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Shady Characters – Succulents for Shade

Shade Succulents with numbersPeople 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.

  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.