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Succulent Basics: How to Care for Your Succulent

One of the best things about succulents is how incredibly resilient and low-maintenance they are. That said, there are some basic guidelines that you’ll need to follow in order for them to truly thrive. Your new succulent will probably come with some basic care instructions. Definitely pay attention to these suggestions, which will apply to the specific variety of succulent that you’ve chosen. The general rule of thumb with succulents is: “Less is more.” As strange as it may seem, they actually thrive on a certain kind of neglect. The most common mistake made with succulents is over-watering. Other things to avoid are over-pruning or multiple instances of transplanting.
The best thing you can do is find a good place for your new succulent—i.e. an environment where it’s likely to thrive—and then simply enjoy its exotic beauty, in a mostly hands-off way. And for some additional guidance, we’ve got you covered with the following succulent-care Q&A.

Are succulents easy to take care of?

Yes. This is one of the reasons they’re so popular. Succulents grow slowly, do not need much water, and almost never need to be repotted—though you can repot them occasionally if you wish, for practical or aesthetic reasons.

Do succulents do best indoors or outside?

There are lots of varieties of succulents. Some do well outdoors, and others do well indoors. This will depend largely on the climate in which you live. Most succulents thrive in hot, arid climates, without a lot of humidity.
If you live in an extremely humid environment, then keeping your succulent indoors is probably the best choice. In either case, keeping your succulent in its original soil will support its transition to its new indoor or outdoor location.

Where should I keep my indoor succulent?

The basic principle is to find a spot that most closely resembles the succulent’s native desert environment. Ample sunlight and heat, with only occasional watering, works best for most succulent varieties. Avoid overly dark, cold, or damp locations.

What kind of soil do succulents like?

As mentioned above, it’s best to keep your new succulent in its original soil. Even if it’s in a very tiny pot, that’s fine. Because of their shallow root systems, they don’t need a lot of soil—and actually kind of enjoy being root-bound.
These shallow root systems tend to be a bit fragile and can be damaged by too much transplanting. However, occasional transplanting is usually fine. Succulents do best in inorganic soils—things like sand, silt, or clay—which drain well and help them to stay dry.

How much drainage does my succulent need?

What’s important to remember is that succulents hate having wet feet, i.e. having their roots submerged in standing water. To avoid this scenario, make sure that every pot or container has ample drainage holes—which allow the plants to be watered all the way down to their roots, but without flooding.
 How do I water my succulent? 
image of women watering a variety of succulents. Blog sharing best care basics for succulents.  

Here are your basic succulent watering do’s and don’ts. We’ll start with things to avoid:

  • Do not overwater! Succulents do not tolerate extended periods in soggy wet soil, i.e. they don’t like to have “wet feet.”
  • Do not mist your succulent’s leaves or branches, as this can cause spotting or rotting.
  • Do not “splash and dash.” When the soil is dry, avoid giving the plant just a quick, light, shallow watering.

And now for the do’s—the watering habits that your succulent will love:

  • Do water your succulents in the evening, which is their natural resting time. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but a good habit to get into.
  • Do check the watering instructions that will come with the specific succulent that you’ve purchased. Different varieties will have slightly different watering needs.
  • Do test the soil to make sure it’s completely dry before watering. Once a week (or even every other week) is sufficient watering for most succulents.
  • Do remove your succulent from its saucer, and then run tepid (lukewarm) tap-water over it. Let the water drain completely before replacing it in the saucer. If you water instead with a watering-can, soak the soil completely and discard any water gathered in the saucer.
  • Do check later to make sure there’s no pooling water in the saucer, and if there is discard it, so your succulent’s feet don’t stay wet.
  • Do pay attention to your succulent’s leaves. Leaves that are extremely shriveled and puckered aren’t getting enough water; and leaves that are soggy are getting too much water.
  • Do keep in mind that it’s better to revive a succulent that has too little water than to overwater the plant.

How much sunlight should my succulent get?

Different varieties of succulents prefer different amounts of light. There are some types, for instance, that actually do very well in shady locations.
That said, the vast majority succulents will thrive in 4-6 hours per day of bright, direct sunlight. They can also do well in a similar amount of bright indirect light, for instance from a south-facing window. Plants receiving direct sunlight will require a bit more water than plants receiving mostly indirect light.

Do I need to fertilise my succulent?

The irrigation that succulents require tends to flush nutrients out of their soil base. For this reason, occasional fertilising (three or four times yearly) is a good thing. Use the food recommended for your particular variety; but avoid fertilising during the plant’s winter dormancy. 

What are the biggest health threats to my succulent?

Generally, succulents are pest resistant. Their thick leaves—along with the chalky substance found on many of them—make it more difficult for pests to penetrate. In certain circumstances, however, succulents just like other plants can be susceptible to pests such as aphids or mealybugs; or to powdering mildew (a fungal infection). Most of these can be remedied by washing the affected areas with water; or with a spray of neem oil; or with a light spray of rubbing alcohol.

How to tell when something’s not right with my succulent.

If the leaves of your succulent are turning brown or yellow, this is a sign that something is probably not quite right. Yellowing leaves generally indicate that the succulent is getting either too much or too little water. If this happens, review the “How do I water my succulent?” section above, and make the proper adjustment.

Can I use cuttings to grow new succulents?

Yes. Using the leaves that accidentally break off—or that you intentionally snip—from your succulent to grow a new plant is called “propagating.” While this is not always easy to accomplish, it’s fun to play with and quite magical when it works. Here’s how: Let the leaf dry in the sun—for instance, in a window sill—until it sprouts some little roots. Then lay it gently on top of some soil (where it’s new roots can become established), water it, and watch it grow. Yeah!
Of Related Interest:
Introduction To Succulents: A Beginner’s Guide
Succulents: How To Choose The One That’s Best For You
Creative Succulent DIY Project

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