My jade plants love getting four to six hours of sunlight each day. I find that a few hours of direct morning sunlight works best. An east or south-facing windowsill is the perfect spot. However, direct afternoon sun can be too much for them (usually found near bright western-facing windows). In my experience, jade plants that don’t get enough light, typically suffer from stunted or leggy growth.
Why Sunlight Is Essential For Jade Plants
Plants are unique in that they can actually create their food within their own bodies, unlike humans or animals. And the key to this is the right amount of sunlight.
Plants suck in carbon dioxide and water using their leaves and roots to meet their nutritional needs. The plant then combines these ingredients with sunlight, which it absorbs using chlorophyll – the green pigment in its foliage. Known as photosynthesis, this neat trick allows the plant to cook up the sugars that it needs to fuel its growth.
Getting too much or too little sunlight can negatively impact a plant’s growth. Like humans, plants can get burnt if they sunbathe too long. This can kill vulnerable young leaves, hampering growth.
But if the plant doesn’t get enough sun, it can’t make the right amount of nutrients to grow properly. A lack of fuel causes stunted growth, resulting in thin shoots with small, sparse leaves. This prevents the plant from creating lovely, thick foliage.
Typical Light Conditions in Their Native Habitats
Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are native to areas of Mozambique and South Africa. These hardy succulents grow on rocky slopes in drier regions. In this native habitat, most types of jade plants are exposed to harsh, unfiltered sunlight throughout the day and love warm, humid environments.
In these hot, dry areas, jade plants survive in sandy soil. They can sustain themselves during a drought as succulents by storing water in their leaves. But even in their native climate, too much sunbathing can damage jade plants.
Let your jade plant enjoy four to six hours of bright light each day to recreate this habitat at home. Protect the jade plant by filtering out direct sunlight through a blind or curtain in the afternoons.
Signs Your Jade is Receiving Too Much Light
Even though jade plants like to bask in bright sunlight, overexposure to solar rays isn’t good for them. The sun is strongest in the afternoon, so leaving your jade plant exposed to direct afternoon sun can burn it, causing jade plant leaves to turn yellow or brown.
Here’s how to tell if your jade plant is getting too much light:
Red leaf edges
If a jade plant is suffering under harsh sunlight, the edges of its leaves may start to turn red, wilt, or even drop off. This can affect older foliage in particular and can also spread across the entire leaf.
Although this looks alarming, it’s relatively routine for these plants in the wild. If you are concerned, try sheltering your jade plant from direct sunlight during the afternoon.
Brown crispy scabs on the leaves
Too much direct sunlight can actually burn your jade plant (recently propagated jade plants can be particularly sensitive). Typically, sunburn will start as brown patches at the edges of the leaves. Eventually, these spots will begin drying out and going wrinkly or crispy.
If this happens, it’s best to move your jade plant away from unfiltered direct sunlight during the afternoon. This is when sunlight is at its strongest level. To help the jade plant recover, carefully prune off the burnt sections.
Also, keep an eye on your jade plant watering cycles to ensure it’s receiving sufficient moisture, and consider fertilizing to boost the nutrient base.
Signs Your Jade Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
If your jade plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, it can be just as damaging as getting too much light. As desert-dwelling plants, jade plants love soaking up the sun. When a jade plant is left somewhere that is too dark, growth will start to slow, and the plant will weaken. For more, see our in-depth guide to Jade plant growth expectations indoors.
Here are a couple of signs that your jade plant isn’t getting enough light:
When they get the right amount of sunlight, plants can produce a bounty of thick, healthy foliage. But if they don’t get enough light to photosynthesize successfully, this growth becomes stunted and weak.
If there are wide gaps between your jade plant’s fleshy leaves, the plant may not be getting enough light. The stems will start to sag as the plant weakens, creating a droopy look. Moving the jade plant into a sunnier spot and trimming back the spindly stems will allow it to recover.
Another key signal that your jade plant isn’t getting sufficient sunlight is if the leaves have started dropping off. This means that the plant can’t make enough food through photosynthesis to produce strong growth. As a result, the leaves weaken and eventually fall off the stem.
To prevent more leaves from dropping off your jade plant, place it somewhere with more bright, indirect sunlight.
Weak or limp jade plants can also be more susceptible to pests and diseases and may also be a sign to repot your jade plant in a fresh, nutrient-rich soil base.
The Best Light Exposure for Jade Plants Indoors
To help your jade plant live its best life, let it soak up around four to six hours of bright sunlight every day. Let the plant enjoy as much direct morning sun as you can on an east or south-facing windowsill. Alternatively, let the plant bask for six hours in a spot with bright, indirect sunlight throughout the day. Skylights and conservatories or sunrooms can really help here.
Don’t leave your jade plant sitting in direct afternoon sun if you live in a hot, sunny climate to avoid sunburn. Move the jade plant somewhere with filtered, indirect light when the sun reaches its height around midday. Blinds or net curtains are perfect for this.
If you live somewhere with shorter days, leave your jade plant in a spot that gets the maximum amount of sunlight. A south-facing window is ideal.
Don’t leave your jade plant in a permanently shaded room, as its growth will be severely hampered. North or west-facing windows are usually the least suitable places for a jade plant.
Jade Plant Light Requirements FAQs:
Can Jade plants live in low light?
Jade plants will not appreciate being left in low-light conditions. These succulents need plenty of bright, full sunlight to grow at their best. Locations with low light levels will cause stunted or misshapen growth.
Can Jade plants take full sun?
Jade plants actually welcome full sun for a few hours every day. Direct morning sun is best because it isn’t as intense as afternoon light. Aim for about four of direct sunlight per day.
What kind of light do Jade plants need?
Jade plants need either direct morning light or bright, indirect afternoon sunlight to get the best conditions. These plants require at least four to six hours of fairly bright sunlight each day.
Will Jade plants live happily indoors?
These super succulents can live happily indoors if they get enough sunlight. Jade plants demand minimal care, making them fantastic choices for beginner houseplant owners. These plants will thrive as long as they get around four to six hours of bright light daily.
How do you know if your Jade Plant is getting enough light?
If a jade plant gets enough light, it’ll quite happily grow about its business. A happy, healthy jade plant will have glorious green foliage and pretty close gaps between its leaves.
If the plant’s foliage starts getting leggy or dropping off, it’s not getting enough light. If dry brown spots start appearing at the edges of the leaves, the plant is probably getting sunburned from too much direct sunlight.
Few houseplants are as easy to enjoy as the jade plant. These charming succulents don’t require a lot of hands-on care as long as they get the proper light levels.
Jade plants need between four to six hours of direct morning sun or indirect, bright light daily. This reflects the hot, dry conditions of their native habitat. To get the best possible light exposure, place your jade plant on an east or south-facing window ledge or shelf.
For more, here’s where I position jade plants at home for optimal growth and feng shui benefits.