How Much Sunlight Do Ghost Plants Need?

Ghost plants are popular succulents, but many new owners aren't sure how much sunlight they actually need. In this article, gardening expert Emily Horn walks through the direct and indirect sunlight needs for ghost plants, and their ideal location once they are placed in your home.

ghost plant light

One of the more unique succulents is the ghost plant. It takes on a ghostly appearance, hence its name, with foliage that comes in a blueish-gray color. They also can be pinkish-yellow in color. How is this so? It’s all about how much light the ghost plant receives.

Since ghost plants are considered succulents, one would assume they thrive in mostly sunny areas. However, not all succulents are created equal. Ghost plants have a unique need for sunlight based on how you want them to look and grow.

Apart from light, there are also a few factors to consider when growing ghost plants to your preference: compact or vine-like? Ghostly hues or pops of pink? To achieve these looks, you have to wonder how much sunlight do ghost plants really need? Read on to find out just how much of the sun these plants require!

The Short Answer

It really depends on what your overall goal is. Do you want a full, compact specimen with leaves in shades of red to yellow? To achieve this desired result, you will want to place your ghost plant in a well-lit location that receives a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day.

If your preference is a plant that will stretch out, cascading down the sides of your planter in hues of blue to gray, then the best location is near a window with low or indirect sunlight. However, this leggy appearance and possible leaf drop are not typically as desirable by gardeners.

The Long Answer

Most gardeners opt for a more compact look for this succulent, yet some prefer to have the plants cascade from a hanging container. There are some gardeners who want the foliage to be a pinkish-yellow, while others wish for the ghostly blueish-gray color that speaks to its name. Light can affect all of these, so knowing the end result to specific conditions is important to get the desired outcome.

Light Levels, Plant Shape and Coloration

Close up of the changes in leaf color when exposed to sunlight of the Graptopetalum paraguayense plant
When growing in bright, direct sunlight, it will be is more pink or orange in color.

The ghost plant, Graptolpetalum paraguayense, is a rosette-shaped succulent belonging to the Crassulaceae family of plants. Other popular plants in this family include the Jade Plant and stonecrop. Native to the central/eastern deserts of Mexico, this plant does well in bright, direct light.

Direct sunlight, or full sun, is a location that gets a minimum of 6 hours of light per day. Often windows that face south and west, and occasionally east, are considered full sun areas. Under direct sunlight, they often are shorter, thicker plants, with leaf colorations of reddish pink to orangey-yellow.

Although high light levels are ideal, ghost plants do well under lower light conditions with impressive results. In their search for higher levels of light, they will begin stretching their stems. This stretching, called etiolation, can result in the plant taking on an entirely different growth habit.

Instead of being compact, they will become leggier, with a more vine-like growth. In addition to the stretching, the color of the leaves will become bluer, almost gray, which is not very common in the plant world.

With these changes in shape and color, a ghost plant grown under lower light levels is a great addition to mixed succulent containers, often trailing down the sides of the planter.

Light Levels and Watering

Water Droplets Covering the Foliage of Graptopetalum paraguayense
Make sure when planting in full sun to water more often.

One thing to consider when placing your ghost plant in its location is how frequently it will need watering. This succulent is considered a desert native, so they do not require a substantial amount of water. But, if it’s placed in an area where it receives a lot of direct sunlight, you will be watering your plant more often.

In contrast, a plant in low light, the shadier spot will not be using water as rapidly as its full sun counterpart. Because of the lower water utilization, water will remain longer in the potting soil. The potential for overwatering is greater in low light.

Do you want to move your plant to a higher light location? Make the transition slowly, especially in the summer months. Going from low to high light too quickly when it comes to intensity can cause leaf scorch.

Moving Your Plant

Succulent in Pot
Always monitor your plant for signs of stress after moving to a new location.

Move your plant from its original location into a slightly sunnier spot and leave it there for 2-3 days. Then, move the plant again, increasing the plant’s exposure to high light for longer periods of time. After 7-10 days of acclimation, the plant should be adjusted to its new light conditions. 

Follow the same method of acclimation when transitioning indoor houseplants outdoors for the summer months. Too much change too fast can cause plant shock, often resulting in the shedding of leaves.

Moving from high light to low light can be a faster process. However, making any environmental changes, subtle or dramatic, can cause stress to your plant.

Light Levels and Dormancy

Mother of Pearl Succulent growing in pot With Water Droplets on Foliage
Graptopetalum is dormant during the summer months so avoid transplanting during this time.

Even though they are mostly kept indoors, they do go through dormant periods or times of no growth. Dormancy is influenced by a combination of light levels and temperatures, even in houseplants.

Most cacti and succulents fall into one of two categories when it comes to dormancy: winter-dormant plants or summer-dormant plants.

Plants that are winter dormant do their growing during the late spring, summer, and early fall. In the late fall and winter, the plant will go through its rest period. 

The opposite is true for summer dormant plants. Summer dormant plants rest in the summer but do most of their growing fall through spring. Generally speaking, Graptopetalum species fall into the summer dormant category.

In terms of repotting, you should avoid doing so in the summer months. Wait until the active growing season to refresh the soil and upsize containers if needed.

Final Thoughts

How much light to offer your ghost plant depends on how you want it to turn out. Anywhere from 4-6 hours of direct sunlight is ideal to achieve the rosette shape with pinkish hues. However, some gardeners choose shadier conditions to see the ghost-like colors that come with the name. Whichever you choose, just be sure to water appropriately and plant in well-draining soil for the best results!

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