indoor succulents

Succulents to Grow Indoors

Read in Afrikaans

It can be a challenge to keep indoor succulents happy as they generally need at least four hours of sunlight every day, although there are exceptions.

But if you understand the conditions in a plant’s natural habitat, and know what is meant by the terms ‘bright’, ‘indirect or ‘low’ light, you will soon figure out where to keep your indoor succulents. A happy thought, however, is that plants can be very adaptable and there are those that are quite willing to exchange the habitat of Mother Nature for one preferred by homo sapiens.

Lighting in a nutshell

Bright light means there is no form of shading, like a curtain, between a plant and a window. Only sun lovers will tolerate this, especially if it is a window baked by afternoon sun.

Indirect or filtered light means there will be a few hours of sunshine, such as through an east-facing window. In the garden it will generally be morning sun and afternoon shade.

Low light means sunlight is blocked out by an outdoor tree, building or other obstacle in a room, like curtains or decor.

African spear

This native of Angola, which is sometimes called the elephant’s toothpick, spreads horizontally via an underground rhizome sprouting long and thick cylindrical leaves with very sharp points – the perfect plant for a very tall and narrow pot. It is extremely drought hardy and can funnily enough tolerate either bright or low-light conditions. The botanical name is Dracaena angolensis, although it is also known by the synonym Sansevieria cylindrica.

Mammillaria cactus

There are many species in this genus, mostly Mexican natives, and they are widely grown as houseplants. A common characteristic is areoles (nipples) that bear spines arranged according to the Fibonacci sequence. Cool weather initiates flowering in a circle form. They hate humidity and prefer indirect light.


The indigenous genus Gasteria got its name from the word ‘gaster’, which means stomach in Latin and refers to the shape of the flowers. The plants grow naturally in shade, and the long leaves are roughly textured and often marked with interesting patterns and colours. This slow poke should be grown in indirect to low light.

Christmas cactus

Hybrids of Schlumbergera sp. produce the most exquisite and delicate flowers in winter, and the leaves are thick, flattened segments arranged in a long chain. Schlumbergeras are epiphytes (air plants) and natives of tropical rainforests in Brazil, which means they like regular watering and a humid atmosphere. They are superb indoor succulents suitable to a spot with indirect or filtered light.

Mistletoe cactus

Rhipsalis sp. are typically part of the understory level beneath huge tropical jungle trees, mostly in Brazil and Uruguay. They are epiphytes too, with very striking, thin, succulent trailing leaves. These slow-growing plants enjoy regular watering and humidity around them. The best spot for them will be in indirect or filtered light, to low light. They are not sun lovers at all!

The Gardener