Indoor Cactus Care: Can Cactus Grow In Shade?

Can Cactus Grow In Shade

Cacti are one of the most adapted plants in the world. They are known to survive in extreme heat and dry areas. But if you are planning to grow them indoors, you might be thinking, can Cactus grow in shade?

Then the answer is no. Cacti can’t grow in complete shade without receiving any light. This is because, like other plants, they also utilize photosynthesis to make food, and if there is no light, that is not possible.

But this doesn’t mean there is no hope for Cactus indoors. Cactus can grow in the shade if you can ensure a light source in the shade so that they can receive a sufficient amount of light.

And in this guide, we will go through all the factors & details that come into play regarding cactus growth in the shade. So, make sure to go through each section carefully.

Factors Affecting Cactus Growth in Shade

Here are the most common factors that affect a cactus’s growth in the shade:

Factors Affecting Cactus Growth in Shade

Intensity of Light

As mentioned earlier, no plant can’t grow in complete shade; they need some form of light to trigger photosynthesis. So, even in the shade, there should be some amount of light that the Cactus can use for its growth.

The more intense the light is, the better in this case. Insufficient amount of light intensity would often lead to a stretched & weak growth along with a significant reduction in vigor.

Light Exposure Duration

Indirect sunlight is the most optimal growth scenario for a cactus, especially for those you hope to grow in the shade. The most optimal light exposure duration is between 4 to 7 hours.

But this can be changed depending on the intensity of the light, the size of the Cactus, and other environmental factors.

Keep in mind that light exposure is a must for a cactus to grow. If it doesn’t get enough time in the light, its growth will take a significant blow which can even lead to the plant dying.

Shade Temperature

If a cactus is growing in the shade, then this means it will have much cooler temperatures than the ones that are growing under direct or indirect sunlight.

Lower temperatures aren’t helpful for the growth of cactuses; while some species can withstand this kind of situation, most cactuses will face a very slow growth period.

If the temperature situation doesn’t get warm, then the Cactus might end up suffering body deformity, a steady decline in growth, and eventually death.

The most optimal temperature settings for cactuses are between 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit; lower than this can lead to trouble.

Soil Moisture

The soil where your Cactus is planted will face a reduction in evaporation rates, which will lead to increased moisture in the soil; this will slow down the growth of your Cactus significantly.

Not only this, but too much moisture accumulation can also lead to the plant facing rotting issues. So, if you plan to grow your Cactus in the shade, you will have to tackle this moisture issue by watering the plant regularly but don’t overwater, though, as that may lead to other problems.

Additionally, it’s important to monitor their watering needs and ensure that the soil has good drainage to prevent overwatering, underwatering, and root rot.

Air Circulation 

In shaded areas, there is a low amount of air circulation. For a cactus, this means that the shad will be more humid compared to an open space where sunlight comes in. A highly humid environment means that the Cactus will be more prone to disease; this will affect its health and can lead to termination in growth.

Shade Type

There are different types of shades out there, and which type you are putting your Cactus may define how its growth would be.

The best possible option would be the dappled shade. In this type of shade, sunlight gets filtered by foliage and enters the shade. So, if you pair this up with a shade-tolerant Cactus, then you will be able to observe steady growth for your Cactus.

Ignore complete shade for your Cactus as it won’t get any light which means not only will the Cactus won’t grow, but it may end up dying also.

Different Types of Cacti that Can Grow in the Shade

While most cactuses prefer bright indirect sunlight, there are some species that are known to grow significantly well in lower light conditions. They are referred to as shade-tolerant cacti. Here are some of them that grow well in the shade:

Epiphyllum Cactus

Orchid Cactus or Epiphyllum cactus is well-known for its beautiful flowers. But is also comfortable in shaded areas and shows a record of steady growth if it receives proper care.

Epiphyllum Cactus

As these cactuses are epiphytic, they can naturally get adapted to partial shade or filtered light.

Rhipsalis Cactus

Commonly referred to as the mistletoe or jungle cacti, the Rhipsalis cacti are commonly found in tropical rainforests, where they usually grow in the understory beneath the canopy. Due to this fact, they have a natural tolerance to low-light situations and can be grown in shades.

Rhipsalis Cactus

Schlumbergera Cactus

Christmas Cactus or Schlumbergera cactus are also known to be tolerant to partial shade. They are one of the most common indoor plants, so you can be assured of the fact that if you take proper care, they will thrive inside your home even if you keep them in a shaded place.

Schlumbergera Cactus


Commonly known as the Easter Cactus, the Hatiora species have flattened stems which helps them to survive longer than other cacti in shaded and low-light environments.


Common indoor plants need only a few hours of sunlight to function properly.

Now do keep in mind that while these cactuses can survive in the shade, they still need light to survive and make food. So, just choosing a low-light tolerating cactus won’t be able to guarantee that your Cactus will grow properly in the shade.

How Much Light Does an Indoor Cactus Need?

Indoor cacti placed in the shade will require a significant amount of light for their survival. Ideally, several hours of bright direct or indirect sunlight regularly.

How Much Light Does an Indoor Cactus Need?

As a general guideline, a cactus placed in shade should receive at least 4 to 6 hours of indirect and bright sunlight every day. The higher the number, the better in this case.

You should place the Cactus close to a west or south-facing window. This will ensure the plant receives the most amount of sunlight throughout the day.

Direct sunlight can be too intense at times; in that case, put up a sheer curtain or create some distance from the window but make sure that the light still reaches the Cactus.

How Do You Know If a Cactus Needs More Light?

The biggest hurdle for a cactus’s growth that is placed in the shade is a light deficiency.
Here are the signs that indicate a cactus may need more light:

How Do You Know If a Cactus Needs More Light?

Signs of Etiolation

Etiolation refers to the elongation or stretching of a plant as it tries to reach for more light.

If your Cactus shows leggy with elongated stems and widely spaced spines, it is a sign of Etiolation and light deficiency. This shows that the Cactus is stretching to find more light so that it can survive. If you see this happening to your Cactus, place it under indirect sunlight as soon as possible.

Otherwise, your Cactus may stretch too much and then just break.

Body Changing to Pale or Yellowish Color

When the cactuses aren’t getting enough light, they will start to change their color from green to pale or yellowish coloring. This is especially noticed in their stems and leaves.

Cactuses do this because of inadequate light that hampers chlorophyll production, leading to this pale and yellowish outlook.

Reduced or No Flowers

Many cacti are known for producing beautiful flowers, but if there is a light insufficiency, then it can hinder flowering. So if you have a cactus that is known to produce flowers and is not doing so, then it may just be a sign that it is not receiving enough light which can support the blooming process for the flowers.

Stunned or Extremely Slow Growth

The main reason why a cactus can’t grow in the shade is a light deficiency, and if you see that your Cactus is showing very slow growth to no signs of growth during its active growing period, then you can be assured of the fact that it is suffering from light deficiency and needs more light.

The Cactus Is Leaning Towards the Light Source

Cacti that are reaching or leaning towards a light source, such as a window, are indicating their need for more light. If you observe your Cactus leaning or bending towards the light, it is likely trying to maximize its exposure and is a clear sign that it requires additional light.

How Do You Know If a Cactus Needs Less Light?

While this can be very unlikely for a cactus placed in the shade, there are times when cactuses suffer from getting too much light. If that is the case, then the plant will start to show the following signs:

How Do You Know If a Cactus Needs Less Light?

Sunburn or Discoloration on the Body or Scorch Marks

Exposure to too intense and direct sunlight for an extended amount of time will lead a cactus to develop a sunburn or body discoloration.

The Sunburned areas will look like brown and yellow spots throughout the body of the Cactus. If that is the case, then you should remove the Cactus into a more shaded area.

Scorch marks are similar to sunburns, but they look deep brown and are usually found where the sunlight hits the Cactus the most.

Less Vibrant Color

When a cactus gets too much light, it will start to fade or bleach out, as the excessive light will cause damage to the pigments in the Cactus. This will make the Cactus lose its color intensity.

Body Shriveling or Wrinkling

Light overexposure can cause excessive water loss, and that can lead to it shriveling or wrinkling. And it won’t change just by watering daily.

So, if your Cactus appears dehydrated, despite watering regularly, then this will be a sign that you are leaving it out on too much intense light.

Sudden Growth in a Short Time

Fast growth can often create weak and elongated stems, so if you find that your Cactus is growing excessively in its dormant growth period or active growth period, then it indicates that the Cactus needs less light than the amount you are providing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Cactus grow in the bathroom?

Yes, cacti can be grown in a bathroom as long as you can ensure that they will be able to receive adequate light and that the temperature & humidity levels are suitable for their growth.

2. Do artificial light works with Cactus?

Yes, if your indoor shaded space doesn’t have enough natural light, supplemental artificial lighting can be used to provide the necessary light for the Cactus.

Final Thoughts

Growing Cactus indoors often leads to the question: can Cactus grow in the shade? Without creating the proper environment, that is not possible, but if you follow the details provided in this guide, you already know that with the right light settings and care, you can grow a cactus even in the shade.

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