Succulent Care Tips for Healthy Plants

Here are some succulent care tips.

Succulents are easy to maintain.

To give adequate succulent care instructions for every type of succulent in every growing situation is literally impossible.  The varieties are incalculable.   Growing conditions are unique to your home, location in the country and the type of plant.

However, there are some guidelines that are helpful when divided into indoor plant care and outdoor plant care.  You can read about how to propagate succulents or continue on here and enjoy my succulent growing tips.

Indoor Succulents

  • Light

Most succulents need the brightest light possible when indoors without being placed in direct sunlight.  So try to place them as close as you can to a south or east facing window.

Using a grow light is considered by some to be the best way to grow succulents indoors.  It is an exceptionally effective method to provide the exact light your succulent needs to thrive.  The great advantage is that there are no limitations to where you can display your plant.  Battery powered lights are even available if an electrical outlet is not available.

  • Container or pot

If you have a newly purchased succulent, the easiest approach is to simply leave your new plant in the original plastic nursery pot.  Any decorative container with no holes in the bottom and that will hold your new pot will work perfectly.

If you want to replant your new succulent the most important feature of the container is that it has drainage holes in the bottom.  A clay pot is preferable but not a necessity.

  • Water

Giving an exact time to water, such as every 2 days, every week, every other week, is very difficult and usually incorrect.  The size of the pot, the temperature in your house and the time of year all have an important bearing.

So, the best, foolproof way to determine the right time to water each individual plant is check the soil to see if it is completely dry.   Put a finger gently down into the dirt about an inch.  The soil may be dry on the surface but still moist around the roots.  If the soil is truly dry, water gently until the water runs out the bottom of the pot.  After each watering wait for about an hour and then pour the excess water out of the decorative container.  This gives your plant enough time to absorb any additional water it needs if there is still a dry section of soil.  Watering until the water runs out the bottom of the pot also prevents the buildup of salt in the soil.

If your succulent has gone too long without water the only problem will be that some of the leaves may pucker a little or droop depending on the plant.  A thorough watering will bring it back to life.  It is much better to underwater (from which your plant will survive) than to over water (which will surely kill your succulent).  Overwatered succulents will rot at the stem and eventually fall apart.

  • Fertilizer

A standard houseplant fertilizer works well for most succulents.   During the active growing season, usually spring to fall, a weak addition of fertilizer can be included with each watering.  Reduce the recommended strength by at least ½ and preferably by ¾.  The careful balance of a weak fertilizer at each watering ensures a healthy plant that is more likely to thrive and bloom.

Most succulents enter a slow or dormant growth period during the winter.  Either fertilize lightly or not at all.

There are exceptions to the winter ‘dormant/slow growth’ description.  Here are a few ‘summer to fall dormant’ succulents that thrive in the winter.

Aloes

  • Aloe Cameronii hybrid
  • Aloe Vanbelenii
  • Aloe cryptopoda
  • Aloe Striata
  • Aloe Ferox
  • Aloe Speciosa
  • Aloe Polyphylla
  • Aloe Petricola
  • Aloe Brevifolia
  • Aloe nobilis
  • Aloe Plicatilis

Agaves

  • Agave Parryi Truncata
  • Agave Vilmoriniana
  • Agave Attenuata
  • Agave Victoria Regina
  • Agave Mediopicta Alba

Outdoor Succulents

  • Light

In general, all succulents do best in sun and need at least six hours of sun a day.    However, the intensity of the sunlight and the average daily temperature has a direct bearing on how much your plants need.  If you live where the temperatures remain above 90F in the summer, your plants will need to be protected from direct sun from about Noon on.  There are, however, succulents that thrive in full sun (even in Phoenix where I live).  A few examples are tree aeonium, firesticks, blue chalk sticks, aloe and echeveria. Check with your local nursery for more varieties.

  • Planting

Most people choose pots for succulent growing even when they are outside.  If you live in an area where the temperatures are below freezing for most of the winter it will be easier to bring your plants indoors.

As with potted indoor succulents, the easiest approach is to leave your new plant in the original plastic nursery pot.  If you are moving the plant into a new container be sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

If you choose to plant in the ground, remove the plants from their pots and plant making sure the soil level remains the same depth on the plant.  When combining succulents with plants that need more water, make a mound of soil and put the succulents on the mound so that water drains away during watering.

  • Soil

Succulents need good draining soil. Cactus potting soil works well. When planting in the garden, make sure the area drains well and is not in a low spot that would stay wet.

  • Watering

After digging the hole for your plant fill the hole with water and wait until the water has been totally absorbed by the surrounding soil.  Now the soil is ready to plant your succulent.  After planting, water again around the plant and allow the soil to dry to about an inch and a half below the surface before you water again.  When you do water, water thoroughly.

  • Fertilizer

A standard houseplant fertilizer works well for most succulents.  During the active growing season, usually spring to fall, a weak addition of fertilizer can be included with each watering.  Reduce the recommended strength by at least ½ and preferably by ¾.  The careful balance of a weak fertilizer at each watering ensures a healthy plant that is more likely to thrive and bloom.  If the succulents are near plants with a different need, water the succulent slowly with a watering can so that the water/fertilizer doesn’t trail to the surrounding plants.

Succulent Care Summary

Maintaining succulents with the above tips will be easy and very enjoyable!

Two Internet sites I found helpful:

Cactus and Succulents – Cactus and Succulent Society of San Jose

Sunset Magazine