Can You Grow Cactus Without Sunlight?

Can cacti live without direct or indirect sunlight? If you live in one of the colder states in the USA, such as Michigan or Boston, you might have difficulty growing cacti.

A cactus needs quite a lot of light to be able to grow. However, even if you don’t have a lot of sunlight hours during the year, you can still grow it with some adjustments.

If you ask, “Can you grow cactus without sunlight,” the answer depends.

Cacti as Indoor Plants

The most important point to consider is that cacti are indoor plants. This is why they need to be placed in light to grow.

Since indoor plants do not get much light anyways, they tend to use the indirect or direct sunlight they get from the windows in your home. Less sunlight forces them to spend more energy.

Without sunlight, plants can also experience overwatering as they can’t absorb enough and send it to the leaves. This can lead to rot or lack of blooming.

Since cacti aren’t like most houseplants and don’t require much water, you may wonder whether they can live in areas deprived of sunlight.

Cactus plants are a beginner gardener’s dream. According to Forbes, they are the easiest plants to maintain.

Despite cacti being low-maintenance indoor plants and surviving the harsh climate of the desert, they still need at least as much sunlight as they get in the desert.

Sure, cacti can survive without sunlight, but those blooming flowers you are dreaming of might be hard to achieve. Even a smaller cactus plant requires at least 3-4 hours of sunlight to grow.

However, answering the question, “Can you grow cactus without sunlight” can be a little tricky in some cases. For example, some cacti can survive in low-light states in the USA.

Moreover, houseplant enthusiasts in these states often use artificial light to give their plants the desired environment.

How Much Light Do Cacti Need?

We know the answer to “Can you grow cactus without sunlight?” But if you depend on direct sunlight, how much sunlight is too much?

Unlike water, soil, or fertilizer, you cannot gauge how much sunlight a plant has received. However, there are some warning signs of an indoor plant beginning to burn.

According to a New York Botanical Garden guide, plants placed against a window for too long might burn from one side. You can also notice some of the stems or flowers turning red.

If you keep your cacti plants away from the sun throughout the day, your plant might turn thin and weak. Ensure you keep them in the sun for at least ten to fourteen hours.

However, keep in mind that not all plants can bear direct sunlight. Adjust the positioning and placement accordingly. Most indoor cacti may only need a maximum of five hours of sunlight.

The following table can help you pick a cactus according to how much sunlight your state receives;

CactusSunlight Required
Opuntia CactusDirect sunlight
African Milk TreeIndirect sunlight
SempervivumDirect sunlight
Aloe VeraIndirect sunlight
Burro’s TailIndirect sunlight
Christmas CactusIndirect sunlight
Old Man CactusDirect sunlight
Senecio Blue ChalkstickDirect sunlight
Hens and ChicksIndirect sunlight
Jade PlantIndirect sunlight
Moon CactusIndirect sunlight
AeoniumDirect sunlight
AgaveDirect sunlight
Mother in Law’s TongueIndirect sunlight
Ox TongueIndirect sunlight
Panda PlantIndirect sunlight
EcheveriaDirect sunlight
Golden BarrelDirect sunlight
Ponytail PalmIndirect sunlight

A cactus plant can also require different amounts of light depending on various factors;

How to Adjust Sunlight for Cacti?

Your cactus plant will need different amounts of sunlight in the following seasons;

1. Summer

In the summer, most of your cactus plants will be blooming. Since they are used to feeding off the sun in the summer season, they may require more sunlight.

This is the light they will trap and store for dormancy. Since a cactus plant will not ask for a lot of sunlight in the winter, ensure you give it the attention it deserves.

However, avoid placing them in direct sunlight and forgetting about them since that can lead to a burnt plant.

2. Winter

When the seasons change and winter approaches, your cacti will become dormant. If you notice it experiencing difficulty, you can place it in the sun for some hours of the day or use artificial light. But try not to overdo it!

During dormancy, the plant’s metabolic rate also experiences a shift. It uses this time to produce fruits and flowers that will bloom in spring. Try not to mess with the cycle!

How Can You Grow Cactus Without Sunlight?

We now know we can grow cacti without sunlight. We even know that specific cacti can be grown in low light. But how can you grow cactus without sunlight?

What mechanisms can we use to encourage proper growth and healthier blooming?

1. Stick to the Sun

If you live in a sunny state in the USA, you can benefit from sticking to the sun. Unless your cactus plant variety is trickier, you might not need artificial light.

If you want to control how much sunlight your plant receives, try rotation or placement techniques and set timers if you find it difficult to remember.

The sun is an amazing source of light that is virtually free. All you need to do is place most cacti in indirect sunlight and remember to water them every couple of months.

2. Maximize What You Have

Suppose you live in a relatively colder state and still have a couple of hours of sunlight in the day. How can you use it to help your indoor plants thrive?

Try to use what you have to its maximum potential. Any cacti that require extreme sunlight should be placed in east or south-facing windows. These get the most and strongest sunlight throughout the day. Plants with indirect sunlight requirements can survive near west and north-facing windows.

Keep in mind that sunlight isn’t the only thing you must consider. If you have many tall plants near your cactus or a building blocking the view, your plant might only receive sunlight sometimes.

Once something comes in between your plant and the sun, it might not benefit from that light for long.

Also, consider the positioning and placement of your plants. Cacti do prefer to be placed near windows. However, try not to let them touch the glass, which is used to overheating.

3. Create Your Own Light

We don’t mean a DIY project. But you can create your own light within your home by investing in artificial lights that meet your plant’s requirements.

Of course, you may always prefer natural light. However, you might not always have a choice. If you suddenly have to move to a colder state, you might not have to abandon your cacti!

You can always introduce artificial light to your home and put your cacti underneath it. This will also prevent your plants from spending a lot of time in the cold outdoors, looking for light.

One early sign of decay or disease is when your plant begins to shrink. This thinning effect is gradual and sometimes irreversible. If you find your plant tilting to one side, that is also a warning sign that it is deprived of the sun.

The best thing about artificial light is that you can easily control it. Unlike placing your cactus plants in the sun, artificial light is easily adjustable.

You can also invest in a technologically advanced machine that gives you regular updates on the lighting requirements along with adjusted wavelengths for various purposes.

Tips for Adjusting Sunlight for Cacti

When asking, “How can you grow cactus without sunlight,” you may also wonder whether too much light can harm cacti. Since adjusting sunlight can be tricky, here are some useful tips;

1. Go Slow

Cactus plants that receive too much sunlight often display signs that can help you understand their requirements.

Heat damage can come in the form of scarring that appears on the edges of their stems and leaves. Another noticeable characteristic is drooping, tilting, thinning, or scarring.

You don’t need to thrust your cacti in extreme sunlight immediately. By easing them into the temperature, you can easily avoid damage.

The best way to expose plants to sunlight is to place them in indirect light at the start, even if they require direct sunlight. Slowly test their limits by adding more sun.

Once they are used to a particular temperature and are thriving, you can leave them in it and observe for a while before adjusting according to their reaction.

2. Research

It is best to understand the species of cactus plants you have brought home before pushing them into direct sunlight.

Some plants, such as the Christmas Cactus, require indirect sunlight, while others need intense, direct sunlight to grow. Try to submit them to varying degrees of sunlight according to their preference.

Remember that species that are used to indirect sunlight can easily get burnt and wilt away under intense sun. They might not be able to bear the extreme temperatures.

Slowly shifting your plants to intense sunlight allows you to observe their reactions and judge wisely.

3. Seasons

Cactus plants might need different amounts of sunlight depending on the season. In the summer, plants are much more active and used to receiving the most sunlight.

As the plants go dormant in the winter, subjecting them to intense heat might confuse them into believing they are in summer. They may leave dormancy and stop working on those beautiful fruits and flowers.

4. Trial and Error

You can figure out how much sunlight your indoor plants need or adjust depending on trial and error. You might be told that a cactus needs 4 to 14 hours of sunlight. So, how can you decide?

Too Less Light

Some plants might speak to you through a language you can only understand if you are patient. If your plant isn’t receiving enough sunlight, here’s what you may observe;

  • The plant will begin to lean or tilt to one side. It might even stretch and disfigure itself to reach a warm or sunny area.
  • The plant will also look less vibrant and green than before. It may even stop blooming.

You may think that the plant looks cool and even applaud its intelligence. But, in the long run, this is quite difficult and dangerous for the plant.

Try to adjust the plant’s position and ensure it receives more sunlight. You may still need to observe it for a few days before you are sure that it has adjusted.  

Here are some things to look out for in a plant that has gotten too much sun;

Too Much Light

Plants can burn quickly and begin to show early signs. This is your time to act. Some effects are irreversible, so act fast if you want your plant to survive!

  • Does your plant appear brown or yellow on the tips? Is it experiencing any kind of spotting or discoloration?
  • Do the leaves or flowers of your cactus plant appear to be scorched or drooped to the side?
  • Does your cactus plant’s soil look or feel a lot drier than before?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, your plant might be experiencing too much sun! You must quickly perform damage control and rescue it before it gets worse.

Start by shifting the position of the plant and transporting it to safety. The longer you wait, the more chances you will be unable to survive.

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Final Thoughts

Cactus plants are quite delicate when it comes to overwatering and sunlight. They might not require a lot of water or sun, but they still need as much as most other low-maintenance plants.

If you have brought home a beautiful cactus plant, it is time you thought about its sunlight requirements. Since you don’t need to spend much time caring for it, this should come first.

Start by experimenting with your plant gradually and figure out its comfort zone. The best cacti indoor plants thrive in indirect sunlight. Don’t overdo it!

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