Succulents, the friend of gardeners everywhere, and the current popular trend among houseplant enthusiasts are not as foolproof as many seem to claim. While yes, these hardy little plants are some of the most straightforward to care for, it is also easy to create an imbalance and inadvertently kill your sun-loving flora. However, with the correct water, light, and soil combination, your succulents, whether indoors or out are sure to flourish and thrive.
These exciting plants provide unique living decor that adds an element of excitement to any home or yard. Succulents are perfect for the minimalistic gardener who does not wish to be confined to a high maintenance plant. Remember, you can experiment with various containers and types of succulents. Let your creative juices flow utilize the artistic nature of these plants to allow for maximum personality expression.
Before you head to your nearest nursery, let’s take a look at how to properly care for these minute houseplants and problems you may face as you cultivate your collection.
Growing Succulents Indoors
Every home needs plants, In fact, they cleanse the air, clear the mind, and improve the overall quality of life. If you are a gardening novice, or simply happen to kill every houseplant you come in contact with, succulents could be an incredible option to brighten your home and naturally filter the air.
But keep in mind that, while it is lovely to grow succulents indoors, you may find yourself doing everything right and still running into problems. These plants often need fresh air and may do best when set outside seasonally.
Picking The Right Indoor Succulents
Due to the very nature of being stuck indoors, you will not want to choose succulent varieties that require full sun. Stick to the green varieties such as Haworthia and Gasteria. Avoid being lured in by succulents with pretty purple, red, and orange shades, as these will not flourish under partial sunlight. A few specific types that often do well indoors include jade plant, aloe vera, echeveria, zebra plant, panda plant, and crown of thorns.
Read Next: 11 Best Succulents For Your Home
Selecting the proper container for your succulents is a vital part of the growing process. Most of the time, succulents from the store (mainly from places that do not specialize in succulents) are planted in containers more for aesthetic reasons rather than practical purposes. Generally, they are in pots with little to no air and incredibly heavy soil, leading to rapid decay.
Stay away from glass terrariums, as these are extremely harmful to succulents and give no room for healthy growth or drainage. If you happened to purchase a succulent in a glass container, transfer it to a terra cotta or glazed ceramic pot.
Regardless of what container you choose for your succulent, consider that it will not succeed without proper airflow in the soil so that it can quickly drain and prevent root rot.
One of the quickest ways to kill a fledgling succulent is to stick it in the wrong soil and drown its roots in too much moisture. Succulents are found in the wild in arid climates that receive very little rainfall, typically in areas with soil that drains rapidly. You will want to make sure that your succulent is planted in light soil that retains minimal amounts of water.
Succulents should not be planted in straight garden soil, as this is too heavy and will cause rotting problems. You can, however, mix your potting soil with pumice or perlite, substances that allow space for water and air. Perlite and pumice can be purchased at a nursery or most stores with a yard or garden center or even online at Amazon. The ratio should be 1:1 soil and perlite or pumice.
You could also try making your own special blend of soil using 1 part pine bark fines, 1 part turface, and 1 part crushed granite. This porous blend provides a prime environment for the roots of succulents. Plenty of air, moisture retention, and ventilation pockets.
Take some time to ensure you are paying careful attention to your succulent soil for maximum longevity.
As we’ve already established, succulents are accustomed to high, arid climates. Such areas are generally saturated with sunlight. Your succulents will want this kind of light too. This doesn’t mean that you have to only keep your plant in the brightest, sunniest part of your house, you should, however, ensure that it is receiving at least a few hours of indirect sunlight each day. Try sticking it in a windowsill or another area that is sure to see the sun for at least most of the day.
If your succulent begins to grow out and get leggy during the winter (or summer) months, this most likely means that it would appreciate some more sun. Either consider investing in a grow light, if you live in a gloomy, cloudy area. Or transfer it to a new location with more continuous sunlight. If your succulent begins to get scorched leaves, this is a good sign that the sun is a little too intense and may be burning your plant. Find the best balance according to the individual variety of plant and adjust sunlight levels according to the succulent’s response.
As these are drought-resistant plants, they are usually more hardy to more prolonged periods without water and will not shrivel as quickly as typical houseplants. But remember, they are not cacti, and still must be watered before the soil is completely dried up. At the time of initial planting, drench soil entirely until it is fully saturated and starts to leak out the bottom of the pot. Then, wait until the soil is dry to the touch to water again. Soil should not be hard but should have no moisture either.
If you happened to wait too long to water, and the soil has hardened and pulled away from the edges of the container, you should let the plant soak in another dish or tray of water until the soil is rehydrated.
Each time you water, give your succulents an adequate drink, wait for the soil to dry, and repeat. If soil does not seem to be drying, you might want to double-check the ratio of soil-pumice/perlite or replant succulent in another pot if drainage holes are not sufficient.
Keep the “soak and dry” principle in mind, and you should be able to find the proper method for keeping your succulents hydrated without causing them to rot.
Growing Succulents Outdoors
Whether you decide to plant succulents directly in your garden, or stick them in pots or containers on your patio or porch, if you live in the right climate and give them the attention and care they require, succulents will flourish outdoors.
Succulents for outdoor use are an excellent option if you live somewhere with drought restrictions on garden watering, or a desert, or atmosphere high in elevation. These plants can create a beautiful living tapestry, especially when paired with pebbles or small stones instead of mulch.
Picking The Right Outdoor Succulents
Most succulents varieties will do well outside in proper conditions, but kalanchoe, aloe, echeveria, aeonium, and sedum are particularly suited for general outdoor gardening.
For those who live in a cold environment, Sempervivums and stonecrop Sedum will be the varieties most likely to thrive. Warmer climates can generally accommodate most succulent types, but Echeveria ‘Perle von Nurnbergs’ or Blue Chalksticks will be extraordinarily prolific when adequately cared for.
Unlike indoor plants, succulents living outside do not require speciality soil. As long as the ground is not rock-solid, clay dirt, succulents should do fine. However, if you are cultivating a bed specifically for succulents, you can use the same mixture that you would use for indoor pots. Mix your potting soil with pumice or perlite in a 1:1 ration. You could also make your own blend of soil using 1 part pine bark fines, 1 part turface, and 1 part crushed granite.
For those in extremely humid areas, or if you continue to kill your succulents due to overwatering, feel free to plant directly in pumice. This material dries out quickly but also allows for necessary moisture retention.
If your problem is the exact opposite, and you find your soil drying out too quickly, mix some coconut coir into your soil. This is a wonderful solution for those finding they have to water far too often due to a dry climate.
Unless you live in a perfectly temperate climate, chances are you will experience extreme weather. While shade and frost cloths are options for less intense weather fluctuations, they are not reliable solutions for all types of temperature change.
If you are sticking your succulents directly in your garden, consider your climate and the extreme weather you may encounter. Just because the tag on a succulent pot says that it likes sunlight, does not mean it will tolerate full sun 100 percent of the time while baking in 90 plus temperatures. And just because a plant is cold resistant, doesn’t guarantee that it will survive being frozen in the ground all winter. If you live on either end of the spectrum, plant your succulents in pots, that way you can move them or bring them indoors as needed. This method also works better for swampy or ultra-humid areas where the ground is always moist.
Areas that have limited amounts of sunlight in the colder months may experience difficulty sustaining succulents over the year. Bring them indoors and provide a grow light if necessary. Also, recognize that succulents will most likely become dormant and experience reduced growth or browning of leaves. This is normal, and they will most likely return to full health in the spring.
Keeping an effective water balance with outdoor succulents is not nearly so finicky as it is with indoor, potted succulents. Generally, you can water your outdoor succulents along with the rest of your plants, just be sure to monitor their moisture levels more closely and adjust watering as needed.
You will want to acclimate your succulents to their new environment slowly. They will often have come from a nursery and will be very sensitive to light. You should not just plant them in the ground in full-direct sunlight and expect them to survive. Plants treated like this will often experience sun-scorching or dry too quickly, and the leaves and stems will begin to shrivel.
Start your succulents by placing the pot in a shady area outdoors and getting them accustomed by setting them for a few hours at a time in direct sunlight. Make sure that this sun time is in the morning or evening and not in the heat of the afternoon where high temperatures could cause sunburn. Keep them in pots for the first few weeks so that you can control sun exposure.
5 Reasons Your Succulents Keep Dying
Though these little plants are supposedly the answer for the gardener with a black thumb, they are still quite delicate and require correctly balanced conditions to thrive. This doesn’t mean they are high-maintenance. In fact, succulents prefer to live and let live, and once you have learned your plants and the amount of water, sun, and air they require, you should be on the road to success.
But as with all living things, succulents can experience difficulties that, if not handled correctly, can spell disaster for the hardy plant.
Let’s look at a few key areas that could be causing your succulents to struggle and solutions for bringing them back to life.
Before we get into the primary issues that plague succulent plants and the solutions that are available, let’s get the number one cause of succulent death out of the way. Improper water levels are the most likely reason that you are not having luck keeping any of your succulents alive.
However, finding out if you are watering too much or too little may be more tricky than identifying if you have a water issue in the first place.
You may be overwatering your succulent if it has mushy, yellowed leaves towards the base of the stem or the leaves begin to fall off and look transparent. An obvious clue that you are experiencing this problem is if you find water sitting in the base of your pot or if the soil is soggy.
Evidently, the solution for overwatering is simple: stop watering! Give your succulent a few days to dry out. Wait until the soil, all the way to the bottom of the pot, is not mushy or even slightly damp. Hopefully, you caught it in time, and your succulent should perk right back up.
Though these are drought-resistant plants, they do still need water. If you never water your succulent, or the soil doesn’t allow for any water-retention. You may need to do some maintenance to adjust water levels. Under-watering will express itself in the form of dried out, crispy leaves towards the top of the plant. They will look shriveled, just like they’re crying out for water.
If you run into this problem, drench the soil with water until it begins to leak out of the drainage holes. Check back frequently and once the soil has dried again. Repeat the process.
3. Improper soil conditions
As we have already established, succulents must have a well-balanced soil in order to survive. If your plant straight from the store is not looking great, re-pot it into a soil properly prepared for succulents with adequate drainage holes.
4. Too much light
It is possible for succulents to receive too much light and heat. This is mainly a problem if you have your plants outside, in constant full-sun exposure. Critical signs of sunburning include black spots on the leaves or a white-pallor that overtakes the whole plant.
Not all succulents are full-sun varieties. Do research on the type you have to determine what the best amount of sunlight is. Many only prefer partial sun or early morning/evening light.
5. Not enough light
This issue is generally more of a concern for indoor succulents, as they are often not receiving nearly enough light for proper growth. Succulents experiencing light deprivation will begin to stretch out and look leggy and will often lose color and leaves. They are searching for more sunlight and will not remain compact or adorable without it. Position them in the sunniest spot in your house and trim away the tops to restore their unique shape.
Growing New Succulents
So, you’ve looked over your succulents in your home and given them a little bit of TLC to restore them to prime condition. But what can you do with those plants that have grown too leggy? Or grown so much they no longer fit in their small pot? These plants are prime candidates for propagation.
Take small garden shears and snip off the pieces that you no longer wish to keep attached to the central plant. Different from traditional plants grown from cuttings, you will not want to stick the stem in water and allow it to root. Succulent propagation works a little differently. Just lay your cutting out on a tray for a few days until there is a small calloused bead at the end that was attached to the original plant.
This tiny succulent can now be planted in a new pot, added to an existing arrangement, or given as a thoughtful gift.
Embrace your new knowledge of succulents! Continue growing your collection and start yourself on a joyful journey discovering new tiny plants to love and look after.