours on an office windowsill and it should become a precious part of your indoor garden quickly. The fingertip test will let you know when it’s time to water your Kiwi Aeonium, but make sure your finger is at least two inches deep into the soil, or else you won’t get an accurate gauge on the soil moisture levels.
Ah, what is there to say about the snake plant that we haven’t already? This is one houseplant that we’ve touched on extensively here on this blog, but what we talk about less is that the snake plant is technically a succulent.
Lending itself well to the fact that you don’t have to water it often is how hardy the snake plant is. In fact, we’d call this a defining characteristic of this indoor plant. It can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’, and that goes for its lighting as well. Bright light! Dim light! The snake plant doesn’t care, although it does prefer the former if you can offer it. It does surprisingly well in dim light, too.
Here’s a succulent that doesn’t really look like one, the stonecrop. Also known as the sedum, stonecrops are members of the Crassulaceae family and may have upwards of 500 different species. They grow natively in the Northern Hemisphere, but you can also find them in South America and parts of Africa, which are both in the Southern Hemisphere. Stonecrops, with so many species, encompass shrubs, herbs, and lots more in between.
These succulents do have growing requirements, like high temperatures and bright light, but if you can’t meet those, it’s okay. In fact, even if the temperatures get to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, your stonecrop will survive. We think a bit of dim lighting won’t be the end of its world either.
With its waxy, thick flowers, the hoya dresses up any indoor garden in distinct fashion. This Apocynaceae family member encompasses nearly 300 species that grow in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India, and other parts of Asia. Besides the hoya name, indoor gardeners also call this houseplant the waxflower, waxvine, or waxplant due to its texture and appearance.
Too much artificial light or direct sunlight is actually bad for your hoya, so if you provide it dim lighting, you’re doing it right. That’s good to know, as only optimal growing conditions can encourage the hoya to reach full maturity. Once that happens, it can begin flowering.
In the same vein as the squid agave, next, we’ve got the foxtail agave. This has other nicknames such as foxtail, swan’s neck, and lion’s tail, all mostly because of the long, sword-like blades of this deep green succulent. The stem of the foxtail agave can stretch up to four feet while the plant itself can get up to eight feet wide and five feet tall if you take good care of it.
How do you do that? Provide shade when you can and avoid conditions that are too hot, as the foxtail agave doesn’t like desert heat. Use soil that drains well but has gravel or sand in its base. You also want the soil to be somewhat acidic, but not overly so. Further, keep an eye out for snails and slugs, as these critters love to eat foxtail agave.
Up to 125 succulent species comprise the Crassulaceae family member Kalanchoe, which also goes by the name widow’s thrill. This flowering houseplant produces pretty blooms in such colors as red, magenta, bright pink, vivid orange, and yellow. Back in 1971, the Kalanchoe went to space courtesy of the Soviet Salyut 1 space station, making it one of the first of its kind to achieve such a feat!
If you put your Kalanchoe on your office’s windowsill, it should do well enough. Even if your office is sill-less, your houseplant will live. In fact, this houseplant needs darker conditions after blooming initially, as a combination of darkness and light can get its flowers appearing a second time.
Claw Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus
The claw cactus, which some also refer to as the false Christmas cactus, is a Cactaceae family member that looks more like your everyday houseplant than a cactus. It has segmented stems with teeth as well as aeroles, which you only find with cacti. The Schlumbergera truncata also sprouts pretty flowers in hues like dark red or neon pink. It grows in tropical forests and subtropical forests.
That should tell you that the claw cactus prefers a certain level of moisture, and quite a high one at that. It’s sensitive to bright, full sunlight, so avoid this except in the winter, when the sun is less harsh. Some shaded or dim light will be better for your claw cactus, as will a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees when the plant starts producing flowers.
Sometimes affectionally called the ZZ plant or eternity plant, the Zanzibar gem or Zamioculcas comes from northeastern South Africa, Kenya, and eastern Africa. Known for its segmented leaves, the Zanzibar gem makes an appearance in so many indoor gardens because it’s also quite simple to grow.
While the Zanzibar gem does like bright light, it cannot survive in direct sun. It also does fine in low, even dim light, so if that’s all you can get in your office, you can still grow a ZZ plant. Like any succulent, don’t overdo it on the water. Use soil with good drainage, repot annually, and don’t expose this houseplant to very high humidity. The natural humidity generated at home or in an office suffices for the Zanzibar gem.
Here’s another interesting pick to spruce up your office, the mistletoe cactus or Rhipsalis. It’s another betraying name, as the Rhipsalis doesn’t look a thing like a cactus. Instead, its bright green, grass-like leaves put this houseplant right at home with your other non-succulents. The name Rhipsalis comes from the word for wickerwork in Ancient Greek, a testament to the morphology of the houseplant.
Its structured stems with the small, angled blooms do make the Rhipsalis quite a nice houseplant to admire. Since this plant would grow beneath trees natively, indirect light suits it best. Its hardiness also means it’s the perfect choice for beginners; much like the snake plant, it’s hard to mess up caring for the Rhipsalis.
You know that with a name like the Flaming Katy, this next pick has to be good. Indeed, that’s a fun nickname for the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, an herbaceous succulent. Per each flower head, this houseplant may produce upwards of 50 tubular flowers, which is no small feat. It’s no wonder that the earliest Flaming Katy plants were given and received as gifts all the time. This Kalanchoe grows exclusively in Madagascar, but you can find it in many floral shops today.
The Flaming Katy won’t mind darkness, but only for about 30 days before you risk impacting the houseplant’s growth. Dim to bright light is better, as without at least some light, you won’t get to enjoy the many, many flowers the Flaming Katy is so beloved for. The lowest temperature you can set your office thermostat to is 50 degrees, and the highest 72 degrees, as this is the perfect range for the Flaming Katy.
Another Crassulaceae family member, the Echeveria is a lovely succulent with leaves arranged into the shape of a rose. They grow in Central America’s desert-like regions and can flower, but the plant itself also has a variety of colors that make it a fantastic addition to your office. You’ll never have a dull day with the Echeveria around.
Afternoon sunlight may be too harsh on the Echeveria’s leaves, even as a succulent. The leaves can end up burnt, and even if that doesn’t happen, the experience can cause the houseplant stress. Filtered and other indirect light sources are a better choice, and, depending on the species, you can even get away with shady conditions.
Yeah, okay, you can call the panda plant just that, but we much prefer the Kalanchoe tomentosa’s other nickname, the chocolate soldier. It’s called that due to its rather brownish leaves, which sometime manifest as spots against green leaves. Either way, the panda plant will stand out in any indoor garden.
This beginner-friendly indoor plant may reward you for your care efforts by growing up to 24 inches tall and 24 inches wide. While it doesn’t do well in the cold, the panda plant should be fine if you leave it in your office or even your home. It can withstand a variety of lighting conditions, from partial shade to fuller sun. Like anything chocolate, make sure you keep this houseplant away from animals, as it’s poisonous to them.
Another plant to decorate your office with is the Gasteria, a species of South African succulents that resembles an aloe. Their rough, bumpy texture and natural color variation are also standout features of this houseplant. While it varies by species, the Gasteria or lawyer’s tongue can get up to three feet long.
You want to provide soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 that has sand and organic material and also drains well. The gentle shade this plant species grows in natively means it’s very much used to low light. Direct sun can scorch the Gastonia, so keep it away. If you do everything right, your Gasteria will sprout red or pink flowers.
The cushion aloe, star window plant, pearl plant, and zebra cactus, all names for the Haworthia, is another succulent species that’s quite like the Gasteria. It too has aloe-like leaves, but with one very key difference: stripes! Yes, they don’t call this houseplant the zebra cactus for nothing, even if it’s not actually a cactus. A South African native, the Haworthia can grow between five to 20 inches at maturity depending on the species you choose.
Outdoors, Haworthia sprout up beneath rocks or other tall objects that provide shade, so try to mimic these growing conditions in your office as best you can. That means putting the houseplant by a western-facing or eastern-facing window if you’ve got one. To get the zebra cactus ready for blooming in the summer, increase its watering, but only during that season. Remember, it’s a succulent, so less water throughout the rest of the year is ideal.
Crown of Thorns
If you like flowers in your office garden, the crown of thorns plant, scientifically called the Euphorbia milii, has lots of ‘em. The houseplant originally came to France back in 1821, when a former Governor of Reunion named Baron Milius brought it to his home country. Before that, the crown of thorns grew natively in Madagascar.
If you have to provide indirect light to this plant, try to make it as bright as possible. That puts the crown of thorns plant in the best position to grow its multitude of cheery flowers, which come in a rainbow of natural colors that make any workday easier to get through. It’s also important to let the soil get dry between waterings, or else flower production can also stop.
From one religious-named plant to another, next, we’ve got the devil’s backbone or the Euphorbia tithymaloides. This succulent spurge is a perennial shrub with stems that stand straight up, hence why it’s called the devil’s backbone. Despite the ominous undertones with that name, this houseplant does produce long, rolled, pointed flowers. They’re very distinct, that’s for certain.
Low light isn’t bad for the devil’s backbone, but once it starts growing in the direction of whatever light it gets, you may want to move it to brighter lighting conditions. Keep the humidity low as well, but if it ever gets warm in your office, the devil’s backbone will remain unharmed. This houseplant doesn’t need fertilizer or pruning, so it’s a great plant for an office.
How long can succulents go without water?
We didn’t talk about specific succulent watering timetables in this article, which may have you wondering how long you can go without watering your succulent at your office. The answer depends on the succulent in question as well as how long ago it was since you last watered your indoor plant. In general, you can wait a few weeks, but probably not too much longer than that.
Succulents can survive so long without water because they’re really not deprived of H2O between waterings. Instead, the thick, smooth leaves of the succulent hold onto the water you give them. This provides moisture and keeps the houseplant alive.
This water doesn’t last forever though, and that’s when succulents need to be watered again.
How can you tell if a succulent needs water?
Luckily, you don’t have to guess when your succulent is thirsty. It will tell you that you’ve forgotten to water it for several weeks when its leaves begin to shrivel. They may also turn wrinkled.
These symptoms directly contrast with an overwatered succulent. That plant will have leaves or stems that are puffy in appearance.
Why do my succulents keep dying?
You bought a succulent or two because you heard these plants are easy to care for. Yet a month or two later, your succulent is dead. You thought were you doing a good job caring for it, so what happened?
More than likely, you overwatered it. Forgetting to water it often enough can kill this indoor plant as well.