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Gardener’s Guide To Succulent Care

by Jack Grover
assorted succulents and cacti
Reading time: 11 min Prefer to listen?

There is more to succulents than meets the eye. A closer look at these captivating plants reveals an extraordinary adaptation to harsh, arid environments, their plump leaves and swollen stems designed to store water for drought-infested days.

Yet, contrary to common belief, their hardiness does not translate into less care. They require a delicate balance of sunlight, temperature, water and soil type.

In this article, we’ll provide valuable information on choosing the right succulent varieties, understanding their ideal growing conditions, and mastering watering techniques.

You’ll also discover the importance of proper fertilization and soil preparation, as well as tips for propagating and transplanting succulents.

Key Takeaways:

  • Picking the right succulent: Different succulent varieties have different care requirements and growing conditions. Factors to consider include the level of sunlight exposure, preferred soil type, and watering pattern. Researching on the specific care requirements of the succulent variety you intend to cultivate can help them thrive. 
  • Ideal growing condition: Succulents thrive in well-draining, rocky, nutrient-rich soil with a slightly acidic pH. This kind of soil ensures proper drainage and nutrient supply. Green fingers should consider these factors when choosing soil for their succulents.
  • Watering techniques: Deep, but infrequent watering is essential for succulent growth. While you should water the succulents thoroughly, ensure that the soil dries out completely before the next watering session to prevent root rot.
  • Fertilization and soil preparation: Successful succulent care involves preparing and maintaining the soil properly, which includes testing for the correct pH and applying the right fertilizer. These plants prefer slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0-6.5), and a fertilizer specifically for succulents applied twice a year. 
  • Propagation and transplanting: Succulents can be propagated by removing pups, the small offshoots that grow around the base of a plant. Once the pup has been removed and healed, it should be planted into a different container with well-draining soil. Proper care and sunlight exposure will allow the pup to take root and grow into a new plant.

Choosing the Right Succulent Varieties

When choosing succulent varieties, it’s important to consider their specific care requirements and growing conditions. Different succulents have different needs, and understanding these needs will help you create an environment where they can thrive.

Some succulents prefer more sunlight, while others can tolerate shade. Make sure to place your succulents in an area that receives the appropriate amount of light.

Additionally, consider the type of soil they prefer. Succulents thrive in well-draining soil, so choose a soil mix that allows excess water to flow out easily.

Lastly, water your succulents sparingly. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s best to allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

Outdoor Succulents: 

  • Agave: Known for its large rosette of thick, fleshy leaves.
  • Echeveria: A popular choice with rosette-shaped leaves that come in a variety of colors.
  • Sedum: These hardy plants can survive harsh weather conditions and tolerate poor soil.
  • Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks): These low-maintenance plants are perfect for ground cover.
  • Zebra Plant (Haworthia): Named for its white, horizontal stripes which resemble a zebra’s stripes.

Indoor Succulents:

  • Jade Plant: With its thick, woody stems and glossy green leaves, this is a popular houseplant.
  • Aloe Vera: This plant not only looks good but is known for its healing properties as well.
  • String of Pearls: As the name suggests, this plant features small, round leaves that resemble a string of pearls.
  • Panda Plant (Kalanchoe): A unique succulent with furry, silver-gray leaves.
  • Christmas Cactus: This plant, which produces beautiful blooms during the winter months, is a popular holiday gift.

Understanding the Ideal Growing Conditions

For optimal growth, make sure you choose loose, rocky, and nutrient-rich soil when planting your succulents. This type of soil allows for proper drainage and ensures that the roots have access to essential nutrients.

Here are three important factors to consider when selecting soil for your succulents:

1. Drainage

Succulents prefer well-draining soil to prevent root rot. Look for soil with larger particles that allow water to enter quickly and drain away.

2. pH Levels

Use a soil test kit to check the pH levels of your soil. Succulents thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0-6.5.

3. Nutrient Content

Succulents benefit from a soil that is rich in nutrients. Choose a soil mix that contains organic matter or add compost to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

Watering Techniques for Succulents

person watering green plants in pot

Watering succulents deeply but infrequently is essential for their health and growth. Succulents have unique water storage abilities that allow them to survive in arid conditions.

When watering your succulents, it’s important to give them a thorough soak, allowing the water to penetrate deeply into the soil. This helps the roots to access the water and promotes healthy growth. 

However, succulents do not like to sit in wet soil for long periods of time, as it can lead to root rot. Therefore, it’s important to allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. This mimics their natural environment and prevents overwatering.

Proper Fertilization and Soil Preparation

Proper Fertilization and Soil Preparation

Proper fertilization and soil preparation are key for healthy succulents. To ensure your succulents thrive, follow these tips:

  • Choose the right soil: Succulents prefer well-draining soil. Opt for a loose, rocky, and nutrient-rich soil that allows excess water to drain away. Avoid alkaline soil, as it can harm your plants.
  • Test your soil: Use a soil test kit to check the pH levels of your soil. Succulents prefer a pH range of 6.0-6.5. Adjust the pH if needed to create an optimal growing environment.
  • Fertilize wisely: Apply a fertilizer specifically formulated for succulents and cacti. Feed your plants twice a year, in spring and early fall. Avoid fertilizing during winter when succulents are dormant. Proper feeding ensures healthy and thriving succulent plants.

Tips for Succulent Propagation and Transplanting

When propagating succulents, it’s important to identify and remove pups from the mother plant. Pups are the small offshoots that grow around the base of the main plant.

To remove them, gently separate the pup from the mother plant using a clean, sharp knife or your hands. Once removed, allow the pup to sit out and heal overnight to prevent any infections.

The next day, plant the pup in a separate container filled with well-draining soil. Provide proper care and watering for the new plant, ensuring it receives adequate sunlight.

Watch for signs of growth and development, indicating that the pup has successfully taken root. By propagating succulents through pup removal, you can create new plants and expand your succulent collection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How Do I Prevent My Succulents From Getting Sunburned?

To prevent your succulents from getting sunburned, provide them with sufficient shade during the hottest parts of the day. Move them to a spot with indirect sunlight or use a shade cloth. This will protect their leaves from scorching.

Q: Can I Use Regular Potting Soil for My Succulents?

Yes, you can use regular potting soil for your succulents, but it’s not ideal. Succulents prefer well-draining soil, so it’s better to use a mix specifically formulated for succulents or add perlite to regular soil for better drainage.

Q: How Often Should I Water My Succulents During the Winter?

During the winter, water your succulents less frequently to protect them from frost damage. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and reduce watering overall. Remember, succulents prefer being underwatered rather than overwatered.

Q: Can I Propagate Succulents From Leaves or Only From Pups?

Yes, you can propagate succulents from leaves or pups. Pups are the easiest method, but you can also propagate from healthy leaves. Both methods require proper care and attention to ensure successful growth.

Q: What Are Some Common Pests That Can Affect Succulents and How Do I Treat Them?

Some common pests that can affect succulents are mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. Treat them by using insecticidal soap or neem oil. Follow the instructions on the product label for effective pest control.

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