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Gardener’s Guide To Succulent Care

Succulents are eye-catching plants that boast magnificent foliage. They store water in their thick, shapely leaves, making them drought-tolerant and relatively self-sufficient plantings.

One of the most appealing aspects of succulent plants, other than their easy maintenance, is that they can be found in a wide array of shapes, textures, colors, and heights. Check out our succulent care tips for successful growth now and in the years ahead.

Woman watering potted succulent

Succulent Care: Indoor vs. Outdoor Growing

Succulents can be grown indoors as houseplants and planted outside in containers or the ground in garden beds and stone crevices.  No matter where you choose to plant them, they are sure to draw attention.  With the right planting considerations and care, they can almost take care of themselves.

Ideal Soil and pH for Succulents

Whether you are planting succulent plants indoors or outside, the plants’ health is determined by the soil that they are planted in. Choose a well-draining soil with larger particles so water can enter quickly and drain away from the roots without compacting the soil. Use a soil test kit and amend the soil to reach an optimal 6.0-6.5 on the pH scale before planting.

  • Succulents have shallow root systems and prefer soil that well-draining.
  • A loose, rocky soil that is nutrient-rich is optimal.
  • If planting in containers, use a potting mix specifically formulated for succulents and cacti and plant in a pot with holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • Alkaline soil has the potential to cause the demise of succulent plants.

Succulent Light and Temperature Requirements

Succulents grow well in full sun conditions. They will reward you with healthy, colorful foliage when given sufficient light. Too little sunlight will cause succulents to reach awkwardly for sunlight, resulting in leggy, blanched, and awkward plant growth.

When considering how to care for succulents, they are traditionally more cold-tolerant than you might think. They are native to desert climates where the temperature ranges significantly between the daytime and nighttime hours. If possible, succulents should be grown outdoors when daytime temperatures span between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and overnight temperatures that hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some succulent plant varieties are hardier than others. The most robust cultivars can be overwintered in their containers or in-ground as long as the soil is not wet. More tender varieties are not as hardy and cannot survive the harsh weather conditions in colder growing zones. It’s optimal to bring these indoors during the winter months.  They can be placed in a sunny window on the south or east side of your home or placed under grow lights until the threat of frost passes.

How Often to Water Succulents

When people think of succulents, they think of their moisture-filled leaves and think they need plentiful amounts of water.  The shallow root systems of succulents cannot handle super moist conditions. In fact, when we talk about how to care for succulents, one of the most monumental errors that people make is overwatering them. Drenching and constant root saturation cause root rot, which will cause the plant to die. Use these helpful tidbits to guide you on how to care for succulents when watering them.

  • Succulents should be watered deeply, but not frequently.
  • Water succulents once per week for indoor plants.
  • If using a saucer underneath indoor plants, empty any water that has drained into it. This ensures that roots will not remain wet.
  • Allow soil to dry out between waterings.
  • For outdoor plants, test the soil with your fingers and only water if the soil is dry.
  • Reduce watering during fall and winter months so that succulents can survive cold temperatures. Saturated soil makes succulents more vulnerable to frost damage during the winter months.
Young woman gardening indoors, repotting succulent plants.

Fertilizing your Succulents

Get the most out of your succulent plants by fertilizing them twice a year. When planted in pots, they rely on their caregivers for everything they need to grow. Succulents can indeed benefit from a nutrient-rich feeding routine. Choose a fertilizer specifically formulated for succulents and cacti.

For optimal growth, apply the fertilizer in spring as new growth emerges and again in early fall.  They do not need to be fertilized in the winter when most succulent plants are dormant.

Pests and Disease

As self-reliant as succulents are, they can be prone to some pests and diseases.  Listed below are some of the problems that might afflict succulents and some organic remedies for warding them off when considering how to care for succulents. Remember that the best defense is a robust offense.  This starts with having healthy soil and ideal planting conditions.

  • Mealy Bugs– remove the plant from the pot and clean the pot and wipe down the plant. Replant the succulent in fresh soil.
  • Rodents – set up rodent traps near succulent plants outside to keep them from nibbling on your succulent leaves.
  • Red Spider Mites – Use a sharp spray of the hose to remove them from the foliage.
  • Aphids– Use a quick spray of the hose to remove them from the foliage—spray the foliage with soapy water.
  • Snails – In the garden, bury a shallow dish so that the dish’s rim is level with the soil. Add beer to the plate.  Snails will seek out the beer and will be unable to free themselves.
  • Root Rot – Allow soil to dry completely before watering and ensure that soil is well-draining.
Close up of a green succulent

Recommended Varieties

With so many varieties to choose from, it can be challenging to choose which succulents are right for you.  There are many varieties of succulents within each family of plants. Some are short, some are tall, and others are trailing and make great additions to hanging planters.  Now that you’ve learned more about how to care for succulents, you can start building your diverse collection of juicy gems.  Here are some of the most coveted types to get you started.

Outdoor Succulents

  • Sedums
  • Hens and Chicks
  • Echeveria
  • Agave
  • Graptopetalum

Indoor Succulents

  • Jade Plant
  • Mother-in-law Tongue
  • Wandering Jew
  • Crown of Thorns
  • Haworthia
  • Aloe Vera
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Zebra Cactus
  • Panda Plant
  • String of pearls
  • Hens-and-Chicks
  • Donkey’s Tail

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