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7 high light houseplants

If you live in a sunny climate or happen to be blessed with lots of light in your home, the light levels can become a bit too much for some tropical houseplants. You need sun lovers! This list of 7 high light houseplants contains species that don’t mind being in the spotlight.

Keep reading to find out which plants can handle the Sun’s scorching rays!

Thimble cactus (Mammillaria gracilis)

Cacti are probably one of the best options if you’re looking for plants that don’t mind being exposed to a lot of direct sun. One good example is Mammillaria gracilis, also known as the thimble cactus.

This species in particular is appreciated by houseplant lovers because it’s super easy to care for and stays small, making it windowsill-proof. Additionally, unlike the bunny ear cactus mentioned below, the thimble cactus won’t hurt you when you try to handle it.

Thimble cacti naturally occur in arid areas of Mexico where they receive little shelter from the sun. They can handle both very high temperatures and almost down to frost. Really, they pretty much thrive on neglect as long as you provide them with a well-draining pot and soil as well as plenty of sunlight.

Propagate this cactus by simply breaking off one of its “orbs” and replanting them or alternatively, just let it continue expanding.

Difficulty levelEasy
Adult sizeSmall
Soil typeSucculent soil
Close up of Mammillaria gracilis (thimble cactus) | List of 6 houseplants that love full sun
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Bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys)

Bunny ear cacti are another example of a plant species perfectly adapted to surviving in arid, sunny habitats. They are succulents, cacti to be precise. All Opuntia species would work well, but Opuntia microdasys in particular stays a lot smaller than most of their other prickly pear cousins, which makes them great for growing indoors.

As with most cacti, bunny ear cactus care is not too much of a challenge – you just have to be patient. Provide as much sun as possible, water thoroughly once the soil has dried out and be sure to use a super well-draining soil mixture consisting of at least 50% gritty material such as perlite or coarse sand.

Warning: these cacti look soft and furry and don’t have large spines, but don’t be fooled by their innocent looks. That ‘fur’ actually consists of thousands of tiny spines (‘glochids’) that can cause massive skin irritation. Just brushing past one of the pads can already be quite painful.

Difficulty levelEasy
Adult sizeSmall
Soil typeSucculent soil
Opuntia microdasys cactus

Echeveria succulent

Most succulents, including the beautiful Echeveria with its many varieties, need a lot of sun to thrive. In fact, if it doesn’t receive enough sunlight, your Echeveria will stretch and lose its attractive rosette shape. So these plants don’t just handle the Sun, they love and need it! This makes them the perfect choice for those very sunny spots in your home.

These plants naturally grow in dry habitats and have adapted to store water in their fleshy leaves. As with all succulents, a well-draining soil mix is required to prevent risking root rot.

Water only when the soil has gone completely dry; in full sun, this will probably be around once a week during Summer and once every two to three weeks during Winter.

You can learn more about general succulent care, which also applies to Echeveria, here and you can buy an Echeveria here.

Difficulty levelMedium
Adult sizeSmall
Soil typeSucculent soil
Echeveria 'Black Prince', a popular succulent.

Venus flytrap (Dionea muscipula)

Venus flytraps are popular as houseplants, but unfortunately most of them don’t live a long life. Their perfect adaptation to nutrient-poor bog environments means they need different care than most other houseplants, but luckily it’s definitely not too difficult if you know what you’re doing.

A nice added bonus is that these plants are used to growing in very bright conditions, which means they love plenty of direct sunlight when kept indoors.

There are three important care aspects to keep in mind if you want to succesfully grow Venus flytraps: soil, water and dormancy. Normal potting soil contains way too many nutrients, so go for something soil-less like a mixture of perlite and spaghnum moss. Normal tap water is not appreciated either, as it contains too many minerals. Instead, use distilled/demineralized water. Your Dionea’s soil should always be moist.

Lastly, these plants need a dormancy period during the Winter months. During this period they will die back and abandon their traps, but don’t worry! Once Spring rolls around and you move your flytrap back to its normal spot new growth should start appearing in no time.

Difficulty levelHard
Adult sizeSmall
Soil typeCarnivorous plant soil
Venus flytrap (Dionea muscipula), a carnivorous plant.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil is a yummy herb that works well in all kinds of dishes and salads. Like many other herbs it’s considered a little difficult to keep alive indoors; light plays a large role in this.

What many basil lovers don’t realize is that this plant needs a lot of sun, ideally at least 6 hours. This means it belongs on the sunniest windowsill you can offer or under a strong grow light. It also appreciates plenty of water and can quickly start looking droopy if you forget.

So, if you want to keep your basil happy and healthy be sure to place it in a sunny spot and water as soon as the soil starts feeling dry (which can be as often as once a day in the middle of Summer). To prevent root rot, use a well-draining soil mixture with a little added perlite and keep the plant in a container with drainage holes.

Keep in mind that basil bought at the local supermarket may have been underwatered and in the dark for a little too long, which can damage it to the point of dying. Buying seeds and growing it yourself is a fun option that should hopefully lead to healthier, long-lived plants.

You can find a full Basil plant care guide here.

Difficulty levelHard
Adult sizeMedium
Soil typeAll-purpose + perlite
Basil plant grown indoors

Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Ponytail palms aren’t actually palms but a type of succulent that grows ponytail-like leaves from the top. It naturally occurs in arid parts of Mexico and stores water in its fat trunk.

If you’re looking for a super hardy plant that loves plenty of direct sun, this is definitely a good contender. These “palms” can handle lots of sun, don’t need a lot of water (the soil should fully dry out between waterings) and can even withstand low temperatures pretty well.

As with all succulents, grow your ponytail palm in a well-draining soil type and planter. Keep in mind that this is a very slow-growing plant: if you love the look of mature ponytail palms, consider investing the money to buy a large one or you might be in for a very long wait.

Difficulty levelEasy
Adult sizeLarge
Soil typeSucculent soil
Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Sansevieria cylindrica

As strange as it might sound, Sansevierias (snake plants) such as Sansevieria cylindrica are also on the list of low light houseplants. They are one of the most adaptable houseplants and can survive high- and low light environments, although the former is definitely preferable.

Your Sansevieria will survive just fine in low-light conditions but it won’t thrive unless provided with plenty of light. Direct sun is no problem and actually appreciated!

Like all Sansevierias, Sansevieria cylindrica is a succulent that doesn’t respond well to overwatering at all. Too little water is always better than too much, as the roots are prone to rotting. Wait until the soil has fully dried out before watering and be sure to always use a very well-draining, gritty mixture and a pot with a drainage hole. An unglazed clay pot works well.

Difficulty levelEasy
Adult sizeSmall
Soil typeSucculent soil
Various houseplants on a windowsill including a Sansevieria cilindrica succulent.

Cover photo: Echeveria shaviana by evergreen0215 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)