How To Grow and Care Succulents

Succulents are desert plants. They look very beautiful, easy to grow and care, tolerate negligence and nearly indestructible. They make excellent display plants in any garden.

Growing succulents from cuttings, leaves and seeds is quite easy if you follow the tips and instructions including potting soil, light, temperature, water, and fertilizers.

Growing Healthy Succulents

Succulents can be grown from cuttings, leaves and seeds in pots. Succulents planted in pots can be a great attraction in veranda, balcony, windowsill, deck, porch, pool area, terrace or even in your sitting room.
Succulent Plant with  Pebbles as Mulch
Succulent Plant with Pebbles as Mulch
Most commonly grown succulents in homes are from the families of Aeonium, Agave, Aloe, Cotyledons, Crassula, Echeveria, Haworthia, Sedum and Sempervivum.

The succulents offer a wide variation in colour such as pink, red, yellow, white, blue-green, burgundy and more. They look stunning planted alone or as companions. You can arrange them into artistic designs pleasing to the eye.

Some succulents are cacti, but all cacti are succulents.

Succulents love hot dry places with plenty of sunshine. However, these plants can survive varying conditions of the temperature, light and humidity.

A succulent has a thick, fleshy water storage parts such as leaves, stems or roots to store water. Succulents have different forms of leaves such as spiky, tight rosettes, ruffled, spiky, bushy leaves, berrylike, paddle leaves, needle-like, and trailing columns of tear-drop leaves.
Display of Succulents and Cacti
Display of Succulents and Cacti

I never buy a succulent plant, I grow them myself by taking cuttings.

There are various kind of succulents but the care of them is similar. Following is a guide and tips for growing attractive succulents (Aloe Vera care).

Containers and Pots

  1. Succulents love growing in pots. As these plants have shallow roots with dense roots just under the soil surface, they do not need a deep container. They can be grown in very shallow pots, dishes and trays.
  2. Use your imagination to select a container, you could use any container like pots, urns, Styrofoam fruit boxes, troughs, planters and old boxes.
  3. I have grown succulents successfully in old frying pans after drilling several holes at the bottom for drainage.
  4. Unglazed pots are good for planting succulents as they can help them to drain between watering.

Potting Soils for Succulents

Succulents grow well in a quick draining soil. You can make your own potting mix for succulents by mixing equal parts of general potting mix and perlite or river sand to increase the drainage. I also mix coconut coir and crushed pebbles to increase drainage. I also add my homemade compost to add nutrients. Preparing garden soils).
Succulent Grown in A Pot
Succulent Grown in A Container showing Flowers.
A single plant grown in several plants.Light level

Light Level for Succulents

  1. Most succulents prefer bright light. Many kinds of succulents do well outdoors in the summer. Some of the varieties of the plant may bleach out in too much sun light and the soft tissues get destroyed, causing the leaves to turn white or brown.
  2. Succulents can be successfully grown indoors. Place them in a place where they can receive maximum sun light directly or indirectly.
  3. Watch the leaves for indications that the light level is correct. My some of the succulents grew like rockets stretching upwards. This was a result of my succulents not getting enough light.

Succulent Stretching

In the absence of light or in poor light conditions, the succulent begins "stretching" (known as etoliation), with stem getting large with widely spaced leaves. They "streatch" to get more light.
  1. What you should do if your succulent plant is stretching? To restore back such a succulent plant, move your plant where it will get more light throughout the day or if that does not help, then prune the plant back to its original shape and improve the light.
  2. If you bring the plant out from inside, slowly introduce it to a sunny location for a few days. Putting it directly into the intense sunlight can burn the plant.
  3. Cotyledons, Echeveria and Sempervivums can grow in partly shaded conditions.

Temperature

A single succulent plant grown in several plants in an old frying pan.
A single Sempervivum plant
grown into several plants
in an old frying pan.

Succulents tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from hot mid day to cool night temperatures. They can adapt to a range of temperatures and humidity.

Water

Succulents Display
Succulents
  1. In the growing season of summer and spring, succulents should be watered regularly, may be once a week, But allow the soil to dry out completely between watering.
  2. In winter, I water every other week and even once a month during very cool periods.
  3. The succulent pot should never use a bottom plate, otherwise the feet of the plant will be sitting in water for long. This may cause roots to rot and the plant to die.
  4. Persistently wet soil will cause the stems to rot away, killing the succulents. If your succulent plant is turning soft or becoming soggy, that means that you are watering too much, or the pot is sitting on water.
  5. Too much watering will make plants soft and discoloured. Cut back the water. If the plant does not improve, inspect its roots. Remove the brown, soggy and rotten roots and re-pot into dry potting mix.
  6. The growth of the plant will retard in an under-watered plant. If you see leaves falling, then you should water the plant.
Succulents in Vertical Gardening
Succulents Types

Fertilizers for Succulents

  1. Feed your succulents a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 NPK. First water your plants and then only feed. A slow-release fertilizer in a granule form or a liquid fertilizer is best for succulents, these will not burn the plant.
  2. Do not give a fertilizer high in nitrogen. 
  3. Do not feed your succulent if they are not growing during the winter. 
  4. Burned or dried leaves and wilted plants may be a sign of excess fertilization.

Mulches

Although succulents do not need any mulch, if you cover the soil with a pebbles, the plant will look very attractive. Do not mulch with organic mulches which keep the soil moist. Which mulch should be used, Mulch guide

Pests and Disease Problems

  1. Succulents are comparatively free from pests and diseases. 
  2. Spray a insecticide to control aphid and mealy bugs. 
  3. Wetting leaves in cold weather may cause black spots on the leaves. Just remove the leaves.

References

  1. Gallery of Succulent Plants, http://www.succulent-plant.com/thumbnails.html 
  2. Beentje, Henk, The Kew Plant Glossary, Richmond, Surrey: Royal Botanic Gardens, ISBN 978-1-84246-422-9 (2010) 
  3. Anderson, Miles , Cacti and Succulents : Illustrated Encyclopaedia, Oxford: Sebastian Kelly, ISBN 978-1-84081-253-4 (1999)

2comments

How many times and when should I water my succlents?
Reply

Succulents need very little water and excess of water can kill the plant. The succulents and cacti need to be watered when the soil is fully dry.
Reply


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