The term “succulent” is most frequently used in reference to food, and it is used to describe dishes that are juicy and tender. Not too dissimilar from that is the botanical meaning, which refers to plants that store water in their leaves, stems, or both. Succulents come in a wide variety of forms and species, each with a unique set of colours and patterns.
Succulents prefer strong light but not usually full scorching sun and can withstand lengthy drought, many for months and a few for years. Succulents can be found naturally growing on every continent on Earth, with the exception of Antarctica.
Growing Succulents Indoors
Succulents are a favourite indoor plant because of their endurance for arid environments. Homes provide houseplants with dry inside air, which is why so many traditional plants might struggle without specialised care, especially during the winter. Follow these simple guidelines to success if you’re picking your first succulent.
- Select a succulent that is suitable for your circumstances. The majority of succulents need direct sunshine, but if your home only has a shady area, pick low light-tolerant plants like mother-in-tongue. law’s String of Bananas is a trailing variety that is ideal for growing succulents in hanging planters. To learn about your succulents’ requirements for sunlight, size, and spread, always read the plant labels.
- Make sure the soil is not retaining water. A coarse potting mix with sufficient drainage and aeration is a good place to start. Special cactus and succulent mixes are available; one example is E.B. Stone Organics Cactus & Succulent Potting or Planting Mix, which contains additional pumice for better drainage. Before utilising, make sure the mixture is evenly moist.
- Select a container and make any necessary modifications.
- When planting your succulent, use a container that is at least one or two inches larger than the nursery container and has drainage holes (or can easily have some added). In the long run, stay away from glass containers because they prevent the roots from breathing and can lead to root rot. Place your succulent inside the pre-moistened potting mix in the bottom third. More pre-moistened potting mix can be added as needed for backfill.
- Put the succulent in its pot in a bright area. Try to place your succulents in a south or east-facing window because most succulents need at least six hours of sun each day. If your succulent starts to grow spindly or starts to “reach toward the sun,” that’s a sign that it’s not getting enough sun.
- Between waterings, allow the potting mix to dry out. Overwatering succulents is the most common error that people make. Instead of lighter but more frequent wetting, it is preferable to deliver more water less frequently. To water correctly, completely soak the potting mix (ensure that any surplus is readily draining from the drainage holes), but let the mix dry out before the subsequent watering. In order to determine how much water to use, stick a finger or a wooden skewer two inches into the mixture. You don’t need to irrigate the soil if it is ever still wet. The plant can finally perish if the potting soil is left moist every day.
- Succulents should be fertilised at least once a year. Fertilizer works best for plants in the spring, when the days lengthen and new growth starts, then again in the late summer. We suggest fertilising your succulent plants with Miracle Gro’s Succulent Plant Food or Grow More’s Cactus Juice. Alternately, use a well-balanced, all-purpose fertiliser that is water soluble, like Grow More’s All-Plant Season’s Food. 20-20-20 is diluted to half the specified strength per the directions on the packaging. When succulents are semi-dormant in the winter, there is no need to fertilise them. Because they are not actively growing, they do not require the nutrient boost.
How are succulents maintained in Arizona?
It’s not quite as simple to grow succulents as everyone claims. Here are a few ideas that can guarantee your success.
Do you hang your head in shame if we claim that succulents are the easiest plants to grow? I promise you’re not alone. Succulents follow their own set of rules but are nonetheless quite simple to take care of because they are plants that have evolved to thrive in severe conditions and for extended periods without much water. To maintain your succulent kids healthy and living, use the advice in the following section.
Succulents flourish in Phoenix, right?
Felipe has a wealth of experience with trees, plants, and landscape design from his many years of employment at the Nursery and Garden shop.
Create a succulent garden to take advantage of a vibrant environment that is home to a wide variety of plants that can survive in our dry climate. That’s accurate. Succulent gardens are great since they don’t need a lot of water, attention, or maintenance to look attractive. Succulents are among the most widely used plants for landscaping in the Phoenix area due to their ease of growth.
Succulents also have the amazing quality of seeming like living artwork. For example, the coral reef-like structure of Euphorbia tirucalli “Sticks on Fire” makes it valuable. Our environment can be painted in a sea of blue by the superb groundcover Senecio serpens “Blue Chalk Sticks.” There is no question in my mind. Succulents are cool-looking plants that also use little water and require little maintenance. They are also colourful and sculptural.
In Arizona, how often should I water succulents?
Fair enough, it can be challenging to make the appropriate decision. Everyone will give you different recommendations because there is so much conflicting information available. Additionally, many plants have various preferences. How do you even begin?
But the story doesn’t end there. You know, a number of things might impact how frequently you should water. To name a few:
- composition of the soil
- Light intensity
- Outdoors versus Indoors
There are other others, but we won’t go into them now. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that, even though 10 days is a solid guideline, you should constantly be aware of the shifting circumstances. You should adjust your watering schedule to account for them.
For instance, it’s well known that throughout the summer, you should water your plants more frequently. It is, after all, much hotter. Water evaporates more quickly, and your plants do too!
Arizona experiences intensely hot and arid summers. Your succulents will need water as frequently as possible if they are in a climate like that. You should water them every day or every other day in those conditions, believe it or not.
The East Coast, including Virginia, can have extremely hot summers. The humidity, nevertheless, is also quite high. Evaporation proceeds far more slowly here than it would in Arizona since the air is already so heavily laden with water. In this situation, we advise watering every five to six days.
Naturally, winters are the opposite. Days get shorter, the sun shines less, and the temperature drops. Some of your plants enter a dormant state (much like a bear hibernating).
You water significantly less regularly throughout the winter (especially for outdoor plants). Depending on how often I remember, I water my indoor plants once every two to three weeks. Sedum and Sempervivum are examples of outdoor, cold-tolerant plants that may never need watering since the odd snow or sleet is more than enough.
The risk of root rot is the primary reason we lay such a strong focus on watering regularly.
The quiet killer that kills the majority of succulents and cacti is root rot. Because it takes place underneath the soil’s surface, you won’t even notice anything is amiss until the plant topples over due to a rotting core.
Why does root rot occur? In a nutshell, roots will begin to decay if they are left in water for an extended period of time. This is due to the fact that plants actually breathe through their roots and that air does not travel well through water.
The succulent essentially drowns. It also doesn’t need to be a lot of water. Root rot can develop only from being damp or moist for an extended period of time.
Because of this, frequency of watering is more crucial than quantity. Giving the succulent adequate time to dry out in between waterings is essential.
How to Know if the Soil is Dry
The first step in keeping your plant dry is to have a fast-draining soil that is primarily formed of inorganic components. Step two involves watering only when the plant has completely dried.
It is simple to determine whether the soil is dry. The simplest method is to just insert your finger into the saucepan. A minimum depth of two inches is required since sometimes the surface may be dry but the ground beneath may not be. Don’t water if it feels damp, wet, or even a touch colder than the surface. Allow a few days.
To check, you can also use a soil moisture metre. These tools are extremely helpful for inspecting numerous plants, however the less expensive models can be somewhat incorrect.
Finally, just watch for your succulent or cacti’s leaves to wrinkle. Though it seems frightening, the plant is not actually damaged. Instead of erring on the side of wet, choose dry.
Do succulents require exposure to the sun?
Depending on the type, succulents need six hours of sunlight each day because they are light-loving plants. You might need to gradually expose newly planted succulents to full sun exposure or give shade with a translucent screen because they can burn in direct sunshine.
Succulents can they get too much sun?
Although photosynthesis requires sunshine, certain plants might receive too much of it. While some succulents can be grown in full sun (defined as 6+ hours of direct sunshine each day), not all of them can, and some may even suffer from too much sunlight. Sunburned leaves will appear brown or black and could start to shrink or callus. Moving your plant to a location with less exposure or intense light is the best technique to treat sunburn on that plant. While untouched areas of the plant will continue to be in good health, sunburned leaves will never fully recover.
By observing other leaf symptoms, you can tell sunburn from rot. A plant that has recently been exposed to the light will still have big, thick leaves that have started to turn black or brown but may still be glossy. Older sunburns will be dry, shrivelled, or even fully desiccated, and they will be black or brown in colour. The appearance of rotted and overly wet leaves will be mushy and wrinkled.
If a plant at the store or one you own has sunburn, it probably wasn’t properly cared for and was exposed to too much light at some point rather than being sick and dying rapidly. Remember that burnt segments frequently shrink up, so even though the plant may not seem attractive, it may still be healthy and continue to grow for many years. The easiest approach to avoid purchasing plants with sunburns is to only purchase them from local, independent nurseries and vendors rather than big-box retailers, where this kind of damage is more likely to be visible.
These advice should aid you in identifying and treating any problems that may exist with your succulents. For you to always bring home a plant that can be your companion for years to come, we’ll be showing you things to avoid when shopping for plants and succulents in our upcoming post!
How can I shield my succulent plants from the heat?
Don’t allow the hot, harsh sun hurt your succulents! Unlike frost (temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), heat normally poses no threat to succulents. The majority of plants can tolerate temperatures higher than you’re comfortable with, as shown by greenhouse temperatures that rise into the triple digits on hot days, despite the fact that some don’t seem to thrive in temperatures above 80 or 90 degrees F. Succulents, though, can succumb to heat and sunlight. All smooth-leaved succulents, excluding desert cacti and agaves, require sun protection in the summer, especially when the temperature rises beyond 80 degrees.
If you live in an arid climate ~
- Identify the sun’s position relative to your property. In North America, plants growing on the north side of your house will receive the least solar exposure while those growing on the south will receive the most. My garden, which faces east, receives early sunlight and midday shade. West-facing gardens receive early shade and afternoon sun.
- When temperatures are at their highest in the middle of the day, “bright shade” (no direct sun but not deep shade) is great for non-desert succulents. For low-light succulents like haworthias, bright shade is needed. Visit our website’s Shade Succulents page to learn more. View my video about Shade Succulents.
Above: Although robust, the echeverias on the left in the brilliant shade have lost their colour. The borders of those exposed to more sun are red, but they are smaller due to some stress.
- Keep track of where each new plant you purchase was situated in the nursery. Was it in the open or covered by a tarp? It will need to be “hardened off” (shaded, especially in the afternoon) until it acclimates, even if it is a “full sun” succulent like an agave. This kind of exposure is like tanning: Start with 30 minutes of sun, then gradually increase it by about an hour per day.
- Aloes and crassulas need at least a half-worth day’s of sun to turn red and orange, but not so much that the tips of the leaves shrivel or burn. (Read “How to Stress Succulents and Why You Should. “).
Above: Dryness and heat stress this jade (Crassula ovata). To maintain its life, the plant is gently draining its leaves. However, leaves will be plump and greener after irrigation or rain (which could take months).
- Cover exposed, horizontal stems of trailing succulents (aloes, senecios, othonna, and the like) with dry leaves or mulch to prevent burnt stems from impairing the ability of the plants to transfer moisture from roots to leaves.
- Use floating row covers (preferably), shade cloth, old sheets, or temporary shade structures to protect newly installed plants and in-ground succulents prone to sunburn. I employ rusty window screens. In an emergency, place upright leafy tree trimmings next to a plant you wish to preserve, on the side that receives the most sunlight. Or, in keeping with the sun’s movement throughout the day, use outside furniture.
Above: Aloe brevifolia, a stunning but stressed plant, has closed its rosettes and changed colour from blue to pink.
- Learn how plants defend themselves. When the sun becomes unpleasant, succulents can’t flee to the shade, so some species create their own. Succulents with rosettes, such dudleyas, aeoniums, and some types of aloe, close their rosettes to save their critical cores. Lower leaves that become dry but don’t drop off serve a service by protecting flimsy stems from the sun in the summer and the cold in the winter.
- Where shade will be needed during the long, hot summer afternoons, plant trees and plants. (The Companion Plants chapter in Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., has information on low-water cultivars suitable for succulent gardens.)
What sunburn looks like
The floppy leaves of this agave stretch (and weaken) the cells in those areas that are most exposed to sunlight.
Succulents with white, beige, or black patches have been sunburned, which causes irreparable cell damage comparable to frost. The plant is alright, but scars will endure just as long as the leaf.
These aeoniums generally have sunburn on the underside of their lowest leaves, which they will shed in a few months anyhow. Very effective, wouldn’t you say?
Several months later, the same aeoniums. Only a few scorched leaves are still visible.
It is preferable if the damaged parts are on the outer leaves because fresh growth from the rosette’s centre will eventually cover up burnt spots. In any event, lower leaves naturally wither and fall off, damage or not. Recovery from a sunburn could take several months to a year, depending on the succulent and the time of year.
Summertime Succulent Watering. Okay, everyone is aware that succulents require little water. They aren’t “no-water plants,” though. Even though they might make it through the summer without irrigation… [Read more…]
A heat wave shouldn’t ruin your succulents. Succulents that are exposed to the scorching sun may burn when a heat wave follows cool weather. The beige or brown patches that develop as a result of sunburn cannot be removed. [Read more…]
Succulent Stress Management (and Why You Should). Some succulents exhibit beautiful reds and yellows when exposed to lots of sunlight, but how much “stress” the plants need depends on… [Read more…]