Succulents are one of my favorite things in life; I love picking them out at the garden nursery, planting them in beautiful pots, and even making pretty crafts with them during the Holidays (like these pretty Chrismas ornaments!).
Succulents are, in my opinion, the easiest plants to grow – IF you know how to properly care for them. Knowledge is key here – it’s the difference between succulents that thrive and succulents that wither away to nothing.
They’re the perfect plants for both beginners and experienced gardeners alike – and trust me – you CAN’T say that about all plants. If what you crave is a low-maintenance garden that’s full of color, texture, and interesting aesthetic, then succulents are your best option. You won’t regret it!
These hardy plants look beautiful in a variety of spaces, including outdoor gardens, balconies, and patios. You can even create arrangements with them to place on your dining table to complement your decor – like this one!
Aside from their low-maintenance nature, succulents provide us with endless variety. You’ll never get bored or want for diversity when it comes to picking out succulents and cacti.
One of my personal favorites is the Echevarria Lola, which is known for its rose-like appearance (shown in the photo above) and is often referred to as a “rosette succulent”, because of its shape. It’s an elegant plant and one of the most popular, plus it’s far easier to care for than actual roses!
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What EXACTLY Is a Succulent?
Succulents are a popular plant, but those who are new to them might be wondering: what exactly is a succulent and why do people love them so much?
Put simply, succulents are plants that store water in their leaves and stems, which is what makes them drought-tolerant and thus, so low-maintenance. Succulents come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, and many of them feature a dramatic aesthetic – something any plant lover can appreciate.
Succulents are also known for being hardy, independent plants that don’t like to be fussed with, so they’re the perfect plants for gardening beginners or those with a tendency to neglect their plants.
While succulents are indeed low-maintenance, they still require a few things to thrive. If you’ve attempted to grow succulents in the past but ended up with shriveled plants a few weeks later, you’re not alone – this is actually a common problem.
How to Take Care of Succulents SO THEY THRIVE
In order to grow succulents successfully, you’ll need the right supplies. The supplies you need are listed below; you can find them at your local garden center, or online at Amazon. The decorative stones are for visual appeal, however, so you can skip those if you prefer.
Succulents and Cacti
If you can remember a few simple guidelines, caring for succulents will come much easier to you! Here they are:
–Succulents need the right kind of soil
– Succulents need the right amount of moisture
– Succulent need the right amount of sunlight
That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? OK – it’s a little more complex than that but for the most part, succulents can survive if they receive those three things. And don’t worry- we’re going to talk about what “the right amount” means. The other tips we’re going to talk about will simply make your plant’s life more comfortable and ideal; they’ll help you provide the best environment for your succulents so you can keep them looking beautiful year-round.
USE CACTUS MIX OR Succulents Soil
Yes, you’ll need to use succulents soil aka cactus mix when you plant your succulents. Regular potting soil is not the way to go.
Here’s why: cactus mix is made to be fast-draining and consists of soil, pumice, and twigs, as shown in the photo below. This soil allows for better drainage and better airflow – two things that succulents need to grow strong, healthy roots.
It’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what type of soil your succulents are planted in when you purchase them at the garden center or online.
If your succulent looks like it’s been planted in regular potting soil, all you have to do is remove the soil from your plant’s roots before re-potting it in succulents soil aka cactus mix. Cactus mix is easy to find – just head to your local garden center or buy a bag online for a few dollars.
Planting Succulents correctly is crucial
After you purchase your potted succulents, take the plants out of their plastic pots and transfer them to your terracotta pots (my planter of choice) or any pot that has a drainage hole. A drainage hole will prevent excess moisture in the soil that leads to root rot, so don’t forgo good drainage when picking out a pot for your plant!
Since succulent leaves are prone to rotting if they sit in wet soil, you need to make sure that all the leaves sit above the rim of the pot and atop the soil.
To accomplish this while planting, don’t fill up the entire pot with soil but add just enough of it so that the base of the succulent plant sits parallel to the rim of the pot, as shown in the photo above.
Next, use a spoon or gardening tool to add soil around the succulent, and then press down gently to make sure the soil and plant are in place.
Important note: Do not water your succulents immediately after planting! You’ll probably be tempted to water your newly potted plant, but hold off. Try waiting a few days before the first watering; this will give your roots time to settle in their new home.
Plus, the garden center from where you purchased your succulent most likely watered the plant the day (or a few days) before you took it home, so adding more moisture is unnecessary.
how to use a Top Dressing for Your Succulent Arrangements
When you hear the term “top dressing”, it simply refers to small particles like stones and rocks that can be used to cover the topsoil of a planter to make the plant more visually appealing.
I personally love to place decorative stones on top of my succulent arrangements because it adds visual dimension. However, leaving the soil bare can make for a nice, earthy look too, so it’s all about preference.
My advice is to choose a top dressing that will complement the pot you’re using, and the color of your succulent. You’ll be amazed at how beautiful your potted succulents can look when they’re sitting above a pretty top dressing! It’s not an absolute must when it comes to succulent care, but it does make for a prettier plant arrangement. It also helps to keep the soil cool and the water from evaporating too quickly.
Care for Succulents year round by Watering Them Properly
Mastering how to care for succulents means mastering how and when to water them. If you’ve never learned how to properly water your succulents, now is the time to learn, because this step can make or break your succulents garden. Yes – it’s that important!
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula when it comes to watering because every succulent has different needs and several factors need to be considered, such as climate and hardiness zone, and whether they’re being grown indoors or outdoors. There is, however, a rule of thumb here: water succulents ONLY when the soil is dry.
If the soil is dry to the touch, water thoroughly and make sure that water drains from the bottom of the pot. Never let your succulents sit in water – always discard the water that has drained into the saucer.
TIP: When you water you succulent, make sure to place the water directly onto the soil. Try not to wet the leaves of your indoor succulents because this can also lead to rotting.
To accomplish this, use a small watering can, as shown in the photo below.
You can also use a succulent watering bottle with a thin tip if you’re watering a compact succulent arrangement in which all of your plants are packed tightly together.
Plenty of gardeners use this watering method and it’s a favorite because it prevents spills, plus it’s easy to designate different amounts of water to different areas of the pot with a simple squeeze of the bottle.
If you notice that your plant’s leaves are turning yellow and feel mushy to the touch (as shown below), then you’re over-watering your succulent – a common mistake. Yellow leaves indicate too much moisture, which means the leaves of your succulent are storing more water than they need. Unfortunately, the plant below began to rot due to too much moisture.
To learn more about proper watering, head to my how to water succulents post. Once you learn how to properly water succulents, the rest of your succulents care routine will be a breeze.
How to Care for Outdoor and indoor succulents
While most succulents are drought-resistant, they actually don’t do well when placed in a full-sun area. This is why many people unintentionally kill their plants!
It’s a misconception that all succulents can tolerate long hours of intense heat and full sun. It’s also one of the first things to keep in mind when learning how to care for succulents.
Succulents actually need about 4-6 hours of indirect sunlight each day. They prefer morning and indirect sunlight to direct afternoon sun, especially if you live in a climate where the temperatures reach above 90 degrees.
Unfortunately, succulents are prone to sunburn if they sit under direct sunlight outdoors for an extended period of time, so it’s best to keep them away from areas that aren’t protected by at least partial shade during the day.
Remember: if you’re learning how to take care of succulents, then you need to protect them from the blistering sun.
If you want your succulents to live indoors, try placing your succulents a few feet away from a window that gets hit by direct sunlight. Make sure, however, that your plant still gets the light it needs. If you place them too close to a hot window during the Summer, they might burn.
using Fertilizer to help your succulents grow
When you’re learning how to care for succulents and cacti, you might have questions about fertilizers and whether you need to use them. Succulents can benefit from regular does of fertilizer, but they’re not heavy feeders, which means that fertilizing won’t be the most important step in your succulents care routine.
Most fertilizers that are designed for cacti and succulents contain a healthy amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
These three nutrients help the plant grow and develop healthy stems and leaves. They can even help revitalize a lackluster plant. Some succulent growers apply fertilizer once during the growing season, while others apply it once a month. (For more on why, how, and when to fertilize succulents, click over to my post here.)
Mealybugs on Succulents: how to Deal with them!
You won’t encounter a huge insect problem when you grow succulents, but you’ll need to look out for mealybugs.
Mealybugs on succulents look like white, cotton-like mounds that sit atop succulent leaves and in between crevices of plants. They spread very quickly so you’ll need to act fast.
Fortunately, you can get rid of mealybugs on succulents quite easily and inexpensively. Whenever you see a mealybug on your plant, simply take a Q-tip and dip it into rubbing alcohol. Swipe away the mealybug with the Q-tip and you’re good to go! For a step-by-step post on how to get rid of mealybugs on succulents, click here!
If you want to learn how to care for succulents, then you’ll need to learn how to deal with dead, crispy leaves in your plants. You may even find a few after you first purchase your succulents from the garden center. Don’t panic! This is going to become part of your succulents care routine.
If the browning leaves are coming from the bottom of the plant, then this is normal. Your plant is simply creating new leaves to replace older ones.
To get rid of these dry leaves, simply tug at them until they break off from the stem, then discard.
If you find brown, shriveling leaves at the top or middle of your succulent plant, however, this usually means the succulents soil is in desperate need of moisture. Make sure to water your plant thoroughly and water again once the soil has gone dry.
You’ve Now Learned How to Take Care of Succulents!
Now that you’ve read through this guide, you’re ready to take care of succulents on your own! Head to your local garden center to pick up a few succulent plants and get started!
Remember that less is more when it comes to succulents care, so don’t try to do too much in the way of care. Soon, you’ll amass many different types of succulents and cacti for your new garden!
For more information on how to care for succulents the right way, head to the posts below: