Succulents are a natural wonder that you can bring into your own home. These hardy little plants love sunlight and warmth, making them the optimal companion for your window sill.
Some of the best succulents for your window sill are types of cacti like the pincushion cactus and moon cactus. Other succulent varieties include echeveria, haworthia, lithops, sempervivum, string of pearls. These plants are slow-growing and will be happy on your window sill for years.
In the following article, we will discuss which types of succulents are perfect for your window sill and which varieties to avoid. We’ll talk about why these plants love to live near windows and tips for helping each succulent thrive there.
If you’re getting into home gardening, likely, a succulent will find its way into your collection early on. These plants are known for being easy-to-care-for, as long as you aren’t giving them too much “love” (aka, water.) There are some specific things that succulents prefer, though, like the type of soil and material of pot.
Generally, succulents are a low maintenance plant, preferring to be placed somewhere with lots of light and not moved or watered very much. Most of these plants are happy with a weekly drink, as a succulent can quickly die from overwatering. The water that the plant does not use sits in the soil on top of the plants’ roots and causes them to rot and die. Soil that is damp for extended periods of time can also breed bacteria and pests, like spider mites.
For a succulent, the best type of soil is a porous potting mix. This is usually a mixture of dirt, sand, and a very small amount of fertilizer. The holes in the soil allow for excess water to run through and for air to better permeate the soil. Too much fertilizer can quickly burn a succulent, so it should be used sparingly.
The best pots to use for a succulent, especially small ones that don’t drink much water, are unglazed clay pots. These raw-finished containers are very absorptive and will help draw unused water away from your plants’ roots. Not only do these types of pots help your plants, but they are usually cheaper than finished ceramics.
What Makes a Succulent Right for Your Window Sill
If you’re planning on filling your window sill with plants, there are some key factors you should consider before you invest in the greenery. There are many types of vegetation that wouldn’t enjoy this location for reasons we’ll touch on below.
Your Window Sill Will Get a Lot of Light
It’s obvious that your window sill is one of the sunniest places in your home, and you may think that all plants would love it there. There are many types of houseplants that actually don’t appreciate being right next to a window.
For many plants, these locations are too sunny, and at peak hours of the day, the sun is too warm. These plants prefer to be set back from the window or even placed on a far wall. Even for some succulents, the window can be too bright. Mostly, though, succulents will thrive on your window sill, enjoying anywhere from 6-12 hours of daylight.
As far as cacti go, the window sill may very well be the only place inside your home that they will live happily. Most other locations won’t provide nearly enough light for them.
The Temperature Near Window Sills Will Fluctuate
Even if you live in the southern United States, your outside temperatures can fluctuate greatly. Phoenix, Arizona, can reach temperatures below 17°F (-8.3°C) in January, the coldest month of the year there.
For some plants, being right next to a windowpane during these fluctuating temperatures can be damaging and even deadly. The proximity to the window will directly affect the plant, with the cold air drawing chilling the soil through the glass.
A lot of succulents actually grow in inhospitable landscapes like deserts and high mountain ranges. These plants are known to withstand both sweltering heat and freezing temperatures, making them an ideal plant for your window sill. Some succulents even benefit from experiencing periods of drastic cold.
Air Flow Is Better Near an Open Window
If you are the type of person who wakes up, throws back the curtains, and opens your window to get some fresh air, then your plants will love you. Being placed near an open window creates airflow for your plants, which is crucial for their health.
Airflow helps to dry out the soil of a plant, which, as we know, is extremely important for succulents. Some plant types would be much too high maintenance to keep near a window, but for most succulents, this is perfect.
Your Sill Is Only So Big
Another important criterion for window sill plants is the size restriction of the area. Most window sills have a depth between 4″-8″ (10.16-20.32 cm), with the average depth being about 6″ (15.24 cm). That doesn’t leave a ton of space for plants. Most of the pots you’ll be purchasing will be between 3″-5″ (7.62-12.7 cm) in size so that they don’t overhang off of the sill.
A lot of plants are fast growers, especially when given optimal conditions near a window. Unfortunately, this is less than ideal when it comes to the plants you want on your window sill. These rapidly developing plants will quickly outgrow the location, and you’ll have to relocate them anyway.
Succulents that are slow-growing are going to be the better option for your window sill. They will be able to stay there for a long time, with some of them growing at a sluggish rate of a few millimeters per year. Often these plants don’t even need to be repotted for years.
As we can see from the information we’ve just learned, succulents are a great match for a sill-bound indoor garden. The optimal succulents for your window sill are going to be sun-loving, cold-tolerant, slow-growing types. Let’s look at 12 of the best succulents that fit these criteria.
One of the most classic window sill accompaniments is the Pincushion Cactus. These plants thrive on the bright light provided by being placed near a window. They are recognizable by their whimsical round shape and white spines that grow symmetrically around the cactus. These plants are entrancing to look at, especially if you can manage to get them to flower.
Little pink flowers can sprout around the crown of the cactus, serving as a visual reward for your home gardening efforts. This plant is also slow-growing and won’t get much bigger than 6-inches at its maximum size. If you’re only going to get one plant for your window sill, this is the perfect one.
The moon cactus is one of the brightest cacti that seems too cute to be real. In a way, this is true. The moon cactus has been created with the help of humankind. For the moon cactus to survive, two plants must be joined together.
These plants are usually a combination of the Gymnocalycium and a cactus similar to the Hylocereus. One of these plants is a small, brightly colored cactus that is red, yellow, or orange. This part of the plant cannot produce chlorophyll and must be fused on top of another cactus to live. The other cactus is a “basic” green cactus that can produce the necessary nutrition for both plants.
What makes this unique, man-made specimen so perfect for your windowsill is its flexibility. These plants do love sun but won’t die if they see a few weeks of shade. They aren’t huge fans of the cold, but being indoors should keep them warm enough through the winter.
The moon cactus is a great candidate if you have a north-facing window that you are trying to fill. These succulents will also add a pop of color without taking up too much space.
The Echeveria succulent plant is so popular that you might not even fully register it every time you see one. These little succulents are often placed in rock gardens and low-light corners, as they are famous for their hardiness. They usually appear as a green-based rosette, with a variety of pastel colors that accent the tips of their leaves.
Not only are there over 150 different types of plants in this family but they are found in harsh environments around the world. These plants can be found growing at elevations as high as 4,000′. They are often frost and drought resistant and can thrive in soil that has next-to-no nutritional components.
These plants are so good at growing in adverse conditions, and you can imagine how well they would do on a nice, warm window sill. Not only are there dozens of types of echeveria to choose from, but they are also all elegant and grow slowly. Echeveria is the perfect succulent to choose from if you’re looking to plant many succulents in one pot, too.
Air plants are one of the most mysterious types of succulents. They require no soil at all to grow but instead, they are getting their nutrients from a weekly soaking of water and plenty of sunlight. These delicate plants grow in rosette-shaped spirals, with their tapered leavers trailing outwards to absorb the moisture in the air better.
These plants are of the higher-maintenance end of the succulent spectrum, needing a weekly bath in water to rejuvenate them.
This is easily performed by placing your air plants in the sink, with enough lukewarm water in the tub to submerge them. Leave your plants under water for 30 minutes, then move them to a clean dish towel or paper towel on the counter. Place your plants upside-down so that the excess moisture can run off of them. After another 30 minutes, you can move the airy greens back to their home on your window sill.
Most succulents do not enjoy water sitting on their leaves or surface for extended periods of time. This is true for air plants; however, they do their best in a high humidity environment. You’ll often see air plants living in a glass terrarium. This glass dome traps moisture near the plants, raising the levels of humidity around them.
Tip: Avoid spritzing water onto your air plants’ leaves; instead, spritz water onto the glass of the terrarium. When the sun heats the glass, the water will evaporate, raising the humidity around the plant.
The haworthia succulent is also known as the “zebra plant.” Aptly named for the white bands that adorn their dark green leaves. These little succulents appear similar to aloe vera yet don’t contain the same nutritional values.
These plants are perfect for your window sill. They love to be planted in small pots, growing in compact, spiky bunches. The haworthia is also extremely slow to develop, which means two things: they won’t outgrow your window sill, and they can go years without repotting.
The haworthia plants are native to Africa, where they are often found growing in the shade of other plants. They can thrive on the average American window sill, where the average UV index is much lower. If you do live in a hot, southern state, these plants may benefit from being placed on a northern or eastern facing window, where they receive slightly less sun. In the northern part of the country, a south-facing window is perfect.
Lithops are one of the most unique types of succulents that can thrive in your home. These compact plants are also known as “living stones” because of their unique appearance. Small, round or oval plants grow just above the surface of the ground.
The leaves of the lithops grow in pairs, forming an oval with a line down the middle where they meet. The color and shape of these leaves give the plant the appearance of a pebble, which is how they avoid being eaten in the desert.
Every winter, the plant will grow a new pair of leaves, which erupt out of the crack between the two pre-existing leaves. This gives the plant the appearance of cracked stones stacked on top of one another. The growing process is very slow, and the plants’ low profile makes it perfect for your window sill.
Not to be confused with the echeveria, these succulents are also rosette-shaped plants that like to grow in close quarters. The sempervivum is another trademark type of succulent often found in garden beds and huddled along window sills.
Sempervivums often birth their offspring that grow in close proximity to their parents. These babies can grow from seed but also often grow from a dropped leaf of the parent plant. These succulents are very easy to propagate in this way, and if you’d like to fill your sill with identical plants, then growing many sempervivums from propagated cuttings is the ideal way to do that.
These plants are drought tolerant and prefer not to be touched or moved too much. In fact, it’s better to err on the side of abandonment than to over-love these plants. Too much water will quickly end in a bout of root rot, and too much disturbance can cause excess leave-dropping.
Place the sempervivum near a bright but breezy window, and benefit from hands-off decorating for your home.
String of Pearls
The jovial appearance of a string of pearls plant on your window sill is hard to beat. These happy little succulents consist of draping stems that are adorned with little green bulbs. The bulbs hold all of the water necessary to keep the succulent alive in times of drought. The “strings” of the succulent can grow up to three feet long, which can drape along your sill in a colorful curtain.
They are a medium-speed grower, showing plentiful rewards for your efforts. You can create a fuller string of pearls pot by propagating the ends of your plant and replanting them in the soil of the main pot. Over time, this succulent will grow into a lush bowl of emerald pearls, elevating the decor of your room.
Your string of pearls plant will likely only need watering once a week in the summer. In the winter, this can drop to once every two or even three weeks.
Tip: Don’t know when to water your string of pearls? Wait for the bulbs to pucker, and that’s when you know your plant is thirsty.
An unlikely yet fitting candidate for your window’s edge is the snake plant. Also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, there are many varieties of this plant that can flourish in your home.
It’s commonly said that the snake plant is a low-light plant, and while it’s true that this specimen can survive in low-light, it certainly doesn’t thrive there. A snake plant is still a desert plant, and it loves the sunshine. A west- or east-facing window would be perfect for this plant, which could burn with too much sun.
These plants are excellent for large standing pots, where their sharp knife-like leaves grow up to three feet vertically. However, other plants in this category, like the Bird’s Nest snake plant, exist on a much smaller scale.
These plants only grow to a height of 12″ (30.48 cm), maximum. They also are notoriously slow-growers, which is why they usually come with a higher price tag than the average succulent. Combine these factors together, and you get the ideal sill-mate.
Another cheery succulent for your home is the panda plant. These small plants can grow quite large, but only if their container allows it. They are happy to exist at a sill-friendly size, but if you decide to let them truly flourish, you can move them to a bigger pot at any point in time.
What makes these little succulents so special is the fine, velvety hairs that grow all over the green leaves. The hairs are white along the leaves’ faces, but they are a dark red along the edges. Overall, the plants seem to be an echo of a red panda bear, one that loves to bask in the sun.
As with most succulents on this list, the panda plant despises too much water. A drink once a week is more than enough for these plants, and honestly, two weeks is fine too. Their humidity needs are also very low, and they’d prefer your window sill to the blazing outdoor sun.
Bunny Ears Cactus
There is a reason why so many cacti are on this list: they love to be put on a sunny shelf and forgotten about. The bunny ears cactus is a dry-loving cactus that can take as much sun as you can give it.
These plants are optimal for low-humidity locations that get plenty of sun and for people that hate taking care of their plants. The green plants have a short base from which a pair of paddle-like leaves protrude. Covered in short bristles, these pads give the plant the silhouette of a bunny with upright ears.
Fairy Castle Cactus
The fairy castle cactus is native to North, Central, and South America. It is an extremely slow-growing plant, expanding just millimeters every year. This cactus grows in layers of stalks and stems, giving the plant the appearance of a castle with turrets and towers. The fairy tale cactus doesn’t have a moat for defense; however, it comes equipped with tough spines to keep away the predators.
This succulent is not likely to survive outside of your home unless you live in a very arid climate. However, these cacti can survive indoors, especially on a sunny window sill. If you have a window that doesn’t open, that could be the perfect place for this plant that actually doesn’t like drafts and breezes.
In the winter, the watering needs of the fairy castle cactus drop to as little as once a month, especially if you live in a cold climate. Be sure to still get your plant as much daylight as possible during this time, and you’ll have a no-fuss houseplant for years to come.
Succulents You May Want to Avoid
Some succulents might not be perfect in the long run on your window sill, but you could definitely start their lives there. If you’re looking at getting one of these succulents, consider that they will eventually outgrow their home.
Aloe vera plants are a much-loved medicinal plant that is often brought into our homes. While the aloe vera plant is a great contender as a houseplant, they are not ideal for your window sill.
The aloe vera plant has thick leaves that grow out in all directions, which creates a nice decor piece in a hallway or living room corner. However, this is a fast-growing succulent that prefers a lot of space. The aloe vera may fit on your sill for a few months to a year, but you’ll eventually need to move it. Not to mention, the aloe vera does quite well with low-light situations, so you may want to save it for that dreary corner in your kitchen!
The ponytail palm is a popular stem-type succulent. This thick-trunked tree stores a massive amount of water behind its bark and grows a curly explosion of leaves at its peak. While ponytail palms can grow up to 30′ tall in nature, they start very small.
Many people purchase their ponytail palms at a miniature height, not knowing just how large these succulents can get. If you get a ponytail palm at a very young age, it could probably spend a year on your window sill.
After that, the palm will need to be moved somewhere with more space, and if it lives for long enough, it could outgrow your home. Consider buying a ponytail palm if you’re prepared to commit to its ever-changing location needs.
The agave plant is another succulent that is simply too large for your window sill. These plants may start out small and can easily be confused for another succulent of that size. Agave plants grow much larger than the suggested succulents on this list, with outdoor varieties reaching multiple feet in height.
That being said, the agave plant grows extremely slowly, so it could adorn your window’s edge for many years before it needs to be moved. When it does need to be relocated, however, the agave will require as much light as it had on your window sill. A better location for this plant would be on a plant stand next to your sill, where it can grow undisturbed for many years.
Succulents are the perfect type of plant to live on your window sill. They love many hours of sunshine and don’t mind if you forget about them for a while. Some of the best succulents for this location are cacti, which can handle the sun even from south-facing windows. Take good care of these plants, and you could be rewarded with a blooming flower.