How To Care For Succulents: A Beginner’s Guide

You probably tried growing succulents, and unfortunately, they died and ended at the bottom of the trash.

But, to be honest, succulents can be low-maintenance and very resilient.

Our goal is to give you a simple and helpful resource on how to care for succulents.

On this page:

Quicklinks to Other Succulent Care posts that go more in-depth:

How To Care For Succulents Indoors

How to Care for Succulents Basics

Unless your plant is unique or is special cactus, caring for most succulents is universal.

If you want healthy succulents these are the most important things to be aware of:

  1. Temperature and Climate
  2. Light
  3. Watering
  4. Succulent Soil
  5. Pots and Containers to Use
  6. Pests
  7. Fertilizer
  8. Pruning and Trimming
  9. Propagating
  10. FAQs – Other Care Tips

Temperature and Climate

You will find that not all succulents are suited for indoor growing.

When selecting your succulents for indoors, it is best to stick to the green variety.

Many varieties grow bright colors and would be an excellent addition to a succulent arrangement; unfortunately, not all succulents will thrive indoors.

When choosing succulents for your indoor garden, try a jade plant or a hens-and-chicks variety.

In most cases, the temperature should be in the range of 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10-27 degrees Celsius).

If you keep your succulents outdoors in the patio, deck, or balcony, make sure you bring them in when there is cold weather.

caring for succulents

As for humidity, most succulents like the relative humidity to be no higher than 40 percent – but between 10 and 30 percent is best.

Considering succulents’ natural habitat – warm and dry climates – one would immediately assume that humidity is a big no-no.

And usually, that is the case, but living in a humid area does not mean you can’t grow a succulent.

However, too much humidity, when combined with moisture-retaining soil, is a recipe for disaster.

It will most likely lead to fungal problems ending with your succulent having root rot and potentially leading to the death of your succulent.

So how do you combat high humidity?

  • Water your plant less when humidity is high
  • Ensure your succulent gets some direct sun exposure in the morning so that the soil has a chance to dry
  • Ensure there is enough air circulation around the plant.

Light

All plants need light to go through the process of photosynthesis – succulents are no different.

Most succulents like bright light, while some like full sun exposure and some indirect light.

Placing these sun-loving plants in a dark corner may not be a good idea.

They could survive with less sunlight than expected, but make sure you move your plant so that it does get some sun.

Caring for Succulents Give Succulents As Much Light As Possible

Position your succulents in a sunny spot near a south- or east-facing window so that it receives light.

Colorful succulents require more sun and light than what is usually available indoors.

If you live in an area that does not get much sunlight, grow lights have made it possible for most gardeners to bring light indoors.

Signs Your Succulents Are Not Getting Enough Light

The most notable sign that your succulent is not getting enough sunlight is when it starts to grow lanky.

The plant will reach and stretch towards any light source.

Signs Your Succulents Are Not Getting Enough Light

This is the primary cause of a stretched-out look. This is not an indication of growth but low light.

The majority of succulents need at least three hours of direct sun each day.

The morning sun is gentler, and the chance of sunburn is minimized.

If you live in a sweltering climate where the sun is very harsh, it is best to provide filtered sunlight to avoid scorching its leaves.

Succulents that are solid green, pale or variegated are in danger of getting sunburnt, where the red, purple, and orange varieties will cope in full sun just fine.

Rather than just putting them under the sun and hoping for the best, one of the best care tips is to transition your succulents to direct sunlight over some time.

The transition will minimize the chances of sunburn.

Another result of too much sun will be a ‘washed out’ look. If this happens, your once vibrant succulent will be dull-colored.

Rotate Indoor Succulents Frequently

Since your succulents will most likely only get light from one side, rotating them is a good idea.

This ensures that all sides of the plant get exposed to light.

Succulents love the light and will bend and stretch to get more of it.

The best way to ensure that your plant does not end up leaning to just one side is simply rotating it.

How often you would do this depends on the amount of light your indoor succulents get.

If you have the time, you can give it a quarter turn each day.

Just keep an eye out for signs like the plant leaning to one side.

If so, it’s a good indication that it’s time to give it a quarter turn.


Watering Succulents Care Tips

  • Let the soil dry completely between waterings.
  • Give a good deep watering, meaning the water should run out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
  • Most succulents require water once a week. 
  • Plant your succulents in a container with a drainage hole
  • Use well-draining soil for growing succulents indoors

Succulents mostly thrive in arid conditions, but for some reason, as soon as we bring these plants into our homes, we forget that fact and want to water them as we do our other plants.

How To Water Succulent Plants

Succulents require less frequent watering but deep watering.

After letting the soil dry out completely, water it until you see water drain through the bottom of the pot.

Such deep waterings will give the succulents enough moisture to survive for a long time as they replace the water they store with that in the soil.

Another option is to fill a tray with water and place the succulent pots in the water for 5 minutes.

This allows the soil to absorb and wick up the moisture. Remove the pot from the water and then let them drain out any excess water.

The reason for this method of watering is that it prevents watering the leaves.

Watering the leaves may cause some rotting and lead to leaf burn, should the succulent get the full sun just after watering.

The drops act as magnifying glass, intensifying the rays of the sun.

When and How Often To Water Succulents?

How Often To Water You Succulents_

The frequency of watering depends on the light and growing conditions of your succulents.

Other factors to consider are the size of the container or succulent pot. 

Large containers hold more moisture, while small and shallow pots dry out quicker and need water more regularly.

Your succulents will need more water in early Spring during the plant’s growth phase.

Most succulents go dormant during fall through winter, so you will only need to water every other week or when the soil is completely dry.

We’ve had succulents go without water for two months during winter months, and they are still alive and doing well.

Signs of an Overwatered Succulent

over watered succulents

The first sign of an overwatered succulent is when the leaves become translucent or discolored (usually on the underside of the leaves).

Secondly, when you touch these leaves, they feel soft and squishy. 

Whereas succulent leaves can be revived from underwatering, it isn’t always the case with leaves damaged from overwatering.

Lastly, your succulents may start to drop their leaves.

The best way to save an overwatered succulent is to take it out of the pot.

Clear out the wet soil and remove any dead or rotting roots. Replant your plant in new succulent soil that is well-draining.

Underwatering

So you know not to overwater, but did you know if you underwater, you may be killing your succulent?

It is indeed better to err on the dry side, but there are some signs you can look for to see if your succulents need more water. 

Wrinkled and shriveled leaves are a clear sign that it is time to water your succulents.

Succulent plants store water in their fleshy leaves and roots.

As these water stores get depleted, the cells shrink to a smaller size, leaving the once plump leaves all dried up.


Succulent Soil

Use Well Draining Soil For Succulent Container Gardens

When you get a new succulent, the first thing to do is to replant it in the succulent soil.

You’ll want to make sure the soil is well-draining and not too rich in nutrients.

You can either buy succulent soil (African Violet mix will also work), or you can make your own.

If you make your soil, you want to check that your soil is not compacted. Compacted soil will prevent water from draining well.

To avoid this, you need soil amendments such as sand, perlite, or pumice to the soil.

We here at UrbanOrganicYield.com prefer a gritty growing medium in our potting mix.

We add up to 50% in sand and perlite, and the other 50% is standard potting soil.

One of the better care tips we’ve picked up is to test your DIY soil by wetting the mixture before using it.

It will be clear whether your homemade soil drains water well or not.

Once you are happy with your mix (homemade or store-bought), fill the bottom third of the pot with moistened soil.

Then position your plant and fill the area surrounding the succulent with wet soil.

Pro Tip: Use a spoon to fill the areas around the plant to avoid any soil getting lodged in between the leaves.


Succulents Pots and Containers

Choosing The Right Pot For Your Succulents

Okay, so you have the perfect soil, next select the right pot.

The last thing you want is your succulents to become waterlogged – we know that means root rot and death.

To avoid this, pick a container with drainage holes that are 1 to 2 inches larger than the container that came with your succulent.

Opt for an unglazed or clay pot with drainage holes because the water will (i) drain out the bottom and (ii) be absorbed by the pot itself.

Don’t plant succulents in glass containers if you want to keep your plants healthy with healthy roots.

Avoid glass containers because they tend to prevent the air from reaching succulent roots – which may lead to root rot.


Succulent Pests

Succulent Damaged by Succulent Pests

Unfortunately, succulents aren’t immune to pests, bugs, or insects.

Luckily, they’re less prone to infestation than regular houseplants – especially if you don’t overwater them.

The two most prominent succulent pests are gnats and mealybugs.

Both these pests are attracted to plants when it is overwatered. Gnats, in particular, are known to lay their eggs in wet soil.

If you have infected succulents, move the affected plants away from other succulents to avoid cross-contamination.

Once you’ve done that, you can spray the soil and succulents with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

Alternatively, use a dilution of Neem oil or other insecticide sprays.


Fertilize Succulents

Your succulent indoors will love you if you feed them at least once a year, especially during the Spring when they are actively growing.

It will give them the boost they need to grow during the warmer weather.

You can get yourself a succulent specific fertilizer or use regular water-soluble houseplant food (8:8:8 or 10:10:10 are best) diluted to half the strength mentioned in the instructions.

Please don’t feed your succulents when they are dormant during the wintertime. It is a waste of money as they won’t use the nutrients since they aren’t growing.


Pruning And Trimming

As with other plants that grow unruly and out of control, pruning is a good way of shaping them back into the size you prefer.

Pruning is best done in early Spring, just before their growing season.

You can start planning where to cut by removing any succulents diseased, broken, or dead portions.

This will give you an idea of the health and shape of the succulent.

You will need clean shears or a sharp knife. Swab or dip the blades in alcohol before using your cutting tools.

You don’t want to spread plant diseases, so never use dirty or contaminated tools previously used to remove the leaves of diseased plants.

Wear gloves as some succulents contain milky sap or spikes that can be harmful.

For example, the Euphorbia genus secretes a poisonous milky fluid or toxic sap if ingested or can irritate eyes and skin.

Training Succulents to Grow Outwards or Upwards

You can also train certain types of succulents to grow in different directions.

Long-stemmed and multi-branched succulents can easily be kept small and compact through pruning.

To do this, you cut just above a small branch or bud that is growing in the desired direction!


Propagating Succulents

The best care tips we could give is about making more succulents.

Growing more succulents by baby succulents is much easier than growing them from seeds.

There are two easy succulent propagation methods:

  1. Dividing or
  2. Leaf cuttings or Stem Cuttings

Dividing Succulents

There are two methods of dividing succulent plants.

You can either (i) remove plantlets of offsets that are growing on the side of the mother plant, or (ii) you can separate plants at their roots.

Either method will lead you to a fully formed plant that you can repot into new succulent soil and pot.

Propagation by Cuttings (stem or Leaf Cuttings)

How To Take A Stem Cutting For Propagation
Stem Cuttings

After pruning a tall and leggy succulent, set aside the stem cuttings so they can dry out and callus

Alternatively, you can behead your succulent (taking the head of the plant with an inch of stem still attached).

Callouses should form on your stem cuttings or head within a week. Afterward, your plant is then ready to be placed in or on the soil. 

Do not repot until the cuttings have been calloused over. This will ensure that your cuttings don’t rot during the growing process.

Note, there’s no need to ditch the stem left behind after cutting off the head.

If the mother plant is healthy, you can expect to see some new growth on this plant too!

Leaf Cuttings

If you use leaf cuttings, place them flat on soil and press them in lightly. Note: no part of the leaf needs to be under the soil. 

Check back in a few weeks (2 to 3 weeks), and you will notice roots forming or little rosettes growing out of the leaf cuttings.

Once healthy roots form, you can transplant them into new soil and a new pot.

If you don’t see any rooting, you can use the rooting hormone to boost the rooting process.

Indoor Succulents

FAQs

Why Are My Succulent’s Leaves Turning Yellow?

Overwatering is the most likely reason your succulent leaves are turning yellow. 

Only water your succulents when the soil is completely dry or when the succulent leaves look shriveled. 

Why Are Leaves Falling Off Of My Succulents?

Why Are Leaves Falling Off My Succulents

Succulents drop their leaves when stressed by heat or drought.

Move your plant to the shade if the sun is scorching hot.

If this does not work, your succulent may be dropping leaves due to low light.

When your succulent stretches toward the light and the low-light problem is not corrected, leaf drop will occur, and the plant will die.

How Do I Know If My Succulent Is Dying?

Overwatering (and underwatering) are the two leading causes of death in succulents.

Dried out, dying leaves at the top of your succulent, as well as soggy and translucent leaves, can be an indication that your plant is dying.

You need to also check the roots of your succulents to see if your plant has root rot.


Conclusion

It’s possible to grow succulents successfully indoors.

The three most important rules to ensure victory are: use good drainage soil, don’t overwater, and give your succulents enough sunlight.

Keeping this in mind, you’re well on your way to creating the indoor succulent garden of your dreams.

To recap, below are 5 things you should do when growing a succulent.

  1. Provide enough sun: Depending on the species of succulents you have, it may need bright light, direct sunlight, or partial light. But they do need light.
  2. Do not overwater: Too much water may lead to root rot and possibly your plant dying. In contrast, not enough water and your plant will dry out and die. Between the two choices, it’s better to underwater than overwater. Shriveled leaves or yellowing leaves are a good indication that your succulents need water. The most significant help would be to plant in a pot that has a drainage hole.
  3. Do not use standard potting soil: Soil succulents thrive best in is not regular potting soil meant for common indoor plants. The reason is, this type of soil retains too much moisture and is far from ideal for your succulents. Mix your own by adding sand, pumice, or perlite to your soil at a ratio of 50/50. The Key is that the soil needs to drain well. The best solution is to purchase new succulent mixes to ensure that it’s well-draining soil.
  4. Do not grow succulents indoors that are meant to be outside (and vice versa): Not all succulents are suited as indoor plants. You want to increase succulent lifespans as much as possible. Keep that in mind when you select the succulents you plan on using indoors.

References

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