“Succulents are easy! Succulents are hard to kill! The perfect starter houseplant? – a succulent!”
So many lies. They’re not that easy, are the most common houseplant to suffer from overwatering and I would never give a succulent to a new plant parent. I love succulents of all types, especially since most of them are non toxic to cats and dogs, but someone needs to speak the truth.
Up until fairly recently, I always had problems with succulents. I could never just get them right and never knew why. I usually experienced one of the following:
- Leggy stems – the plants grows but look leggy; the leaves become inches apart and the plant is obviously stretching. It then starts to shrivel and die a horrible death.
- Leaves that shrivel and fall off one by one. It then dies a horrible death.
- The plant gradually gets gross mushy stems and leaves and you don’t know why (see pic below). In a month it will die a slow horrible death.
- Yellowing leaves that still fall off one by one but the plant looks healthy. Don’t worry – it soon will die a horrible death.
Sad right? I thought so too, and wanted to end my cluelessness right there and then. I didn’t give into the notion that I have a black thumb and should give up. Yes, it is a bit discouraging if you can’t keep an EASY plant alive. But these aren’t easy and I didn’t give up and you shouldn’t either. Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing.
If your succulent has experienced one of the symptoms above, read on. It did take me some serious trial and error to have one live in my house comfortably, so all the work is done for you! Let’s learn the language of these lovely little plants together.
What are Succulents?
Succulents are fleshy little plants that typically live in arid climates and dry soil. Their muscular biceps (leaves) actually store water because they like these conditions. “Succulent” is actually derived from the Latin word sucus, meaning juice, or sap. Makes sense, right?
Which Succulent is Best for Indoors?
Many succulents do best outdoors and it’s very difficult to keep them happy in your home. There are a few pet safe options that don’t mind living under your roof at all such as:
- Burro’s Tail
- All types of Echeveria
- String of Pearls
The Best Conditions for Succulents
The best place for succulents is bright and warm sunlight with no drafts or possibility of getting cold. This is very important, and may already offer insight on why your succulent is dying in your cold, air-conditioned office. They just don’t like that type of thing. Succulents need bright light a lot of the day, not air-conditioned or cold rooms.
Depending on where you live, you can leave succulents outdoors year round. Heck, most Southwest United States do. But if you’re like me and live in New York, which has four distinct seasons and temperature changes, that’s not an option. I leave succulents out in the sun all summer and early fall but bring them in as soon as temperature drops to 60 degrees at night.
When to Water
There is no rule as to how much one should water a succulent. One must simply know the signs. Watering on a schedule leads to overwatering, instead learning when and why a succulent needs water is much more beneficial for you and Planty. Basically, you are looking for a dried out plant. Succulents do not like to be moist, but to be 90% dry between waterings. I typically suggest purchasing a Moisture Meter until you become familiar with your plant’s needs.
You can’t have succulents in any old garden soil. Moisture-hoarding potting mixes are a death sentence, making any bit of overwatering bad news. In the gardening section, you should notice a succulent mix, which is a mix of soil, sand, perlite, and small rocks. I actually add a cup or so more sand to the bag and give it a good shake. The extra sand always helps. Pot your succulent in this mix in a well draining pot (yes one with a hole) and you’re good to go.
Where To Put Them So they Don’t Die
I’ll say it again – don’t put succulents in a cold, sunless office or room. In summer when the sun is hot I place them outside to soak it up fully and I think I’ve actually seen them dance with joy. I usually let rainwater take care of the watering, but do check them every day as the sun can make them toasty.
In cooler months, I crowd my succulents together on an IKEA cart (see below) indoors near a South-facing window. I don’t know what, but they do better inside in crowds.
What About Leggy Plants?
Speaking of winter, succulents definitely stretch and become leggy when it’s a bit cooler. It’s usually because of lower light and lower temperatures. You might have noticed stretching before – it’s when the leaves become smaller and futher aprt on the stem. It looks like the plant is growing, but really it needs more light. Leaves should be small and compact like the assortment of succulents below.
What do I do? I chop their heads off. That’s right. Succulents are amazing growers and pruning them helps them stay pretty. I then plant the leaves and top from the cut piece in soil and make baby succulents.
How to Propagate
My topics are leading into each other like a boss. After I’ve chopped my succulent’s head off, those leaves easily become new plants. How?
Follow these steps:
chop the top part of a succulent off. Don’t worry it will grow back even stronger.
don’t be scared, just cut it.
- And now…
that you’ve chopped, take off a bunch of those leaves on the stem and arrange them in a planter wit soil. Keep them resting right at the top. Give them a mist.
- Remember to…
keep the “head” of the plant intact and you can plant that right into a pot with soil. It will continue to grow and develop roots quicker than you think.
- And last,
mist the succulent babies every week or few days (more if it’s very warm out). You’ll see tiny leaves sprout soon! It takes about a month. These are from the same plant as above, fast forward a few weeks.
Still having issues with your succulents? Need more help? Leave a comment below!
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