Most people view succulents to be as hardy as cactus and assume that to keep them thriving there’s little else they have to do but provide sunlight and very sparse watering.
However, the succulent comes in many varieties, and each of them has their own needs, with most requiring fertilization to keep them healthy and happy.
Do succulents really need to be fertilized, though?
The short answer is yes, a succulent should be given fertilizer, but the frequency at which succulent fertilization should be done is very minimal compared to other plants.
As they don’t require as much in the way of additional nutrients, you can keep fertilization between once every few months to once a year for most succulent varieties, and sometimes even less.
If you’re the proud owner of one or more succulents and you’re struggling to get them thriving, it could be the simple matter of learning more about fertilization.
We’ve got all of your questions answered as well as some simple tips to get them flourishing, so read on for more information, or if you have any questions about fertilizing houseplants, you can check out our post on how to fertilize houseplants.
Table of Contents
- 1 Do Succulents Need Fertilization?
- 2 The Best Type of Fertilizer for Succulents
- 3 6 Tips for Succulent Fertilization
- 4 Related Questions
Do Succulents Need Fertilization?
Any green thumb will be able to tell you the benefits of fertilizing your plants, but when it comes to succulents, people seem to be confused over whether or not it’s needed.
What people love most about these plants is that they can seemingly be left alone for years and will continue to grow and thrive, and this hardiness is where the misconception that they don’t need additional nutrients was born.
As succulents have unique characteristics like thick stems and fleshy leaves that do well in dry and hot conditions, most assume that fertilization isn’t required.
However, as a plant that craves water, sunlight, and food, just like any other, their own regime of fertilization is needed.
A potted succulent will require even less fertilization than those growing in the garden but still needs these nutrients, as any that they’re holding onto are usually flushed away as they’re watered.
Periodic feeding is required to help them grow to their full potential but the process of fertilizing succulents requires closer attention than you might realize.
The key to proper succulent fertilization is knowing the right time to do it and the right fertilizer to do it with.
This unique plant can store water and nutrients like no other, so that means how they’re treated with fertilizers and the type of food that we give them have to be unique as well.
The Best Type of Fertilizer for Succulents
Depending on your gardening abilities, you might be the type to make your own fertilizer or purchase it from the store.
Either approach works as long as it works for you as the plant owner, but when it comes to succulent fertilization specifically, some types work better than others.
Learning about fertilizers is essential to choosing the right one, and they are described in terms that refer to their nutrient substance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Standard fertilizers have a 5-10-10 ratio, whereas a fertilizer for succulents should be more like an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
The easiest way to guarantee the right one is to choose a succulent specific fertilizer. If you’re unable to find one, look for a low-balanced soluble fertilizer or slow-release type.
Alternatively, we personally use this slow-release succulent fertilizer because one application lasts for months! It slowly dissolves into the soil on its own. Super easy!
- LIGHT APPLICATIONS - A balanced mix of essential nutrients with low NPK...
- LASTS LONGER, FOR LESS - Easy, ready to use granular formula feeds your...
- LIQUID ALTERNATIVE - Excellent alternative to liquid fertilizer in a spray...
If you use standard fertilizers made for everyday potted plants, they can add too much stress to the roots which will lead to rotting and burning, which is also a common problem with succulents that have been overwatered.
Alternatively, you can make your own fertilizer at home that is very friendly to succulents.
Either manure or compost tea that is made by steeping these products with water and applying as you would with your regular watering can are ideal, and they provide a gentle but nutrient-rich food for your plants.
6 Tips for Succulent Fertilization
Succulents are super simple plants to own but part of their care requires fertilization, even if it’s minimal compared to other varieties.
We’ve got some easy tips to follow to make succulent fertilization a breeze, so consider these before you feed your plants.
#1: Timing is Key
To get the most out of fertilization, it needs to be done at the right time when the plant is about to grow or is still growing.
For succulents, spring through to early summer is usually the best time to fertilize as they are about to start a new growth period and need all of the nutrients they can get. The top inch of the soil should be completely dry before you apply fertilizer so that it can reach the roots and do its job.
When you notice the plant has stopped growing and goes into a dormant season, you should avoid fertilizing or repotting during this time.
#2: A Fertilizer for Each Succulent
There are around 60 plant families that contain succulents and hundreds of varieties, so you need to learn what your exact one requires.
Do some research on the type of succulent you own and figure out what type of fertilizer works best and how frequently it needs to be done.
For example, a tropical succulent will need much more frequent watering which in turn flushes out nutrients, so they should be fertilized every few months.
#3: Indoor Vs Outdoor Plants
Where your plants live will also determine how often they need to be fertilized.
Generally speaking, an indoor succulent that’s potted and watered more will need more fertilization compared to an outdoor one living in the garden.
Outdoor succulents have access to a lot more nutrients as they have more soil to retrieve them from, and will only need to be fertilized once a year or less.
#4: Move Before Fertilizing
If you have indoor succulent plants, you’ll need to move them to the right position to let the fertilizer work its magic.
As fertilizer causes plants to grow quickly, you want to make sure they’re placed in bright conditions without direct sunlight to help them stay compacted while they get the nutrients they need.
This will prevent stress on the leaves as they stretch quickly after an application of fertilizer.
#5: Add Fertilizer to the Watering Can
Rather than making the job of fertilization into a separate thing, consider adding some fertilizer to your watering can instead. Also, you can find out if tap water is better than distilled water for watering your succulents.
By choosing a soluble fertilizer it won’t take long to break down and it will be easier for your plant to drink up the nutrients when it’s presented in a liquid form.
If you find the plant drying out more often than usual, you can add some fertilizer now and then to bring it back to life, but make sure only to put a quarter of the recommended dosage in.
#6: Less is More
Succulents can burn easily with too much fertilizer and it can be hard to bring them back to life once this occurs.
If you’re new to fertilization with succulents, it’s best to start with just a quarter of the recommended dose to see how the plant reacts.
You might find that this minimal amount is all they need to thrive, so don’t be afraid to be stingy with the fertilizer while you’re learning more about it.
There are even some succulents that don’t need any fertilizer. For example, split rock succulents self-fertilize by using their dropped leaves as fertilizer.
The succulent is a hardy variety of plants and one that suits even the most amateur gardener.
However, just because they’re low maintenance that doesn’t mean they should be neglected entirely, otherwise problems will arise.
If you have questions about succulent fertilization and other care methods, we’ve got answers that can help point you and your plants in the right direction.
Are Coffee Grounds Good for Succulents?
Coffee grounds are a popular choice of plant food for gardeners as they supply plants with nitrogen once they’ve broken down in the soil.
Coffee should only ever be used in an outdoor garden and never in potted plants as it can do more harm than good. If you have succulents in the garden, they can benefit from the nutrients that coffee grounds offer, but only once a year or so.
Can You Plant Succulents in Rocks?
Succulents do best with well-draining soil and the addition of rocks to pots can be helpful. However, it will be impossible to grow a healthy succulent only with rocks and no soil present.
Consider adding sand, volcanic rock, or gravel to your potted succulent to help with drainage and to add a layer of decoration to the pot.
Can You Make Your Own Fertilizer?
If you’d prefer to make fertilizer at home to feed your succulents, the best options are using manure or compost.
A special tea can be brewed from compost and manure which is gentle but packed full of nutrients, so if you have access to either it’s a free and effective alternative to store-bought products.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.