This succulent tips article is written by my daughter Emily. She has been researching and experimenting with succulents for a while now, and has some great insights on how to care for these popular beauties.
Succulents can make excellent houseplants as well as charming additions to any garden, if you follow their pesky rules. Unlike most popular houseplants and the average flower you’d plant in the garden, succulents and cacti are a bit more particular.
Succulent Tips and Mistakes to Avoid
But on the flipside, once you’re used to the succulent routine, they’re actually incredibly easy to care for. To get you started, here are a handful of succulent tips to take into account, and a few succulent mistakes to avoid:
1. Give succulents as much light as possible. They should ideally spend their time outside, in the sunlight, or inside at a south-facing window.
2. Wait until your plant’s soil is completely dry before you water it, and when you do, be sure to water thoroughly, until excess water drips out of the bottom.
3. Use a specific cactus soil, or mix a well-draining soil blend of your own. Standard potting soil will retain too much moisture, causing succulents roots to rot.
4. Plant in a container with drainage holes to avoid rot. If you’re planting in something unconventional, like a birdcage or a teacup, you may need to be extra careful with your watering and/or make adjustments for drainage.
5. Feel free to pack succulents together tightly. They have shallow roots that grow slowly, so if you like the look of packed planters, go for it.
6. Research your specific plant. While most succulents prefer lots of sunlight, some prefer the opposite, such as epiphytic cacti like the Christmas cactus.
7. Propagate succulents to your heart’s content; share them among your local plant community, family, and friends; and embrace the collecting spirit.
Definitely do not:
1. Over water succulents, which is the easiest way to kill them. When in doubt, don’t water.
2. Put succulents in full sunlight after they’ve been indoors, in a shaded nursery, under a tree, etc. for a while. Without time to adjust, they will get sunburned.
3. Treat succulents like houseplants, watering them sparingly. When, and only when, it is time to water succulents, they should be watered deeply.
4. Water succulents in the winter as frequently as you do during the summer. When the weather cools off, succulents require even more infrequent drinks.
5. Stress out! While this may seem like a lot of information, there are really only four key concepts: lots of sun, drainage holes, let the soil dry out, water deeply.
The variety of plants in the succulent world is enormous, from the popular hens & chicks to crazy cool cacti that grow into bizarre shapes. With the above info, you’re ready to master them all.
What has your experience been with succulents?
I have a question for you! I am a newby to succulents. I have a ceramic planter with drainage holes & cactus/succulent soil. I watered deeply once very dry but now the soil is staying very wet 2 weeks later. I had rocks on top the soil but recently took them out in hopes the soil might dry out before my precious (seemingly happy right now) little guys die! Still chilly here in Northern BC Canada so not a lot of heat in the sun to help out. Do you think they’ll be okay?
Thanks in advance,
Laurie, the good news that so far your succulents are doing okay. However, I would also be concerned that the soil isn't drying out. I've had some problems with soils sold as "cactus/succulent" mixes that held too much moisture before so perhaps that is the problem. If it were me I'd repot them and add in some perlite or bark to lighten up the soil.
Do I need to move my outside potted succulents inside for the winter, or just put them in a protected area outside?
Tracy, it depends. Unless you live in a very warm climate most need to come indoors. However, there are some sedums and succulents like sempervivum aka hens, and chicks that and survive outdoors in cold weather as we have here in Pennsylvania. If you know the type of succulent you have then you can usually search for its zone hardiness and to see if it's a tropical type of plant. If you live in the US here's a great site where you can enter your zipcode and see what zone you live in. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
I have been growing a variety of succulents for many years. They are not all the same. My Aloe plants winter indoors, but my hen and chick do fine outside year round as long as I keep them sheltered from the rain. Occasionally I have left a plant intended in the green house after the starts are done and then I just strip the dead leaves and replant.
But the most useful news if to feed them, especially as they come out of dormantsy in the spring. The outdoor succulents love it. Feeding has greatly improved their color and size. About once a month in for outdoor plants. Stop feeding in the winter.
Great tips Patricia. Thanks for sharing.
I water my succulents once and they start shedding leaves. Now I just admire them from afar and don't take water near them. And they live happily. No idea where to go from there.
Rini, some succulents need very little water. If they seem to droop or the leaves aren't as plump then it's time to water. Just make sure that they drain fast and do not sit in water.
I bought my son some succulent and he is so good with them and they are doing great, he has always loved succulent since he was little, studies about them. I kill mine just by looking at them I will have to try again. Thank you for the information.
Minnie, it sounds like your son has a green thumb. Don't feel bad and definitely try again if you are interested in growing succulents. I think most people including myself have killed a plant or two in our lives. One thing I can't stress enough is, do not over-water. Less is more especially with succulents. They also need light but will grow under grow lights that you can buy if you don't have enough natural light.
I started my succulent hobby after my sweet daughter had Amazon ship me 24 pups! I literally fell in love with these remarkable plants. My problem, I've become obsessed with them and continue to purchase every new species I find! I love each and every one. Being 76 years old, they are getting me off the sofa, getting a lot of "enjoyable. exercise" and I have many new friends as I started a Succulent Club. What can I say? Succulents rock!!!🌞
That's great to hear Mary. The writer of this post is my own daughter Emily who has picked up the plant bug and is currently in graduate school studying plant biology. Enjoy your succulents!
Ok I have a quick question, I’ve just recently in the past maybe 5-6 months started trying really any kind of plants lol I’ve tried in the past and could never get the hang of it! I either pay too much attention or not enough. But I’ve been really trying to be better at it, I have some succulents that I’m trying to propagate and I’ve had them inside only, well a couple of days ago it was kinda cloudy out but was still very warm so I sat the tray of leaves and clippings on my deck for several hours because, well I just felt like they might like some fresh air lol, but ever since then they have gotten mushy and discolored a bit. They were healthy when I put them outside, green and firm, but I’m hoping I haven’t ruined them!! Please help!! Can I save them?!? I haven’t wet the soil they are in, in about 2.5 weeks or so.
Jessica, It's really hard to say. Even establish indoor plants can have a hard time moving from indoors to the outside. Often it is recommended to "harden them off" which means move them to a sheltered spot for an hour or two outside before returning them indoors and then slowly increasing the time daily. Mushy and discolored leaves on a succulent sometimes often indicate over-watering but as you haven't watered them in 2.5 weeks it can't be that. Maybe too much sun? If they were happy and thriving before, move them back. Bright indirect light from a window is a good idea. Wait and see if that helps. Even if they end up in the trash or compost don't despair. We all lose plants from time to time. Keep trying. You'll find what works best for you.
Ive never had a hard time growing succulents, i made sure to search up they're specific care needed before getting my first one, but I've always been wary about putting a bunch in one pot so this was helpful! So tips for any brown thumbs in general, search up the care of your plants before or after you get them and unless it says it needs a lot of water stick to this rule "when in doubt just don't water it" most plants can tolerate too little water but very few can stand too much! Happy gardening <3
That is great advice! Thanks for sharing Sophia.
Thanks for the info. Will be following.
We love our succulents. Staying in South Africa we are blessed with a large variety of indigenous species and because they're so water wise they thrive in our gardens. They really are the most rewarding plants. Your Emily did a fantastic job explaining how to take care of them Patti. Wishing you both many more happy gardening hours
That's so exciting that you have the opportunity to enjoy such unique succulent species. I'm sure you have some real beauties to love. Also, I really appreciate the validation of Emily's work. She will be so please to hear it.
Thank you for your kind words and I wish you many more wonderful gardening hours too!
FLORENCE @ VintageSouthernPicks
I see succulents everywhere in blogworld, but didn't realize they were so care-intensive. I've been known to kill my share of plants, although I consider myself a gardener. I didn't know Christmas cactus was a succulent, but it makes sense. This was a very informative post & I'm glad for the helpful info. I can tell your daughter has indeed made a study of them!
I have seen pictures of your beautiful plants so I'm sure you could tackle succulents if you wanted to. And yes, Emily is obsessed with these little guys. I'm thrilled because it's now something we have in common.
Have a great week and thanks for stopping by,
Thanks so much for the tips! I think I'm looking mine. My mom gave them to me and one that was really but completely died and the others are....I don't know hopefully on the mend but it doesn't look like it. Is there any way to get them to get better one they've started dying?
I'm not sure if you can bring them back or not. I'd suggest making sure you get them into bright light and make sure they are not over-watered. Don't feel bad. Everyone has a plant die on them now and again. If you really like succulents, try again.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by,
You know I haven't tried succulents yet I keep wanting to but I put them off.. I'm not one for house plants and that's probably because I don't spend much time indoors. Growing up Hen and Chicks were always planted in old shoes. Thanks for these tips you made it sound really easy to grow them successfully.
I get it. You are so the outdoors girl and I love the idea of Hens & Chicks in shoes. How cute would that be. This is just something for you to throw in your back pocket for a future creative project.
Have a great holiday week!
Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures
What a lovely post! Thank you for the tips. I have a few succulents, but have been wanting some more! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures
I'm so glad you like it. My daughter is obsessed with them and hers have been growing like crazy so I thought it would be a good idea to have her write a post for me. She is a writer by profession and I'm thrilled that she is getting the gardening bug like me.
Have a great week!
I have never had the gardening bug but it seems that I'm seeing succulents everywhere and thought about getting a few for my house. I mistakenly thought they didn't need the sun. This was very informative! Are they hard to kill because I don't have much of a green thumb and I would want these to be indoor plants mostly though I could take them outside in the summer.
Most need sun. A south facing window is best. I some ways they are easy to grow because once you get them in the right conditions, they do great. I say give them a try by following Emily's suggestions, and if they don't work out don't feel bad. It happens.
Thanks for stopping by,
I love cactuses, they are special. I must admit I have not been successful in caring for them, either to much water like it says in your post or not enough. I do have these large plant that seems to do well outside.
But i don't get it why it does since it has been raining alot here. Must be the type of plant Cacti.Happy 4th.
I too have killed many a plant with too much love (water). I also think that some, like yours outdoors, once established can probably take more water and perhaps you have it in such well draining soil or your ground drains really well that it doesn't rot the roots.
Thanks for stopping by and have a great holiday week!