Succulents may not be a real scientific plant family, but they do have a lot of the same characteristics. Succulents are all drought tolerant. They have shallow roots that soak up as much water as possible and swollen leaves that store it for a not-so-rainy day.
Because succulents have these shared traits, you can care for each species in roughly the same way. Succulents require a lot less water than other plants and need lots of sunlight. They all need soil with good drainage, too, and a few other things that we’re going to talk about today.
Here’s our list of seven general succulent care tips that will keep your plant looking nice and healthy!
Keep the soil dry
Succulents, especially cacti, are super sensitive to water. Succulents are resilient little plants that can survive almost anything, but not overwatering. Their roots will rot and they’ll start to attract pests like mealybugs. You’ll have no choice but to toss your beloved succulent in the trash. Unfortunately, we’ve been there.
If you don’t want to make the same mistakes that we did, then make sure you let your succulent’s soil dry out completely in between waterings.Check out this post on how to water your succulents properly, too.
Use the right soil
Using the right soil can also stop your succulent from rotting. The best soil for succulents will have sand and gritty stones in it like perlite and pumice to promote drainage. Perlite and pumice are porous, which allows water to pass through them easily and helps water drain out of the pot faster.
Commercial succulent and cactus soils have these kinds of ingredients, so they’ll do the trick. But you can also create your own custom soil blend using a few simple ingredients. We like to use three parts of regular potting soil, two parts of a gritty sand like builder’s sand, and one part of either perlite or pumice in our mix.
Still unsure of what soil to use that’s best for your succulent? Be sure to read our in depth guide for succulent soil, it’s helped hundreds of people so far.
Give your plant some air
Something that’s important for succulent health but isn’t often talked about is airflow. Succulents need to have a little room to breathe (I know I do sometimes), so you shouldn’t place them too close together in arrangements if you can help it.
Tight arrangements look great, but may have drainage issues. In order for the soil to dry out properly, enough air has to get to the soil and the roots, and tightly packed arrangements prevent that. If you space them out a little, your plants will have much healthier roots and more room to grow.
Space is good!
Give your succulent plenty of sun
Good ol’ sun rays!
Most succulents come from sunny, warm environments like the desert and the tropics, so they need lots of sunlight to stay healthy. Even succulents like the Snake Plant that can thrive in low light conditions love to get several hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day.
Try to give your succulents between six and eight hours of bright sunlight each day. Your plants will appear more vibrant and healthy if you keep them near one of the sunniest windows in your home, like a south or west facing window.
Giving your succulent babies plenty of sun will also prevent them from getting etiolated. Etiolation happens when a succulent isn’t getting enough sunlight and starts stretching towards the nearest light source, often growing sideways. Etiolated succulents also grow tall very quickly and end up looking quite “stretched out.” It’s definitely something you want to prevent from happening, so put your succulents someplace where they can soak up the sun!
Don’t let your succulent get too cold
Some succulents, such as Hens and Chicks and Sedums, can survive in freezing temps. But most succulents will actually get brown, mushy leaves if you leave them out in the cold. This is because the water they store in their leaves starts to freeze, which destroys their tissues. Once it happens, this damage is irreversible, so you want to make sure that you bring your outdoor succulent inside when it gets too chilly.
Every succulent has a different range of temperatures it can tolerate, so make sure you do a little research to find out when it’s time to bring your particular succulent inside for the winter.
Succulents are known for being slow growers, but fertilizer helps them pick up the pace. It also encourages flowering succulent plants to bloom, so if you want to see your baby flower, pick up some fertilizer.
For most succulents, we recommend using a low balanced, water soluble fertilizer. Balanced fertilizers contain equal amounts of the three main nutrients that your plant needs—nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You’ll know a fertilizer is balanced if it has three identical numbers on the package, like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
“Low balanced” just means that the fertilizer isn’t very concentrated. Succulents need a lot less fertilizer than other plants, and can get burned if you use a fertilizer that’s too strong. That’s why we recommend low balanced fertilizers like 8-8-8 and 10-10-10 blends. Stay away from concentrated fertilizers with high numbers on their packaging, like 20-20-20 blends.
Even though you’re using a low balanced fertilizer, you should still dilute it to half strength to make sure that your plant won’t burn. If you’re using a water soluble fertilizer, you can do this by dissolving half as much fertilizer as the package recommends into the same amount of water. So, if the package tells you to mix one tablespoon of fertilizer into a gallon of water, you should only use half a tablespoon of fertilizer for the whole gallon.
Some people fertilize their succulents weekly, but we like to fertilize ours less often. Once a month is our sweet spot. The best time to fertilize is when your succulent is actively growing, which is usually in the summer, but can vary from species to species.
Figure out the species of your succulent
That brings us to our last point! If you can, figure out which types of succulents you own. Not all succulents grow during the same time of year, so figuring out which species you have will help you administer fertilizer at the right time. Each succulent has slightly different light and water requirements, too. Knowing which succulents you have will help you give better overall care to your plant babies.
You can start off by figuring out if your succulent grows better in the summer or winter here.
We hope that this post has helped you learn all about how to take care of succulent plants! If you need more guidance, check out some of our other posts. Happy planting!