Looking to plant a thriving succulent garden outdoors? Some succulents tolerate full sun better than others, so it’s a wise move to learn about which succulents perform well in full sun!
Contrary to popular belief, not all succulents can withstand high temperatures and direct sunlight year-round.
In fact, many succulent plants can burn under direct sunlight when temperatures reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
On this list, we’ll cover some of the very best full-sun succulents that can also withstand high temperatures (with some help) during the summer months.
This is especially important these days thanks to non-stop heat waves. In my area of zone 9B, we regularly experience heat waves throughout summer where temps, unfortunately, reach triple digits.
This can be detrimental to many plants, especially young plants that haven’t been given the opportunity to grow extensive root systems.
If you live in an area where temps are high and the air is dry, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the type of succulent you plant in full sun.
Now let’s talk about the plants below so you can start planning your beautiful succulent garden!
How to Water Full Sun Succulents
Watering is very important when it comes to outdoor succulents, especially during the summer.
If you want your succulents to both survive and thrive outdoors, then you need to be diligent with your watering. Sticking to a watering schedule can help a great deal with this!
Try picking one or two days out of the week to check the soil for dryness. For instance, you can choose Wednesday and Saturday and on these days each week, you’ll stick your finger into the soil about an inch or two deep to feel for moisture.
If it feels moist, check the soil again the next day. If it feels dry, it’s time to water the soil generously!
While you should absolutely let the soil of your indoor pots dry out completely between waterings, you actually shouldn’t do this with your outdoor succulents.
Remember that outdoor succulents are exposed to the elements in a way that indoor succulents are not. They need to protect themselves from extreme heat and harsh sunlight.
In order to do this successfully, they need to be well watered. You should not underwater your full sun succulents in dry climates.
Why? Because the roots and soil need to stay cool in order to keep the plant safe in the heat, especially if it’s a new plant.
As long as you use well-draining soil, you don’t have to worry about overwatering during the summer because the soil dries out very quickly, sometimes from one day to the next!
I typically water my outdoor succulents every other day in the summer, between the months of June and early October (I live in Zone 9b and our summers are intense).
All it takes is a few hours of sunlight to dry out the soil, particularly during heat waves.
The best time to water succulents outdoors is in the morning before the heat sets in.
Watering thoroughly in the morning gives the soil enough time to soak up the water it needs and then send it up to the stem and leaves to store. The moist soil will help keep the root system cool as the temperature rises throughout the day.
For your full sun succulents to thrive, you’ll need to help keep their root system from becoming dry or overheated during heat waves. If you do this, you can significantly lessen the chance that they’ll burn or wither under intense heat.
Now that we’ve covered how to water full-sun succulents during the summer, let’s talk about the best succulents for full sun!
(Head here to learn more about how to water succulents).
Prickly Pear Cactus
This is a classic, throw-back type of succulent! My grandma has grown this cactus in her yard for decades and even uses it to cook time and time again.
It’s as drought-tolerant as it gets so if that’s the kind of garden you’re looking for, consider the prickly pear cactus.
It’s aesthetically very interesting and lends a desert appeal to wherever it’s planted.
No two cacti are alike as prickly pear can grow in unique directions with different forms. Watch out for its prickly needles, though, as they can be sharp.
You can find prickly pear cacti in tiny pots, too, which is great for those of us who don’t want to commit to having a large cactus!
Every succulent enthusiast should own an aloe vera plant at some point! They’re very cool plants.
Aloe vera can be finicky when overwatered, though, so tread lightly and let the soil dry out between waterings, except during heat waves.
Give it enough light, too, but try to give it some shade during days when temperatures reach above 90 degrees. Aloe vera can sunburn more easily than some of the other succulents on this list so they’ll need a little more attention during the summer.
TIP: Always acclimate aloe vera plants to the heat before leaving them outside in the summer. This will give the plant a much better shot at making it through hot days without getting sunburned or shriveling from temperature shock.
The earlier you can get them outdoors in the spring, the better.
Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
If you’re a fan of prickly cacti, then the golden barrel is for you. It’s a great addition to a cactus garden but not recommended if you have small children or pets because of its sharp and plentiful needles.
They grow well both in the ground and in containers, just make sure to wear sturdy gloves before planting. They have excellent water stores so they won’t need much water to survive and can also be sensitive to overwatering.
Always make sure to plant in well-drained soil.
Senecio Blue Chalksticks
This is one of my very favorite succulents because of its beautiful color and shape. I love adding Senecio blue chalk sticks to my planters because it complements rosette succulents very well.
It provides a nice contrast in shape and its shade of blue is stunning!
Senecio Blue Chalksticks is also one of the best full-sun succulents you can grow and it truly does stand up to the heat!
The good thing is it can also perform well in partial shade – it’s pretty versatile. I’m currently using it as a ground cover under my standing wall garden, as shown below.
It’s a slow-growing succulent so no need to worry that it’ll overgrow a pot or space quickly.
Euphorbia Tirucalli (Pencil Cactus, Firestick Plant)
This cactus goes by so many names including pencil cactus and firestick cactus. Whatever you choose to call it, this succulent is a unique beauty that can’t be missed in the garden thanks to its vibrant colors!
As striking as its shades of bright orange, you should be aware that the sap inside the stems can damage your skin and eyesight, so wear protective gloves when handling and don’t touch your face.
In my hot and dry area of Zone 9b, you’ll see Pencil Cactus in common areas like outdoor malls and restaurants. It’s used in containers and garden landscapes, either alone or planted alongside shorter succulents. The result is beautiful and awe-inspiring!
Even better is its tenacity. This is one of the very best succulents for full sun because you don’t have to worry that it’ll sunburn easily if at all. Sure, you might get a few spots here and there but it generally can hold up to heat waves very well.
Panda plant is a fuzzy succulent and it’s absolutely beautiful. This succulent pairs well with many other succulents. Luckily, it enjoys full sun but can also perform well indoors with bright light.
If it’s well-acclimated in advance, it can survive extreme temperatures during the summer months.
However, I have had some leaves on my panda plants sunburn during heat waves, so my advice would be to be cautious and either move your planters under the shade on hot days or lay some shade cloth above the arrangement to help prevent sunburn.
Sunburn on panda plants usually appear as white or silver spots along the leaves and unfortunately, once this happens, the leaf damage can’t be reversed.
Your plant will survive and grow new leaves as time passes, but you’ll have to live with the marks on the leaves unless you pull them off the stem.
Crassula Ovata (Jade Plant)
Jade plants are some of the toughest succulents you can grow and they actually perform well indoors, too. It’s one of the best succulents for beginners and can be grown as container plants and trees.
Crassula Ovata can survive on little water but it will look its best when watered regularly, especially when it gets full sun exposure. I prefer to grow jade plants outdoors because it will look the prettiest when grown in direct sunlight.
When crassula gets enough light, its leaves can feature a red or pink outline, depending on the variety. It’s a sight to see! Plus, if it gets bright sunlight every day it can also produce lovely white flowers!
I own a few different kinds of Crassula and I love them all.
Echeveria Agavoides (Lipstick Echeveria)
Echeveria agavoides is a stunning rosette succulent that performs very well in full sun. It’s tougher than other Echeveria types and it features a unique green color that pairs well with other shades in a potted arrangement.
Lipstick Echeveria definitely benefits from some shade or protection from the heat during heat waves, though.
This rosette can sunburn under harsh conditions so prepare in advance. Keep the soil moist on the hottest days of the year to give it the best chance at thriving.
Golden Rat Tail (Hildewinteria aureispina)
Golden rat tail cactus makes an excellent addition to small succulent planters. If you don’t want to bother with large cacti but would still like to add a cactus to your plant collection, then this one is an excellent choice.
Be wary of its spiky thin spines, though. Wear protective gloves when handling and don’t water too frequently. Let them dry out between waterings.
I’ve planted this cactus in a hanging wall planter and it performed very well. See below!
Agave American was built for the heat! This succulent is one of the toughest landscape plants because it grows large, lives a long time, and can fill up spaces in the front yard.
If you’re into the look of drought-tolerant gardens, then consider an agave americana. You can find this plant in both small and large containers, but the large containers can run rather pricey.
Still, this type of agave is well-suited for warm weather and large outdoor gardens. The unique shape of the leaves coupled with its color is what makes this a statement succulent you can’t miss when you see it!
Because it features large, thick leaves, this full-sun succulent can withstand longer periods of drought.
Flapjack Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora)
This is one of the most interesting succulents you can grow. It has both unique leaves and amazing, bright colors. The large leaves hold up incredibly well to the hot sun and they complement other succulents beautifully.
Pair them in a planter with rosette-shaped sedum succulents and Senecio blue chalk sticks if you crave a succulent arrangement that can withstand high temperatures!
I’ve used paddle plant in my wall garden containers and I have been pleasantly surprised by how gorgeous it is.
Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)
If you love the look of a rosette succulent but need your rosettes to be able to stay out in direct sunlight through the summer months, then the ghost plant can fill that need.
It’s just as lovely as Echeverias but it’s just a little tougher. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to propagate and it spreads out rather quickly, too, during the growing season.
Over time, it can also be grown as a trailing succulent or “spiller” thanks to its thick stems that are able to grow downwards. The ghost plant is an ideal choice for adding beauty to potted arrangements and luckily, it’s one of the most common succulents so it’s not hard to find it at your local garden center!
I’m a big fan of the elephant bush because of its resiliency. It’s very drought-tolerant and handles some serious neglect. It’s perfect for outdoor containers and can be used to fill in spots or complement rosette succulents.
My favorite type is the variegated elephant bush and I use it often in DIY succulent bowls because it’s so beautiful. The mix of green and cream coupled with its tiny leaves makes for a fun container arrangement!
You can find this full-sun plant in tiny containers or very large ones at the garden center. Give it a try!
Aeoniums (Tree Housepleeks)
Aenoiums are a special type of succulent and are beloved for their waxy leaves and rosette shape. They grow on thick long stems that resemble trees.
They also come in a variety of colors and sizes. They’re monocarpic, too,- which means the parent plant dies after flowering, but the offsets it produces live on.
If you love the look of rosette succulents, give aeoniums a try. You can find them for sale as small or large planters.
Here’s another short succulent that thrives in full sun. It makes a lovely addition to succulent arrangements with other varieties of succulents but can also be used as a ground cover.
It features thick, round, fleshy leaves and a silver color.
Sempervivum Hens & Chicks
If you’re looking for a succulent that spreads out like a mat, try your hand at hens & chicks. Sempervivum is cold hardy which means you can leave it outdoors during the winter in very cold climates!
You’ll be pleasantly surprised by its beautiful pointy leaves, various shades, and rosette shape.
Make sure to acclimate them to full sun before temperatures reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Doing this will give them a better chance of avoiding sunburn during heat waves.
You can also move them to indirect sunlight on these days or hang some shade cloth above them.
Sempervivum is a monocarpic succulent that dies after flowering, although the many pups it produces will live on!
Personally, I enjoy using hens & chicks succulents to create crafts because they’re both beautiful and resilient. I’ve made DIY pumpkin succulents with them to use as Fall decor; I’m always able to plant them afterward when the season is over.
Snake Plant Sansieveria
Snake plants are one of those succulents that can perform well both outdoors and as indoor succulents. They love direct sunlight and grow faster and taller when given ample light.
It should be protected from the sun’s rays during heat waves, though, as its leaves are sensitive to sunburn. They’ll survive, but you might notice some brown sun burns on their leaves.
This resilient succulent looks beautiful when used as a thriller in container arrangements because of its height. There are also many different types of sansevieria: some grow straight up like sticks and others have more curves to them as they stretch out.
Make sure not to overwater snake plants as they tolerate drought very well. Water when the top few inches of soil feel dry.
Graprosedum rosettes are some of the prettiest and toughest full-sun succulents you can grow.
They have the unique quality of being rosette-shaped but still being able to handle high temperatures, especially if well-acclimated before summer sets in.
Grow graptosedum in pots next to taller succulents like Senecio blue chalk sticks or elephant bush for a striking arrangement; use it as your filler!
The great news is: this succulent comes in a variety of colors!
Signs of Sun Damage
Below, I’ve included several photos of different succulents that show signs of sun damage. Some of them can be saved while others are too far gone.
Many succulent leaves first turn silver or white and this can be the first sign of sunburn. You should move your succulent to the shade as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
Another sign is dark brown spots on the leaves that appear wrinkly. This is more severe damage. Unformatunteyl you can’t reverse the damage; your succulents will need to grow new leaves and eventually drop the sunburned leaves. This could take months to a year, however. See examples, below.
How Hot is Too Hot for Succulents?
While succulents are celebrated for their resiliency, they can actually sunburn quickly when left out in full sun when temperatures reach above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
To help keep your succulents from getting sunburned during extreme weather, aim to do the following:
- water deeply in the mornings to help keep the root system cool (as long as you have good drainage)
- if you can, move your potted succulent arrangements to an area that receives shade during the afternoon, when temps are highest
- for succulents planted in the ground or for planters that are too heavy to move, try hanging shade cloth several inches above the plants to shelter them from sun rays
The full sun succulents on this list can thrive in your outdoor garden as long as you provide adequate care. They are some of the most resilient succulents you can own and they’re great if you’re just getting started with these drought-tolerant plants.
For those of us who live in hot and dry climates, full-sun succulents afford us the ability to enjoy greenery out in our garden without sacrificing on beauty.
Good luck and happy gardening!
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LOOKING FOR MORE SUCCULENT CARE INFORMATION?
I have you covered with both succulent care and succulent crafts content! Head to the following posts for more help and inspiration:
The Best Succulent Plants for Indoors
How to Water Succulents
Why Succulents Grow Leggy
Succulent Care 101: How to Care for Succulents so They Can Thrive
DIY Christmas Succulent Ornaments
Succulent Leaves are Shriveling? – Find out Why
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs
How to Use Succulents to Make a Fairy Garden