How to Care For Succulents – A Handy Guide
What is a Succulent?
If you ever stroll through a greenhouse, you will likely walk by a selection of plants that look like they are from another world. Their leaves look plump and rigid and they often have vibrant, almost iridescent, colors or patterns. These, my friends, are succulents. Succulents, by definition, are plants that store water in their leaves or foliage – hence the thicker, more substantial looking leaf. When I think of a succulent, a cactus is always the first thing that pops into my mind – one of those big ones that looks like a person standing with their arms in an awkward upward position…you know the ones I’m talking about. BUT, cacti are not the only type of succulent.
Did you know Aloe, Jade, and Snake Plants are also succulents? Succulents are also thought of as something that you might stumble across in the desert or a very arid climate. Truth be told, succulents can be native to mountainous regions, arid climates, and the tropics. These plants love bright light, are adaptable to droughts and warm (not hot) temperatures, and can really bring interest and color to an interior or exterior landscape.
How to Care for Succulents – 4 Tips You Need
Caring for succulents is not as hard as some might think. They really don’t require a lot of extra attention or special care, but there are four key things that you can do to make sure your succulents thrive.
- Use the Right Container & Soil – Succulents do not like to be wet for long periods of time. Traditional potting soil mixes for indoor plants are designed to hold water while cactus, aloes, and sedum like the soil to drain quickly. If you can’t find a soil mix that is specifically for succulents, just mix 1 part perlite and 1 part small gravel with 2 parts potting mix to encourage fast drainage. Also stay away from pots with little or no drainage. That glass bowl may look nice now, but if the water in the soil has no where to go, you will eventually drown the roots and be left with dead plants.
- Water Frequently – I know you’re thinking cactus = succulent = desert = no water, but that is often what gets us into trouble with how to care for our succulent plants. These types of plants need soil drenching water so that their roots are good and soaked. The trick is that they need to dry out quickly. Succulents that sit in water will quickly succumb to root rot and will die so water deeply then let them dry down.
- Give ‘Em Sun – Succulents need roughly 6 hours of bright light each day, especially if you are trying to grow them inside. That’s not 6 hours under a lamp or in a room that gets some natural light. It’s 6 hours of actual sunlight. East facing windows are a perfect location for indoor succulents. Southern facing windows will work too, but be careful because the sun can get rather strong and can actually burn the foliage – you may need to filter the light in a southern facing window for these plants to thrive.
- Keep them Comfy – The myth about succulents is that since they can grow in the desert, they must like heat. That’s actually not the case. Succulents like to be warm in summer and cooler in the winter months. If you keep your indoor succulents in a blazing hot window or you plant them outdoors in fully exposed locations, you are likely to see them burn a bit on super hot days. Mid 70’s is ideal during their growing season, and mid 50’s is good for their dormant season.
Why Succulents Are a Great Plant Choice
Succulents are colorful, durable, and uniquely original plants that can work in a variety of situations. They are inexpensive and relatively easy to find at your local garden center or home store. Whether you are looking for a low maintenance office plant, an unusual housewarming gift for a new gardener, or something elaborate and special for a seasoned gardener, these plants pack a lot into a small package. Their colorful foliage, unique shapes, and easy-breezy care make them versatile enough to give to the novice gardener or the expert and they can bring years of joy when properly cared for.
If you’re ready to try your hand at growing succulents, come to Patuxent Nursery and choose one of our many pre-planted succulent gardens or select your own and make a masterpiece of your own.