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Succulent plants originated in areas that receive extremely low rainfall and irregularly at that. In areas like these, plants developed adaptations to these adverse conditions over time so they would be able to accumulate water inside their bodies and survive severe droughts.
Succulents make a dazzling display in every garden. Read on to find out how to care for succulents and grow them successfully.
What Is the Difference Between a Succulent and a Cactus?
While it is true that all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.
Unlike other succulents, cacti often have spines, few or no leaves at all, and round indentations along their stems.
In contrast, the leaves of succulents are very delicate and change colors during the fall.
How to Care for Succulents and Grow Them
Succulents can be grown in outdoor gardens, glasshouses, patios, or indoors – in dish gardens, garden pots, containers, and window boxes.
Regardless of where you decide to grow your succulents, you need to consider the following aspects:
- Temperature and climate
- Light and sun exposure
- Cleaning and trimming
- Nutrients and fertilizers
- Pests and diseases
The most important thing for the successful cultivation of succulents is their placement in a well-lit place, near a window or a windowsill.
Larger plants can be displayed on staircases and in halls, but move them to a more sunny spot in the summer seasons.
Only a few species can be grown away from the window (for example, Yucca and Hoya), but make sure to provide sufficient light for your succulents, no matter the type.
2. Temperature and Climate
Most succulents require high temperatures that should not fall below 65 degrees F (or 18 degrees C) during the growing season.
Another relevant factor is high humidity because the lack of it may slow down or even completely stop the growth. To keep succulents at their best, make sure to satisfy both of these requirements.
Tender succulents can survive in colder areas provided that you cover them when the frost threatens or grow them in your gardens’ warmest corner, in a glasshouse, or indoors, preferably.
3. Light and Sun Exposure
Light is the plants’ source of energy. On average, most succulents need about six hours of bright, indirect light and brighter succulents require even more sun.
In poor light, growth slows down, the plants are deformed, starved, flower poorly or hardly at all, their coloration changes, they become less disease-resistant, the spines and hairs are less robust, less dense and their leaves are smaller.
To prevent that from happening, place them in the brightest area of your home.
Though artificial lighting is a possible substitute, it is always better to do it the natural way, so try to provide natural sunlight to make your succulents happy.
When we’re talking about how to care for succulents, we can’t skip the correct amount and timing of watering. These are essential in succulent growing.
Some drainage holes and well-draining soil are the prerequisites, naturally.
However, the amount of water required depends on where the plant has been placed, the season, the soil, and the plant species, but it is not generally recommended to water succulents every day.
When you do water your succulents, water them thoroughly and make sure to wait for the soil to dry between watering.
Water the soil around the succulent or place a watering stone, but do not water on top of the plant or rosettes. This might hurt the plant.
If you want to know more about watering and which is better, check our guide on whether it is better to water plants from top or bottom.
The only way you can know when it is time to water and how much is by close observation. If the leaves are thin, water more often. Let the leaves be your guide.
5. Cleaning and Trimming
The following steps should be repeated every few months to keep your succulents in good shape.
Remove dirt and dust by using canned air or a soft paintbrush.
Additionally, removing dead leaves will help your succulents to grow better, healthier, provide better airflow and the soil will dry faster. It may even promote new growth.
The right soil ensures proper watering and prevents root rot. It should be aerated and free-draining.
The ideal soil includes organic and rock components that provide nutrients and prevent the soil from breaking down.
Coconut coir and diatomaceous earth are a good choice, for instance, in the proportion of two parts diatomaceous earth, one part coconut coir.
You can also buy a pre-mixed soil designed for succulents and cacti.
Proper care for succulents sometimes includes repoting.
Moving succulents to new containers is advisable every year because the roots need more space to grow, better airflow, and better access to water, while newly-purchased plants should be repotted as soon as possible.
The best time for repotting is at the beginning of the growing season, usually in the spring.
Do not wait for the clear indicators to appear, such as when the plant outgrows the pot or when the bugs appear.
To repot properly, remove as much soil from the roots as you can, some of the roots and dead leaves if necessary, separate the new growth, put the largest plant in the middle of the container, then add the smaller ones. Wait a day or two before watering.
And if you want to know more about proper succulent repotting, check out this guide.
8. Nutrients and Fertilizers
Apart from light, temperature, and moisture, nutrients also influence the speed of growth, the color of the leaves, the length and thickness of spines, as well as the number and size of flowers.
For that reason, fertilizers are applied during the growing season, in spring and summer. They should contain balanced amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
There are two types of propagation – generative or from the seed, by which we can obtain genetically different plants, and vegetative or from cuttings (leaf or stem), offsets, suckers, thanks to which we can obtain offsprings identical to the parent plant.
Propagating from the seeds is the most difficult one, while the easiest way is through cuttings.
10. Pests and Diseases
Succulents are not prone to pests, but if you do not take proper care of them, pests can find their way in.
For instance, gnats can appear if you are overwatering your succulents, in which case you should spray them with several drops of lemon-scented dish soap in about 1 liter of water.
To get rid of mealybugs, spray 70 percent alcohol on them.
Sunburn also damages succulents, so avoid direct sunlight.
Rot is another problem and the main cause is overwatering. If it appears, cut off the stem until there are no signs of blackening.
Finally, keep your succulents up high so that your pets cannot reach them. For other outdoor insects, you can use traps.
Keep your succulents in peak condition by following these steps and you will enjoy their lush colors every single day. We hope we helped you get a general idea of how to care for succulents.