Succulents are one of the best gifts for a variety of occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, and even wedding favors! Their low-maintenance needs make them especially attractive. But by no means are they “carefree.” Succulents are living things, and unfortunately, many of us think they are a “set it and forget it” kind of plant. If you’ve been given or have purchased a succulent and aren’t totally sure how to care for it, you’re in the right place.
Think about the succulents that you see in nature. They usually thrive in high heat and low humidity locations like the desert! So keep in mind that succulents of all varieties love light and that they need about six hours of it per day. That said, newly planted succulents can scorch (ouch!) in direct sunlight, so you may need to gradually introduce these new plant babies to full sun exposure over time. You could do so by providing some shade with a sheer curtain before putting them fully in the sun’s rays.
You’ve heard that succulents love the direct sun, but that comes with a word of caution. If your succulent sits in the same spot day after day, only one side of it will likely be getting enough light. To prevent that, it’s important to rotate your plant baby often. A good best practice is to do a quarter turn each week. A neat trait about succulents is that they will lean towards the sun if they need more of it. So rotating them will help them to stand up straight. If you see your succulents leaning in one direction, that could also be a sign that they are desperately reaching for the sun, so you might want to consider moving it to a sunnier spot.
Questions about watering succulents are what people ask most often, and for good reason. Moreso than with regular plants, the amount and frequency of watering can make or break your plant’s health. And just like with humans, succulents need more energy when they’re in a period of growth. During the spring and summer, when they are thriving, they need much more water than in the fall and winter, when they’re resting.
If you aren’t sure whether you should water your succulents or not, there’s a simple test you can do. Stick your finger in the soil! Yes, seriously, just stick your finger in and see how the top 1 inch feels. If it’s dry, grab your watering can. If it’s moist, skip the watering and check back in another few days. Overwatering can kill your succulents, so make sure you let the soil dry between waterings. Depending on the size of your succulent and its container, you might also be able to see the soil lightning up as it gets drier, which is another good indication that it’s ready for some H20!
If you’ve determined that it’s time to water, soak the soil until water starts to run out of the drainage holes in the bottom of your container. We’ll talk about containers and soil later, but if your container doesn’t have drainage holes, just use less water. Some people talk about using a spray bottle to water your succulents, but this is a suggestion that you shouldn’t follow. Misting can cause brittle roots and moldy leaves, neither of which is something you want. Alternatively, you can also place your pot in a pan of water and allow the water to absorb up through the drainage holes. Once the top of the soil is moist, remove the pot from the pan.
No, we don’t mean that type of clean. We mean clean leaves! One of the best parts about succulents is that their leaves are hardy. After a while, you will see your indoor succulents picking up dust on their surface. Not only does this make them look less appealing, but it can also inhibit their growth. To combat that, simply wipe off the leaves and spines gently with a damp cloth when you see dush accumulating. Don’t be afraid to touch the leaves until the dust comes off, but for hard-to-reach spots, consider using a small, soft paintbrush.
We covered watering your succulents earlier, and if you were paying attention, you’ll recall a conversation about drainage in your container. Succulents don’t like to sit in waterlogged soil, which is why drainage is crucial. Your container should have at least one drainage hole to allow excess water to escape, which will prevent rot. Terra-cotta pots are ideal for beginners. Because they usually come with a drainage hole and a saucer underneath. Plus, because they are porous, they absorb some water while also allowing excess moisture to be released from the soil more quickly.
The next part of drainage has to do with the soil your succulent is living in. No, not all soil is the same! Your succulents need soil that drains, so regular potting soil, dirt from your yard, or the random old bag you found in your shed just won’t do. Specifically, use cactus soil, or mix regular potting soil with sand, pumice, or perlite, all of which will contribute to successful drainage. If you need to re-pot your succulent down the road to a larger container, be gentle when doing so. Succulent roots are very fragile!
The last top tip to keep in mind when it comes to succulents vs. regular plants has to do with fertilizer. Contrary to popular belief, succulents don’t need much fertilizer, but you can give them light feeding during the spring and summer growing season if you’d like. If you do give them some growing juice, be careful not to overfertilize. This can cause your plant baby to grow too quickly and become weak when we want them to be big and strong! Succulents are beautiful and seemingly carefree plants that grow without much maintenance, but it’s important to know what they do need to keep them growing big and strong!