10 Beginner Mistakes When Growing Succulents

10 Beginner Mistakes for Growing Succulents

Have you been scrolling down checking succulent plant images on Facebook or Instagram for hours on end? You hop over to Pinterest and as you browse more images, you can’t help going, “wow” on every single one of them. And lately, your living room has been teeming with succulents wherever there’s available space.

We totally get it! Looks like you just joined millions of other self-confessed succulent lovers.

Succulents are extremely easy to love and growing these charming plants is quickly becoming a hobby all over the world. And that is no surprise at all –with such striking and quirky looks, growing succulents is more than an adventure.

Hordes of plant lovers are fast getting hooked to succulents. If you’re new to the obsession, you definitely want to avoid a few pitfalls when it comes to growing succulents.

As much as it is claimed that succulents are easy to kill, they may die on you when they’re denied the appropriate growing conditions. Avoid the following mistakes to end up with healthy-looking succulents.

Placing Succulents in Poorly Lit Spaces

Okay, so you heard that succulents are versatile and have been adapted to growing in harsh conditions. Since they grow in deserts and literally anywhere, they can even survive in closets or in the basement. Wrong.

Every green plant, regardless of its adaptations requires sunlight to survive (remember photosynthesis?). True, there are some low sunlight succulents that can do well in little light, but they also need to be exposed to sunlight for a minimum number of hours every day.

What’s more, minimalist home designs are increasingly becoming popular by the day with succulents as the go-to indoor plants to achieve the style. These elegant and simple plants make a perfect fit for such designs.

However, most home decorating designs don’t make provisions for stuffing many plants on the windowsill, minimalist especially.

But with succulents, light is critical, and tucking that Sedeveria at your living room’s corner is just begging it to die or become etiolated. You don’t want your succulents looking stretched, pale and lanky.

The majority of succulents require a minimum of four to eight hours of sunlight every day. This helps them to make food through photosynthesis so that they can be healthy. If growing succulents indoors, it’s recommended to place them on a south or west-facing window. During summer, you can take them outside and let them bask in the sun during the morning or late afternoon hours. If the natural lighting in your home is needing, a grow lamp may get the job done.

Failure to Observe Fertilizing Best Practices

A number of succulent gardeners believe that succulents don’t need fertilizer. While most succulents can do perfectly well without any fertilizer, it’s important to note that nutrients are necessary for any plant. Feeding your plants may increase their growth rate and give them a healthier look.

A common mistake that’s prevalent among beginners in feeding succulents is overfeeding. It’s recommended to feed your plants three to four times a year. The best time for this is during summer or spring when your plants are actively growing. Succulents are generally dormant during winter so avoid feeding them during this time. We recommend going with this fertilizer below: 

Crowding too many Succulents in One Space

Growing different succulents in one place presents a spectacular aesthetic. And to some extent, succulents can get along with this better than other plants. However, squeezing many of them in a single space presents a few problems. Competition for nutrients becomes fierce which may lead to malnourishment.

Additionally, excessive crowding of succulents may encourage pest infestations and even the spread of mold. Such a combination of succulent killers is deadly and may wipe out your entire collection.

Not Giving Your Succulents Enough Water

Another succulent faux-pax is the notion that they can survive without any water. Though xerophytic and adapted to desert conditions, succulents require enough water in order to store some in their leaves.

A desert may experience long spells of drought but when it rains, it pours. It’s recommended to mimic such watering as succulents are adapted to this. Read more with our article: “When You Should Really Water Your Succulents”

Let loose a deluge on your succulents and wait till the soil is bone dry to water again. Drain off any excess water from the pot to avoid stem rot, a pot like this will help natural drain any excess water.

Planting Succulents with Non-Succulents

Different plant arrangements are just gorgeous. No doubt succulents look good when paired with some ferns or moss varieties.

Unfortunately, that can only be done temporarily.

Succulents have very different growing conditions as compared with other home plants. Basil needs water like every six hours or else it’ll begin to wilt. Similarly, a moss plant will thrive in an environment that’s moist throughout.

On the other side of the ring, succulents can’t stand being wet. It’s literally impossible to have a cohesion without one of the plants dying.

This is also true for some succulent groups. While a few succulents can go on without water for weeks, some need to be watered on a weekly basis.

Using Inappropriate Planters or Pots

Succulents appear even more beautiful when planted in fashionable planters. However, if your container is jeopardizing the growth of your plants, you’ll soon end up with an empty planter.Succulents are prone t o root rot. This happens when they sit in wet soil for too long. Soil in containers without a drainage hole takes much longer to dry out increasing the chances of root rot.

Similarly, partially-closed containers leads to higher levels of humidity around your succulents. This is risky as it also promotes rot especially in the leaves and stem. You can never go wrong with Terra cotta, wood or hypertufa containers.

Misting Succulents

This emanates from the belief that succulents don’t need a lot of water and so misting is the way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth…

Not only is misting a terrible way to water succulents, it also promotes leaf rot as most people who mist succulents do it on a daily basis. Leaves rotting is due to the fact that most of the water remains in the leaves for extended periods of time. This is dangerous for succulents such as Kalanchoe tomentosa.

Using Standard Potting Soil When Planting Succulents

Succulents may be pretty, but they’re a little picky when it comes to soil requirements. Standard potting soil may work for other house plants but not succulents. These plants are adapted to well-draining, grainy desert soils.

Regular potting soil retains water making the soil wet for a long time – succulents’ greatest nightmare. The potting soil being wet for extended periods doesn’t just go well with succulents. They’re susceptible to root rot, something you wouldn’t want to deal with as a beginner.

When it comes to which soil to choose, our best bet is a commercial cacti mix. This is available online and you don’t even have to break the bank.

In case you’re feeling a bit creative and you wouldn’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can custom make your own cacti mix. Simply mix equal portions of garden soil with perlite, pumice or building sand. Avoid using soil with peat moss as it promotes water retention.

We recommend something like this from Hoffman:

Colorful succulent lithops in planter

Over Watering Succulents

Loving succulents is okay. However, love them with moderation as they’ll easily perish when showered with excess love. Most house plant lovers like their plants looking vibrant and healthy. They try to achieve this by watering their plants every waking minute. Not so with succulents. Remember root rot – it’s real.

When it comes to watering succulents, the rule of thumb is to allow the soil to dry out completely in between watering. Drench your plants and let the excess water to drain out. Minimize feeding your succulents with water during winter. For most succulents, avoid watering the leaves and only water from below. The reason for this is that one, leaves don’t take in water and something else, you’re making them susceptible to rot.

Keeping Plants Root Bound for too Long

Most succulents fit perfectly well in small planters. You can even use our hidden cactus mug as a planter for the smaller succulent plants.

Nevertheless, plant roots require enough room for growth. If roots overgrow their pot and stay in that condition, desiccation problems will ensue because water won’t be absorbed properly. Additionally, uptake of nutrients and minerals may be a problem leading to a weak plant.

Succulents are slow growers and determining when to repot may prove to be daunting. The best tip we can think of is repotting as soon as roots start peeping through the drainage hole.


Want to listen to all the beginner mistakes that succulent planters make when they first begin? With Audible.com you can receive 2 FREE audiobooks of your choice, follow the link here! We’ve actually learned a lot from the book Succulents (Idiot’s Guide).

Now that you know the common mistakes beginners make when caring for succulents, you can be sure your succulents are in safe hands. If there are other common mistakes that you’ve done or you know of, please share them with us below.

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers or even The Best Soil Recommendations for Your Succulent today!

Like always, happy planting!

10 thoughts on “10 Beginner Mistakes When Growing Succulents

  1. I have been successfully growing succulents for two years. I have done two beautiful mixed succulent bowls and have several more bowls to do. Thanks for the repotting and when to fertilise hints. I have not fertilised my plants but the potting mix did have fertiliser in it. Some are due to be repotted in the near future.

  2. I loved this article. Every time I read one of your articles I learn something. I would really like to see a good article on how to prepare succulents that are in the ground for a winter that can drop below 30 and snow some.

  3. Thanks for the outstanding article. I just started collecting (many) succulents and so far so good. I have all my supplies ready to transplant into a larger low type table bowl. This does not have holes but as I make jewelry for a hobby I have the right tools and know how to put these holes in without cracking my beautiful.
    With the help and guidance of your article I now feel more confident than before…I started on the right tract, with every succulent still holding steady, and i’m looking forward to finishing up……relaxing following your advise on watering and watching nature do what it does best.
    Thank you again,
    Karen from Pennsylvania

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