How and When to Fertilize Succulents

Fertilizing succulents is important as it provides the nutrients they require to grow and thrive.

Succulents can store water in their leaves and stems, so they don’t require as much water as other plants.

However, in order to get the nutrients they require, they must be fertilized on a regular basis.

There are a lot of different types of succulent fertilizer out there, so it is important to choose one that is specifically made for succulents.

In this post, we will cover how to fertilize succulents, when to add succulent fertilizer, and what succulent fertilizers to use.

Do Succulents Need Fertilizer?

Yes, a succulent should be fertilized, but the frequency with which this should be done is very low in comparison to other plants.

Any gardener will tell you that fertilizing your plants is beneficial, but when it comes to succulents, people seem to be unsure whether it’s necessary.

Most people consider succulents to be as hardy as cacti and believe that the only thing they need to do to keep them alive is provide sunlight and very little water.

Succulents, on the other hand, come in a wide range of varieties, each with its own set of requirements, with the majority requiring fertilization to stay healthy and happy.

benefits of fertilization

Why Use Succulent Fertilizer?

Succulent fertilizer is a specialized mix of nutrients that promotes healthy growth in succulent plants.

The formula is typically high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three primary nutrients required by all plants to thrive.

Other essential minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are present in smaller amounts in succulent fertilizer. 

The succulent fertilizer formula is designed to be used in conjunction with a soil mix that contains high amounts of organic matter, such as compost.

A well-maintained and fertile soil will help your succulents grow faster and healthier.

Depending on the succulent type, a healthier succulent will produce more vibrant foliage and bloom more colorful flowers.

succulent fertilization

What is Succulent Fertilizer?

Succulent fertilizers vary in composition, but most contain some combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Succulent fertilizers are intended to deliver a concentrated dose of nutrients to the plants, allowing them to grow healthy and strong.

These elements are necessary for plant growth and work together to assist plants in producing new leaves, stems, and flowers.

Another ingredient found in succulent fertilizers is called humic acid.

Humic acid improves soil quality by helping plants use nutrients more efficiently.

Depending on the brand, succulent fertilizers typically have a mix of minerals, organic matter, and enzymes.

Bat guano, worm castings, and fish emulsion are some of the more popular organic ingredients found in succulent plant food.

How Much Fertilizer Do Succulents Need?

Succulents require different amounts of fertilizer depending on the type of succulent, the climate, and the type of soil.

Succulents grown in hot, dry climates require more fertilizer than those grown in cooler climates.

Further, potted succulents will require less fertilization than those growing in the garden, but they will still require these nutrients because any that they are holding onto is usually flushed away when they are watered.

Succulents, in general, require only a small amount of fertilizer, and overwatering can be more of a problem than under-fertilizing.

An excessive amount of fertilizer can cause the plant to wither and die.

A good rule of thumb is to fertilize only when the plant shows signs of need, such as new growth or a color change.

When to Fertilize Succulents?

Fertilizing succulents is best done during the growing season, which lasts from spring to fall. During this time, they need all of the nutrients they can get.

As long as you stick to periodic feeding, your succulent should be able to grow to its full potential.

However, when you notice the plant has stopped growing and has gone into a dormant season, you should avoid fertilizing or repotting during this time.

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.

Another time that you should fertilize succulent plants is when the condition of your potting soil is poor.

When the succulent soil is in poor condition, there are no beneficial soil microbes or nutrients for the succulent to absorb, which will result in an unhealthily succulent plant.

When this happens, a light dose of plant food will definitely help. 

How Much Succulent Fertilizer Should I Use?

different type of succulents

The amount of succulent fertilizer that is required is determined by the composition and quality of the succulent soil as well as the size of the succulent.

In general, a small amount of succulent fertilizer should be applied every two to four weeks, depending on the plant’s needs.

If the succulent is growing in a pot, the fertilizer can be mixed in with the soil before planting it.

If you’re growing succulents outside, you can sprinkle fertilizer around the base of the plant to encourage its growth.

If you’re new to fertilization with succulents, you might find that this minimal amount is all they need to thrive.

It’s best to start with just a quarter of the recommended dose to see how the plant reacts.

You don’t want to overfertilize your succulents because they can burn easily with too much fertilizer.

Once they are burned, it is hard to bring them back to life.

A fascinating fact is that there are some succulents that don’t need any fertilizer.

For example, split rock succulents will self-fertilize by using their dropped leaves. These dropped leaves will decompose and be used by the plant as succulent plant food.

What Type of Succulent Fertilizer Should I Use?

The type of succulent fertilizer you should use is determined by the type of succulent.

Use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer for cactus and other succulents that prefer a drier soil.

Use a 5-10-5 or 6-8-6 fertilizer on succulents that prefer more moisture.

Read the label to ensure that the fertilizer is safe for succulents and does not contain any harmful chemicals.

General-purpose plant fertilizers typically have a 5-10-10 ratio, whereas succulent and cactus fertilizers should be closer to a 10-10-10 ratio.

Whether you use slow-release fertilizers or liquid fertilizers, both will do just fine.

We personally use this slow-release fertilizer because one application lasts for months!

It slowly dissolves into the soil on its own, so there’s no worry about over-fertilizing.

Succulents & Cactus Plant Food - Gentle Long Lasting Formula, Slow Release Fertilizer...
  • 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...

Can You Make Your Own Succulent Fertilizer?

Yes, it is possible to make your own succulent fertilizer.

By mixing organic and inorganic materials, you can make your own succulent fertilizer that is rich in nutrients for your succulents.

One method is to blend equal parts of old manure, peat moss, and vermiculite to make a compost mixture.

Another approach is to mix one part of fish emulsion with four parts water to form a liquid fertilizer.

The ideas for DIY succulent plant food are endless!

The number one positive about making your own succulent fertilizer is that you control what goes into the fertilizer.

Below are some other ideas for organic fertilizers you can make.

Manure tea (Compost tea)

Compost tea is very beneficial to succulents.

When applied to plants, manure tea, also known as compost tea, is made from compost or manure that has been diluted in water before being used as a fertilizer.

The tea contains a high concentration of nutrients and contributes to the improvement of soil quality.

In particular, it is beneficial for succulents, which require well-drained soil with excellent drainage (and pot with drain holes) in order to thrive.

Don’t want to make your own compost tea? Try this compost tea. We’ve known others to try it and they all had good things to say about it.

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Sustane CTB Fertilizer, Brown
  • Provides a controlled dose of all essential nutrients for foliar and soil...

Are coffee grounds good as succulent fertilizer?

No, coffee grounds do not make a good succulent fertilizer.

Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential nutrients for plants.

Due to the high acidity of coffee, however, it is not recommended to use it as a fertilizer for succulents.

Succulents prefer acidic soil, and coffee grounds can quickly alter the pH of the soil, making it more alkaline and potentially harmful to plants.

coffee grounds for succulents

Are eggshells good for succulents?

Eggshells are somewhat beneficial to succulents.

Succulents require calcium for growth in the same way that they require phosphorus and nitrogen.

Using eggshells as fertilizer is an excellent way to provide calcium carbonate to your succulents and cacti.

However, be careful if you plan to use eggshells as succulent fertilizer because bacteria left inside the shells could be toxic to succulents. 

FAQ

What Is A Natural Fertilizer For Succulents?

Compost is a natural fertilizer for succulents. Compost is made by decomposing organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps. As a result, organic plant nutrients are produced that can be used to improve the fertility and tilth of garden soils. Compost also aids in the promotion of healthy microbial populations in the soil, which benefits plants.

Do I Fertilize Indoor Succulents the Same as Outdoor Succulents?

indoor vs outdoor succulents

Fertilizing succulents indoors and outdoors can be very different. Generally speaking, an indoor succulent that’s potted and watered more will need more fertilization compared to an outdoor one living in the garden. Succulents planted as outdoor plants usually 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.

What to Do After Adding Succulent Fertilizer?

watering succulent after adding succulent fertilizer

After adding succulent fertilizer, it is important to water your plants. However, you don’t want to overwater them, as succulents do not like saturated soil. The best way to water them is to wait until the soil is dry to the touch before watering them again. You can tell if they need water by checking whether the soil is dry and by checking the leaves; if they are wilting, then they need water.

Should I Use Liquid Fertilizer on Succulents?

Yes, you can use liquid fertilizers to feed your succulents. Although solid (or granular) fertilizers are perfectly fine to use on succulents, liquid fertilizers may be a little better. Liquid fertilizers aid in the absorption of the required nutrients by plants, while maintaining moisture levels in the soil surrounding them. A small application of liquid fertilizer once every two weeks should be sufficient.

Other Succulent Plant Care Items to Consider

Aside from fertilizing your succulents, there are a few additional things to consider when caring for them.

Most succulents require well-draining soil, indirect sunshine, and regular watering. Here are some additional posts about succulent care that you might be interested in.

Conclusion

Succulent fertilizer can be used to encourage the growth of healthy succulents. Succulents benefit from it because it encourages healthy growth and flowering.

Use succulent fertilizer in the early spring, when new growth is just beginning to appear on the plants, for optimal results.

Succulent fertilizer can be applied as a liquid or as a granular solution, depending on the application. Fertilizer for succulents should be used sparingly, and only when absolutely essential.

References

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  • UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County. (n.d.). Succulents. University of California. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara County, CA. URL: https://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/garden-help/succulents-care/
  • University of Maryland Extension. (2021). Fertilizer. University of Maryland, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Fertilizer. URL: https://extension.umd.edu/resource/fertilizer
  • Glen, C (updated by Boone, T.). (2020). Which Fertilizer Is Best? NC State University Extension, Pender County Center. URL: https://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/03/which-fertilizer-is-best/
  • About/mentions: fertilizer, succulent, houseplant care