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How To Grow And Care For Succulents

20 de februar de 2024

Succulents get their name not because of gastronomic appeal, but from their fleshy, plump leaves and stems that store water, allowing them to survive growing in low-rainfall areas. This doesn’t mean you can’t grow them in high-rainfall areas, though. Garden centers across the country wouldn’t be stacked to the sky with them if that were true. Most succulents respond well to summer downpours and bi-weekly watering during active growth as long as the soil drains and dries quickly. Here’s all you need to know about growing succulents.

Plant Attributes

Plant Type Succulents
Sun Exposure Full, partial, bright indirect light
Soil Type Well-drained, sandy
Soil pH Slightly acidic to Alkaline (5.5-8.0), varies by species
Hardiness Zones Varies by species
Native Area Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, South America
Toxicity Varies by species

Succulent Care

Succulents fly out of garden centers because they’re marketed as ″no-care» plants. The only plants that truly fit this description are plastic. Succulents do need care, albeit little compared to most other plants. Their first demand is bright light—even in light shade, they tend to stretch and sulk. Second, they hate staying wet for long, so plant them in fast-draining soil. (If in a pot, mix one part coarse sand with one part potting soil and make sure there’s a drainage hole. Water until excess liquid runs out of the drainage hole and then wait until the soil is dry before watering again.) A layer of gravel over the soil surface reduces wetness at the base of the plant.


Indoors, set your succulents by a bright and sunny south-facing or east-facing window for maximum light exposure. You can also supplement light with full-spectrum fluorescent or LED lights. Rotate plants occasionally to keep them from growing lopsided.

In the outdoors, most succulents do well in four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. A plant that has spent time indoors should be acclimated to sunlight slowly and get protection from the afternoon sun. Cacti and succulents may appreciate full sun, or more than six hours a day, but young plants can be susceptible to sunburn. Move plants to a more protected spot if crispy brown spots appear on the leaves.


Succulents require sharp drainage to avoid rotting. Plant them in a container in soil formulated for succulents, or combine half potting soil with half coarse sand. In the garden, succulents prefer sandy, well-drained soil. Use a material like crushed gravel, very coarse sand, or PermaTill to make moist and heavy soils more porous. Creating berms also helps rainfall to drain away quickly. Most succulents do well in slightly acidic soil, but many will survive in alkaline soil too. Good drainage is more important than soil pH.


As a general rule, succulents require watering about once a week in summer and about once a month in winter. Reduce or increase your watering schedule according to the hours of daylight. Wrinkled leaves or stems are often a sign of under-watering. Water deeply and allow the water to run off; remove the saucers when watering containers. Allow your plant to dry out between waterings. If you’re unsure whether it’s time to water, stick a wooden chopstick a few inches down into the container to see if any moisture remains.

Temperature And Humidity

Most succulents turn to mush with freezing weather and need to spend winter indoors. Sedums, sempervivums, and agaves are exceptions. Succulents often survive outdoors as long as the temperature is above 40ºF, but wet soil is a killer in cold weather. In a rainy climate, grow succulents in pots or in a raised bed with sharp drainage.


Succulents benefit from periodic fertilization when they’re actively growing in spring and summer. Apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength once a month. Indoor succulents need no fertilizer during the winter, but they always need bright light.

Types of Succulents

Due to the current succulent mania, you’ll encounter dozens of different kinds for sale at most home and garden centers. Some you’ll find familiar, like burn plant (Aloe vera), jade plant (Crassula ovata), and hen and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum). Most you won’t and they may be labeled with only botanical names, such as Echeveria, Kalanchoe, Sedum, Aeonium, and Senecio. This can be intimidating to a newbie, but don’t sweat it. Succulents are frequently sold in three-inch pots that cost only a couple of bucks. So pick out the plants that appeal to you, read the descriptions if there are any (many succulents produce showy flowers in addition to foliage), take them home, and see how they do. If you kill one, you’re not alone. Read on for tips on fixing problems with succulents.

Ready-Made Succulent Gardens Vs. Planting Your Own

Probably the most agonizing decision you’ll face when buying succulents is choosing a number of single plants or going for that ready-made succulent garden composed of many different plants. Ready-made gardens look great—for a time. From my experience, though, they’re temporary investments. This is because some plants grow slowly, while other grow fast; some stay small while others get big; and water and light requirements vary somewhat. Because of this, your ready-made garden will never look better than the day you buy it.

So do what I do: Match individual plants to individual pots, varying the size and shape of each. Then group the pots together in a display. This way, if one grows big, you can move it to the back where it won’t bother the others. And if one dies, you can easily replace it (or not) without disassembling the garden.

Propagating Succulents

Most succulents are easily propagated by stem cuttings. Follow these steps to propagate your plant:

  1. Using a sharp and sterile knife, cut a four-inch section of stem.
  2. Remove the lower leaves and set the cutting on the counter to air dry for four to seven days.
  3. Once the cut has calloused over, stick the bottom into a small pot filled with slightly damp succulent soil mix. Bury one or two leaf nodes in the potting mix.
  4. Set the pot in bright, indirect light. Water sparingly when the potting mix thoroughly dries out. The cutting should fully root in about a month.

Some succulents like hen and chicks, cacti, and aloe grow offsets that can be separated from the mother plant. Wait until the babies are half the size of the mother plant before cutting them off with a sharp knife. Then follow the same steps, except that you will place the offsets right on top of the potting mix, burying any roots that have developed underneath.

Potting And Repotting Succulents

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that succulents don’t like to sit in moisture. That’s important to consider when choosing the right pots for your container garden. Use a terracotta or stone container with a drainage hole rather than plastic or glazed pots. The container should be just slightly bigger than the original pot so that it doesn’t retain too much moisture.

Fill about 2/3 full with sharply draining potting mix and set the plant so it is at the same level as it was in its original pot. Lightly fill in around the plant, making certain the leaves don’t come in contact with the potting mix. Once the plant grows large enough that the roots emerge from the drainage hole or the plant can’t absorb water, it’s time to repot it.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

When it comes to pests and diseases, succulents are among the easiest plants. They can be infested with mealybugs, which are cottony-looking insects that feed on sap. Fill a spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol and spray the pests, or dab them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.

Root rot from overwatering is by far the most common issue that succulents experience. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, leaves dropping, and shriveling of the plant. Sometimes a succulent can be saved by trimming off unhealthy, slimy roots and foliage, allowing the roots to air dry, repotting the plant in dry soil, and waiting a few days before watering again. If this doesn’t help, take a cutting from a healthy stem to start over and grow a new plant.

Common Problems With Succulents

Succulents have few demands, but it can be tricky to give them just the right amount of water and light. If your plant exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s a good sign that you need to adjust one or the other.

Leggy Or Pale Plant

This is an indication that your plant needs more light. Like many plants, succulents will reach for the sun when they are in the shade, resulting in weak and spindly growth. The plants also develop the best color in stronger light. If your plant is indoors, look for a bright window and set your succulent as close to it as possible. In the outdoors, move your plant to a slightly brighter location and see if the color improves. If possible, prune back leggy growth.

If the leaves or stems of your plant are both pale and mushy, this is instead a sign that root rot from overwatering could be developing. Follow the instructions under Common Pests & Plant Diseases, and also increase sun exposure if needed.

Brown Or Bleached Foliage

Even the most sun-loving succulent can receive too many rays, especially during a heat wave. Brown spots and bleach spots are a result of sunburn. Crispy leaves can also mean that your succulent isn’t getting enough water (though some succulents naturally lose their lower leaves over time as they grow upward). In hot summer weather, your plant may need protection from the afternoon sun. Make sure you are watering consistently and step up your watering schedule slightly if the weather warrants it.

Wrinkled Leaves And Stems

Most often, this is a sign of underwatering. Wrinkled leaves can eventually turn yellow or brown and drop off. Stems may eventually wilt. The lack of water finally causes roots to shrivel and die. Unfortunately, overwatering can also cause some of these symptoms, confounding many a gardener. Check the soil moisture at least two inches below the surface to make sure it isn’t damp or wet. Then give your plant a good soak, and maintain a consistent watering schedule afterward.

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