I might be writing this post prematurely.
I love indoor plants, I really do– but you would never know it by looking at my track record with them. I have a knack for killing succulents.
Once, my husband (then boyfriend) sent me 30 succulents to share with friends when we were dating long-distance. I proceeded to give out as many as I could, and then somehow killed the ones that stayed with me.
Anyway, we recently went to a local garden shop and I decided to consult an expert on the matter. I’ve grown tired of killing plants. It shouldn’t be rocket science, but maybe, to some, it is.
In an effort to redeem my failures, I asked the garden shop staff a thousand questions. I asked him for recommendations on potting, watering, sunlight, and fertilizer.
As it turns out, succulents are not as low-maintenance as they’re often marketed to seem, but they’re not impossible to care for, either. Here’s what I’ve gleaned.
How To Avoid Killing Your Succulents
1) Use loose “cactus” soil.
Succulents need to drain well. They won’t survive in sand or rock, and some other soils hold too much moisture. You can purchase cactus potting soil from your local garden shop. Stick with that stuff.
2) Expose it to reasonable sun, shade, and temperatures.
All plants need sunshine (remember photosynthesis?), just varying levels of it. Succulents are flexible, but they won’t do well in darkness OR in sweltering direct sun. Moving the succulent in and out of reasonable levels of sunlight will help it thrive.
3) Don’t over-water.
This was definitely one of my rookie mistakes– too much TLC. The problem is, no one can really tell you how often to water your succulent; you have to monitor it yourself. Depending on your climate, the soil will dry out at varying speeds. Water only when the soil has completely dried from the previous watering. Succulents won’t quickly die for lack of water, but they do need it. Allowing the water to drain completely through the soil is the best way to avoid root rot. Otherwise, a misting bottle can be helpful to regulate water quantities.
4) “Plant food” is not a joke.
I used to think that “plant food” was just a marketing ploy. It’s not. Since these plants aren’t growing in their natural habitats, they can’t absorb the nutrients (e.g., calcium) that they naturally need. Cactus/succulent food is cheap and will last a long time; you only need one drop for every gallon of water.
5) Give them air circulation.
Contrary to popular belief, succulents won’t thrive in a closed container (like a terrarium with a lid). They need air.
6) They need room to grow.
Little succulents are cute and cheap, but they’ll stay that size unless you occasionally repot them. Some succulents can grow to be over ten feet tall, while others will comfortably grow within a foot or two. Occasionally repotting them might mean re-creating a pretty arrangement, but it will help the plants live longer.
7) Water before potting.
Unless the dirt is already damp, give the succulents some water before repotting. The new potting soil will be pretty dry, so the extra water will spread out.
A few more resources and tools:
*affiliate links used
1) This book has everything you need to know!
2) This is the spray bottle I use for watering smaller succulents– it helps keep the soil from being too drenched.
3) If succulent soil is hard to find near you, Amazon sells it too:
4) This is the cactus juice pictured in the post! It’s awesome!