Five Tips for Healthy Succulents

I moved to Houston in January 2016, and I had to leave my cat behind with my mom. I grew up with animals and so I found myself very lonely without a furry companion. I decided that the way to solve my problem was to buy a plant. I had brought a Lucky Bamboo with me when I moved, and so I decided I would continue with that trend. Succulents were just beginning to gain the popularity that they have now, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

By March, I’d moved back home and had all the room I could desire and quickly expanded my succulent garden. By August, I had more succulents than I could count, and I had learned a whole lot about what succulents like and what they don’t. Even though I don’t have all the space I once had (the porch at our apartment is minuscule), I do have an Aloe Vera and a Jade, and my knowledge is still being put to use. I’d like to share with you five of the most important tips from my experience in hopes that it will help you have healthier succies.

1. Container

While it’s super trendy right now to plant succulents in cute, unique planters like teacups or terrariums, that doesn’t mean that they’re always the best option for the succulent. The key is to make sure that your planter has a drainage hole. You can still use all sorts of fun and unique items to plant your succulents in, but you will just have to create a drainage hole first. I have planted succulents in everything from teacups and mugs to small bowls to coffee tins, but I always added drainage holes with my Dremel.

The reason that drainage holes are so important is that succulents hate sitting in water. They will die of root rot much more quickly than they will die of dehydration. So if their soil is too damp for too long, the poor plant is pretty much doomed. The drainage holes allow for the excess water to quickly escape the pot and get away from the roots.

2. Soil

Like I mentioned in my last tip, succulents don’t like wet soil. When looking to purchase soil for your succulents, make sure to choose a soil that’s labeled specifically for succulents and cacti. This is the brand that I’ve used most consistently and I’ve never had a problem with it. Succulent soil is made with a mixture that aerates much more easily and is less dense than other potting soil, which allows the roots to get more air. I also like to mix in equal parts Perlite into my soil for extra aeration, just to be safe.

3. Light

Succulents, just like any other plant, need sunlight to thrive. But some need more than others, and so it’s always a good idea to save the little tag that comes with your succulent so that you can research its species to see how much light it actually needs.

Just like people, too much direct sunlight isn’t good for succulents, regardless of if they need a little light or a lot. They can get sunburnt and, while a sunburnt leaf won’t kill the plant, it doesn’t heal like it does on our skin. Too much light and sunburn will eventually kill the succulent, so keep an eye on your succulents, especially in the summertime.

It’s a good idea to keep your succies in a spot (indoors or outdoors) where they can get full morning light and filtered afternoon light because morning light is much less harsh than afternoon light is.

4. Temperature & Climate

The answer to this can vary based on where you live. But the short answer to what temperature and climate succulents like is: hot and dry. But many of them can survive colder temperatures — some even as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. But others don’t like it any lower than 50 degrees. It’s a good idea to take your succulents inside in temperatures below freezing because they are primarily composed of water and freezing temperatures can be devastating to them. It would also be beneficial to look up your succulent’s species and what USDA Plant Hardiness Zone you live in because this will help you understand more precisely what temperature your succulents prefer. I live in Zone 8b, which means that my succulents can grow outside for a good portion of the year because we don’t have temperatures below freezing very often.

5. Water

Succulents seem to have a reputation as plants that are super hard to kill. But in my experience, I’ve found that they can be pretty finicky. Contrary to popular belief, they actually CAN die, and this can happen rather suddenly if you’re not careful.

Succulents are native to dry, desert areas where there are long periods of drought, followed by heavy rains. This means that succulents innately want that same watering pattern, even if you don’t live in the desert.

After much trial and error and lots of tragic succulent deaths, I’ve learned to only water my succulents when they look like they need it. Then, I completely soak the soil until the excess water drains out of the drainage hole.

Keep an eye on your succulents. If they are over-watered, the leaves will become yellow or white and squishy. If the roots have rotted, it becomes very difficult to save your succulent. If it’s under-watered, the leaves will begin to fall off and the plant will stop growing. Luckily, it’s quite easy to recover an under-watered succulent. After getting enough water, it’ll usually perk up after a day or two. So, a good rule of thumb is: if you’re unsure, don’t water.

More Info

For tons of information and tips on succulents, go check out Cassidy at Succulents and Sunshine! I learned a lot from her and I LOVE her book, which you can buy here.

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