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How to Take Care of Succulents: A Comprehensive Guide

As you probably know, the easiest way to kill a succulent is to over or under-water it. Here are the tips on how to grow, care for, and water succulents the right way! Once you learn how to take care of succulents, the rest is just enjoying your succulent plants.

How to Take Care of Succulents

Succulents are delightfully low-maintenance, thriving with proper care and attention. This comprehensive guide is your go-to resource for cultivating beautiful succulents. Explore detailed insights on proper care, covering everything from selecting the ideal soil and pot to managing temperature, lighting, and more. Whether you’re tending to indoor or outdoor succulents, let’s delve into the essential tips to ensure they flourish vibrantly in your living space.

What Is the Best Soil for Succulents?

A porous substrate with good drainage is crucial for the proper growth of succulents. Avoid using regular garden soil, as it tends to lack proper drainage. Commercial succulent or cactus potting mixes are readily available and are well-suited for these plants. You can also create your own homemade succulent soil.

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Homemade Succulent Soil Recipe:

To prepare your own succulent soil recipe, you’ll need the following materials:

Potting Soil: Choose a high-quality potting soil for the base. Provides essential nutrients for your succulents. Ensures proper aeration to support healthy root growth.

Perlite: Add perlite to improve drainage and prevent soil compaction. Aim for a simple ratio – 1 part perlite to 2 parts soil. It enhances soil structure and helps maintain optimal moisture levels.

Coarse Sand: Include coarse sand for additional drainage in the mix. Maintain a balanced ratio of 1 part sand to 2 parts soil. Promotes a well-draining environment, reducing the risk of overwatering.

Mixing Instructions:

  1. In a large container or bucket, combine the chosen potting soil.
  2. Add perlite to the mix, ensuring an even distribution throughout.
  3. Integrate coarse sand, maintaining the recommended ratio for proper drainage.
  4. Thoroughly mix all ingredients to create a well-blended succulent soil.

Remember, a well-draining soil mix is vital to keeping your succulents thriving.

what is the best soil for succulents

Choosing The Right Pot for Succulents

Another aspect, equally important for the proper care of succulents, is the choice of the pot. Succulents are plants that do not tolerate long periods in a wet substrate. That is why we must avoid overwatering succulents because they will rot and die.

Terracotta pots stand out as the best option for succulents due to the excellent drainage they provide. Plastic pots are also useful and cost-effective, but they tend to drain more slowly than their terracotta counterparts. Regardless of the material, the pot must have drainage holes.

For beginners’ gardeners, I highly recommend using terracotta pots. Their porous nature not only facilitates drainage but also helps prevent overwatering, a common issue with succulents. While plastic pots are a viable alternative, especially for those on a budget, being aware of their slower drainage is essential.

How Often to Water Succulents?

When you observe water freely draining from the bottom of your pot, it indicates that the soil has attained optimal moisture levels. As mentioned earlier, the soil mix and the choice of pot are pivotal for proper drainage. If drainage is insufficient, succulents become susceptible to root rot, leading to their demise due to excessive water retention. Ensuring a well-draining soil mix, coupled with the right pot, is paramount for the successful care of succulents.

For indoor succulents, indeed, you will have to wait a few days before watering again, and only when the soil feels dry about an inch or two deep.

If growing succulents directly in the ground, water until you feel that the soil is sufficiently moist.

The general rule is to water succulents once a week in summer, twice a month in spring and fall, and monthly during their winter dormancy. It’s crucial to keep succulents on the drier side, ensuring their roots benefit from excellent drainage.

SeasonWatering FrequencySoil Moisture Level
SummerOnce a weekMaintain a balance, avoiding waterlogging
Spring/FallTwice a monthAllow the soil to dry between waterings
Winter DormancyMonthlyKeep the soil on the drier side in moderation
how often to water succulents

Sunlight Requirements for Succulents

Succulents thrive when they get plenty of light. If you’re keeping them indoors, it’s best to place them on a bright, sunny windowsill with a minimum of six hours of direct daylight. In case your location lacks sufficient natural light, artificial light sources can be used to replicate sunlight and meet their light requirements.

As the spring and summer seasons roll in, consider giving your succulents a breath of fresh air outdoors during their growth period. When transitioning them outdoors, start by placing them in a shaded area for a few days before gradually moving them to a sunnier spot. Be cautious about exposing them to intense, hot sunlight during mid-day to prevent any damage. Before the first freeze hits in the fall, it’s advisable to bring your plants back indoors to safeguard them during the colder months.

Ensuring that your succulents receive the right amount and type of light throughout the year contributes significantly to their overall health and vitality.

Succulent Grow Light

Although light is not related to the amount of water, it contributes to the well-being of succulents and their typical colors. Succulents need a good amount of light all year round without the need for direct exposure to the sun.

During the fall or winter, or if indoor growing does not allow good light exposure, a few hours of contact with LED grow lights will be enough for your succulents to regain lost vitality and keep them colorful and healthy.

Temperature and Humidity for Succulents

Temperature plays a crucial role in ensuring the proper care of your indoor succulents. It’s essential to avoid exposing them to extremes that can be detrimental to their health. For instance, refrain from placing succulents near radiators, fireplaces, or any heat-emitting objects that may cause harm.

Conversely, if certain areas in your home are notably cold, it’s advisable to avoid situating your succulents there. According to Aaron Steil, Consumer Horticulture Extension Specialist at the University of Iowa, maintaining a temperature range between 55°F and 75°F (12°C and 24°C) is generally optimal for succulents. He suggests that numerous succulent species can tolerate temperatures as low as 45°F (7°C) and as high as 85°F (29°C). This flexibility in temperature preferences allows for a diverse range of succulents to thrive in various indoor environments, ensuring their adaptability and resilience under different climatic conditions.

Additionally, maintaining a relative humidity level below 50% is ideal for succulents, as higher humidity can lead to issues like fungal diseases.

temperature and humidity for succulents

Succulent Fertilizer

Succulents don’t require excessive fertilization, but you can provide them with nutrients during the spring and summer. Opt for a well-balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio suitable for succulents, such as 10-10-10 or 11-10-11. When applying fertilizer, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure proper and safe application. This careful approach helps maintain the health and vitality of your succulents without the risk of over-fertilization.

Recommended reading: Fertilizer for Succulents – All You Need to Know

How to Repot Succulents

In their natural environment, succulents typically grow in close proximity to each other, making them well-suited for narrow containers and reducing the need for frequent transplanting. I prefer to gradually transplant them into the next slightly larger container, leaving only one or two inches of space between the plant and the container’s edge. This method emulates their natural growing conditions and allows them to thrive with minimal disturbance.

Repotting succulents is easy:

  • Select the Right Time: Choose spring or early summer.
  • Prepare New Pot: Use a well-draining pot with drainage holes.
  • Water Succulents: Water a day before for pliable soil.
  • Gently Remove: Tap, lift, and remove from the old pot.
  • Place in New Pot: Center in new pot at the same depth.
  • Fill with Soil: Add fresh succulent soil mix.
  • Pack Soil Lightly: Press down gently; avoid compacting.
  • Let Settle: Allow a few days to settle before watering.
  • Water Sparingly: Water lightly gradually resumes the regular schedule.

Recommended reading: How to Repot Succulents

how to repot succulents step by step

How to Propagate Succulents

Propagating succulents is an excellent way to expand your succulent collection, and my preferred method is water propagation, which has proven successful for me. Here are some simple steps to propagate succulents in water:

Select Healthy Leaves: Choose healthy leaves from the succulent you want to propagate. Ensure they are mature and free from any damage or disease.

Gently Remove Leaves: Carefully twist or cut the leaves from the main plant, ensuring a clean break. Allow the cut ends to callus for a day or two.

Place Leaves in Water: Submerge the callused ends of the leaves in a shallow dish of water. Ensure that only the cut end is in the water and the rest of the leaf remains above the surface.

Wait for Roots to Form: Place the dish in a bright, indirect light location. Over time, roots will develop from the cut end, and new growth will emerge from the top of the leaf.

Transplanting: Once the roots are a couple of inches long, carefully transplant the rooted leaves into well-draining soil. Water sparingly until a new rosette forms.

If you’re interested in delving deeper into succulent propagation, I recommend reading our article on how to propagate succulents in water for more detailed insights.

Common Problems with Succulents

While succulents are generally low-maintenance, you might notice signs of distress in your plant. Let’s unravel the root causes behind the most common problems with succulents.

Pests and Diseases

Insects that feed on succulents can create wounds that appear as black spots. Common culprits include aphids, mealybugs, thrips, and spider mites. The insects damage plant tissue when feeding. Certain fungal or bacterial diseases like anthracnose, leaf spot disease, or soft rot can cause black or brown spots on succulents. These diseases thrive in wet conditions.

Combat soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites, with insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils. Ensure precise application by closely adhering to the provided label instructions. For the treatment of black spots on succulents, I recommend reading our article.

Over-Watering

If you have withered or wizened appearance, translucent, yellow-yellowish, or losing color and/or soggy leaves on your succulent, then you’ve been over-watering.

Sometimes, this situation is also accompanied by the presence of mold.

Stop watering your plant until the soil feels dry several inches deep. Good light, but not the direct sun, would be helpful.

Under-Watering

What happens with my succulent? Are succulent leaves turning brown? Are succulent leaves turning yellow? On the other hand, if you see dry, brown-brownish, and crispy leaves on the top or middle section of your succulent, then you’ve been under-watering, and the plant is in major distress and need of water.

“Prune” dry leaves and water your succulent. Never add water to the leaves, only directly to the soil.

Burned Leaves

If a succulent gets too much direct sunlight, black spots, and scorches may appear on the leaves and stems. This happens most often when a succulent that likes shade is suddenly moved into full sun.

Leggy Succulents

If your succulents are sporting elongated stems with slender leaves, it might be an indication that they’re craving more sunlight. Consider trimming them shorter, almost like you’re initiating propagation, and allow them to rejuvenate in a sunnier location within your home.

healthy succulents

Best Succulents for Beginners

If you’re a beginner gardener, there are several succulents you can start with, as mentioned by Ken Shelf, the author of ‘Essential Succulents: The Beginner’s Guide‘ Start with these and enjoy the journey of succulent gardening.

  • Echeveria
  • Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks)
  • Aloe Vera
  • Haworthia
  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
  • Sedum (Stonecrop)
  • Gasteria
  • Kalanchoe
  • Agave
  • Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
  • Zebra Plant (Haworthiopsis attenuata)
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
  • Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)
  • Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)

Recommended reading: Amazing Succulents with Yellow Flowers

best succulents for beginners
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can Succulents Live Outside?

Absolutely! Many succulents love outdoor conditions. However, it’s vital to understand the specific sunlight and temperature requirements of each variety to ensure their well-being in an outdoor environment.

Do Succulents Need Direct Sunlight?

Yes, succulents generally require direct sunlight to thrive. Most varieties prefer bright, indirect light, while some can tolerate and even benefit from a few hours of direct sunlight each day.

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About Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan is an agronomist and a master gardener. In her previous roles, Julia was an advisor promoting large-scale food growing in urbanized areas, introducing the concept of chemical-free produce. She is an expert in putting her hands in the soil, developing organic foods, and improving production processes for decades. Julia is a natural teacher and encourages every person in her way to grow their own food. She split her days between writing and reviewing for The Garden Style Website and offering assessments to cure edible land. Julia enjoys connecting with The Garden Style Community.

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