How To Care for Succulents

Succulent Care For Beginners or Advanced

Succulents are a popular choice for those with green thumbs and aspiring gardeners alike. They have the power to change your living room aesthetic, aside from being both beautiful and hardy.

Whether you’ve just stumbled onto this article, have been given a succulent as a housewarming gift, or you’ve had your attention caught by a gorgeous variety at your local market, fear not.

Carol Langton and Rose Ray wrote that the satisfaction one gets from living with indoor plants also comes from the simplicity of their care, and that couldn’t apply more to succulents.
As they explain in their new book, House of Plants: Living with Succulents, Air Plants, and Cacti, you can draw just as much pleasure from a demanding tropical plant as you can do from prickly potted cacti. 

The guide that they created best serves those who have never before considered building on their gardening skills -at least until now.

Using their advice, this article will cover the most important aspects to consider when learning how to care for succulents, be it a live zebra cactus or a gorgeous bromeliad.

1. Adapt your watering according to the season

It may come as no surprise that during the growing period, particularly spring and summer, your succulent will require more energy. This, in turn, amounts to it needing more water than when resting during the fall and winter periods. In their book, Langton and Ray suggest testing the soil using your finger. If the top 1.25 inches are dry, then go ahead and water your plant. Otherwise, let the soil completely dry before proceeding. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so avoid it at all costs!

2. Succulents need fertilizer too

Speaking of summer, this is the perfect time to give your plants a little treat. While succulents won’t require much fertilizer, you can opt for light feedings during the growing period. Follow the instructions on your bottle or bag, and don’t overuse as sometimes this can lead to them growing too quickly without their roots being established enough. 

3. Plant Succulents in the Right Soil

Another vital aspect highlighted by Langton and Ray is the importance of choosing the right soil for your succulents. While you may be tempted to opt for dirt from your back yard, or perhaps the regular potting soil you’ve used for your outdoor plants, resist! Succulents love soil mixed with perlite, pumice, or sand. If that sounds like too much work, opt for cactus soil instead, but be gentle when repotting. The roots are often quite fragile, so pick it from the stem and loosen the dirt around it.

4. Ensure proper drainage

Now that we’ve covered the right soil and watering techniques, there is one simple thing that may save your plant: having proper draining. Yes, having proper drainage will not only keep your plant healthy and happy but will also help you, as a new owner, gauge how much is too much. If you are quite weary, you can always place your pot in a bowl with a bit of water. This way the plant will absorb only what it needs via the drainage holes. Of course, if you’re already potted your plant, then use less water and wait for the soil to absorb it fully before watering again. One thing to avoid with succulents is misting, as having too little water can lead to brittle roots or even moldy leaves.

5. Don’t underestimate the importance of light

We see many succulent owners making the error of not giving their plants enough light. In fact, it’s important to note that succulents are light worshipers. Ok, maybe we can’t go that far, but depending on their type, they will need around six hours of sun per day. Of course, adaptation is equally important when purchasing a new plant, so don’t place it in direct sunlight, to begin with. Instead, gradually introduce the plant to the sun, for a few hours per day, or block some hours of sun by using a sheer curtain.

6. Rotate your succulent’s position

If you’ve already made that mistake with other plants, you may have noticed that your succulent tends to be lop-sided. That is because while succulents love sun, sitting in the same spot means not getting equal light on both sides. By rotating, you will avoid them leaning towards the sun, as suggested by Langton and Ray in their book. Side note: leaning may also be an indication that your plant is not getting enough light, so consider moving it, at least temporarily, to a brighter spot. 

7. Your succulent loves being clean

Especially during spring and summer, while your windows are open, plants will inevitably pick up dust on their leaves and stems. According to Langton and Ray, this can inhibit their growth, so pick up your little duster and wipe off the leaves gently. You can use a dampened cloth or even a soft paintbrush if your plant is too small or too fragile.

8. Choose the right pot

There may be some debate about this point, but some pots, including terracotta ones, are ideal for beginners. This is because the pot looks darker in color when it’s wet, so it makes it easier to see if your succulent is thirsty or not. Also, the drainage hole they usually come with allows you to touch the bottom of the roots and also check for the moisture level.

9. Keep your plant pest-free

Needless to say, some gnats, mealybugs, or other types may want to hitch a ride on your indoor succulent. If you spot anything that looks out of place, one solution is to spray the soil with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Of course, prevention is better than cure, and following our watering advice will ensure you won’t need to deal with this! 

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