Touted as one of the easiest houseplants to care for on the market, succulents have been taking over decor magazines over the last few years. This is partly because of their compact size, making them manageable for even the smallest of dorm rooms or office spaces. But perhaps what makes them even more popular is their minimal maintenance, and their ability to “thrive on neglect,” as they say.
Now, if a few succulents have met their untimely fates on your watch, don’t be too embarrassed. When you’re enthusiastic about doting on your houseplants, it can be difficult to leave them alone! While frequent watering might make you a loving plant parent, some plants thrive best on a little negligence. If you’re having difficulties keeping your succulents happy and healthy, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how you can find success with your succulents.
Choosing Easy-Care Succulents
First of all, there are sixty different plant families that contain succulents and, quite literally, thousands of different species. Although the most common succulent houseplants have earned their low-maintenance titles, some are still a little more finicky than others. If you’re a houseplant beginner, make sure you’re taking home plants that are genuinely low-maintenance. We recommend Aloe Vera, Crown of Thorns, Echeveria, Jade Plant, and Panda Plant to our customers in Alexandria and Lothian.
How to Care for Succulents
What sets succulents and cacti aside from other plants is their thick, fleshy foliage. While this physically makes them look different and unique, it’s also why their care requirements differ from other common houseplants. The reason their foliage is so thick and firm is because it’s designed for holding onto water for very long periods. While their water retention isn’t quite so necessary when they’re living a life of luxury on your windowsill, they’ve adapted this way to survive weeks or months of heat and drought.
Planting: Once you understand what their native habitats are like, it’s easier to replicate those conditions at home. Most succulents have adapted to sandy desert soils with ample drainage. That tells us that choosing a container with drainage holes is a must. Unlike many other houseplants, succulents do quite well in porous pots that absorb moisture from the soil, such as terra cotta. Avoid planting them in regular potting mixes that retain moisture, and opt instead for a specific succulent or cactus potting mix. Succulents are small and delicate, and so are their roots—be very careful when planting them or transferring them to a new pot.
Sun: Succulents originate from all over the world, so their sunlight requirements will differ from species to species. Lots of them worship the sun, and prefer at least six or more hours of bright sun daily, while others come from deep in the jungle and prefer indirect sun or shade. It’s best to take a close look at the tag of your newly purchased plants to determine what its requirements are, and where’s the best place to put it. Just be careful about placing plants close to your window—the glass can magnify the sun and scorch some houseplants’ foliage.
Water: Since most succulents are native to hot, dry conditions, they don’t tolerate excessive water at all. While that’s a bonus in one way (less watering on our part!), it can also be their downfall. We’re so used to doting on our plants and making sure they have enough water, that it’s very easy to overwater them. Soft, mushy, translucent, or discolored foliage is a good sign you might be giving your succulent too much moisture.
Keep succulents on a different watering schedule than your other houseplants, only watering them when the top inch of soil is completely dry. Always moisten the soil directly, since getting the foliage wet can quickly cause those plump leaves to wither and rot. Never let succulents or cacti sit in water—for most species, standing water is a death sentence.
Caring for Succulents in the Winter
As the seasons change, so should your succulent care routine. Most succulents do their growing in the spring and summer, so they need energy and water to thrive. When caring for succulents in the winter, you can ease off on watering and feeding. Maintaining the same watering schedule in the winter is a common yet fateful mistake for your houseplants. As always, it’s best to poke your finger into the soil to test the moisture level and only water when necessary.
Even when they’re dormant, succulents still need about 6-8 hours of bright indirect sunlight every day to stay healthy. With minimal daylight hours and cloudy winter days, you might notice your plants starting to stretch towards the window—a sign that they aren’t getting adequate sunlight. You can rotate your plants often to offset the stretching, but investing in a grow light isn’t a bad idea.
Although sunlight is essential, be careful not to leave your plant too close to cold windows, or the foliage might begin to freeze! Succulents like to stay nice and warm and adapt well to our normal indoor temperatures, so keep them clear of any cold drafts from doors or windows.
Succulents are arguably the cutest and most versatile group of houseplants out there—perfect for refreshing your interior decor. But just because they’re so friendly, doesn’t mean you have to kill them with kindness. You’ll find much more success admiring them from afar and checking on them occasionally.