I enjoy teaching people how to care for succulents because I believe they’re the perfect plants for beginners and experienced gardeners alike. If you crave a low-maintenance garden full of beautiful color and texture, then look no further than succulents!
Whether you have a large outdoor border garden you need to fill or a small balcony you’d like to adorn, succulents can handle the job.
There are hundreds of succulent varieties to choose from so you’re bound to find a few to fall in love with!
One of my personal favorites is the Echevarria Lola, known for its rose-like appearance (shown in the photo above). It’ll probably become one of your favorites, too, since it’s an elegant plant and one of the most popular. They’re certainly easier to care for than actual roses!
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What Is a Succulent?
Succulents are a popular plant, but those new to them might be wondering:
what is a succulent and why do people love them so much? Let’s get you some answers!
Put simply, a succulent is a plant that stores water in its fleshy leaves and stems, which is what makes it so drought-tolerant. Succulents can be found in various sizes, shapes, and colors so you’ll never want for variation; some of them have a very dramatic aesthetic.
Succulents are also known for being hardy, independent plants that don’t like to be fussed with, making them especially easy to care for.
While succulents are indeed low-maintenance, they still require a few things in order 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.
This guide, however, will show you exactly how to care for succulents so that they stay healthy, vibrant, and happy.
Plus…have you seen the kinds of creative crafts and arrangements you can make with succulents? It’s an added bonus of growing these beautiful plants. You can make beautiful succulent arrangements and they’ll last much longer than arrangements made with fresh-cut flowers.
I’m talking succulents ornaments, wreaths, bouquets, table centerpieces, fairy gardens, and birdhouses. Trust me, succulents are about to become your favorite plant! Once you purchase your first, you’ll want to add more and more to your collection and you’ll understand why they’re so beloved!
How to Take Care of Succulents
The supplies listed below include everything you need to start your succulent garden. The decorative stones are for visual appeal, so you can skip those if you prefer.
Remember: how to care for succulents involves these simple guidelines: succulents need the right kind of soil, the right amount of moisture, and the right amount of sunlight. If you can remember that, you’ll be able to provide a good environment for your succulents to grow in.
Now let’s get into the fun details of succulents care!
How to Take Care of Succulents by Using the Right Succulents Soil
Yes, you’ll need to use succulents soil aka cactus mix when you plant your succulents.
Here’s why: this type of soil 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.
(Fortunately, the succulents I purchase through my local garden center are all planted in cactus mix, so there’s no need for me to discard this succulents soil before re-potting.)
After you purchase your potted succulents, take the plants out of their plastic pots and transfer them to terracotta pots (my planter of choice).
You can use any planter you like as long as it has a drainage hole at the bottom. 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 leaves of succulents 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 succulents soil so that the base of the succulent plant sits parallel to the rim of the pot, as shown in the photo above.
Now, 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 (an important tip to remember when mastering how to take care of succulents the right way!)
The garden center from where you purchased your succulent most likely watered it shortly before you took home your plant, so adding more moisture is unnecessary and even harmful. Remember – succulents don’t like to sit in soggy soil!
Add a Top Dressing
When you read the term “top dressing” in indoor garden guides, it simply refers to small particles like stones and rocks that can be used to cover the topsoil and make the plant more aesthetically beautiful.
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 learning how to care for succulents, but it does make for a prettier plant arrangement and it also helps to keep the soil cool and the water from evaporating too quickly.
Care for Succulents 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!
There is no exact science when it comes to watering because every succulent has different needs and several factors should be considered, such as climate and hardiness zone. However, the rule of thumb is simple: 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 or they will rot. 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; an inexpensive watering can is all you’ll need.
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 Succulents Indoors and Outdoors
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.
Care for Succulents by Adding Fertilizer
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
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!
How to Care for Succulents and their Dead Leaves
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: