Succulents in Shady Places

Which succulents thrive in the shade?

We asked landscape designer Don Newcomer of Serra Gardens Landscapes Succulents (760-990-4762, for advice on picking the best succulents for shady places:

People often ask me which succulents do well in the shade. Unfortunately, most do not. Aloes won’t bloom. Agaves rot out. Cacti become thin and sickly. But there are a few succulents that can do well in shade. And some — such as most members of the Sansevieria family — even prefer it.

Pictured are a few of our favorite “shady characters” — succulent beauties that can thrive with minimal sun or in full or partial shade.

shade succulents shady places web ready_5_5_2014_garden_v2
  1. Portulacaria afra (elephant food): Upright growing with delicate green leaves on reddish-brown stems. Can be kept almost any size with pruning. Cold tolerant to 25 degrees.
  2. Gasteria acinacifolia (giant Gasteria): Grows to 2 feet tall with a 2-foot spread and is the largest Gasteria variety. Thick, dark green leaves with attractive white spots. Three-foot, red-orange, nectar-rich flower in spring attracts hummingbirds and bees. Cold tolerant to 25 degrees.
  3. Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’: Hearty jade with interesting leaves that have suction cup-shaped tips. Named for a J.R.R. Tolkien character. Develops thick trunks with age. Great for bonsai cultivation. Cold tolerant to 25 degrees.
  4. Aeonium urbicum (saucer plant): A tender succulent that does well in sun and in partial shade. Pink flowers in late winter/early spring. Cold tolerant to 25 degrees.
  5. Agave attenuata (foxtail agave): One of the few agaves that can thrive in shade. Known for its soft leaves; makes a good landscape plant along walkways. Grows to 5 feet tall with a 6- to 8-foot spread. Cold tolerant to 35 degrees.
  6. Aloe aristata (torch plant or lace aloe): Extremely tough aloe that’s known to survive cold, wet winters. Features delicate variegated markings. Red blooms in early summer. Cold tolerant to 5 degrees.
  7. Echeveria derenbergii (painted lady): In shade, the leaves retain their pale green color; in sun, the leaves develop red margins. Red-tipped yellow flowers on stalks appear in spring. Cold tolerant to 25 degrees.
  8. Sempervivum arachnoideum (houseleek or hens and chicks): Popular in rock gardens and containers. Cobweb-like hairs hold the snow in cold climates. Cold tolerant to 10 degrees.

For more inspiration on planting with succulents in unusual spaces in out-of-the-box ways, check out our gallery of 8 Creative Ways to Plant Succulents.

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