What you're learning
Who doesn’t get fascinated by succulents? These small squishy plants are staples in indoor gardens because they’re quite easy to handle. They do make cute displays usually planted in dish gardens, fancy pots and other creative containers.
Succulents are very rewarding to tend to because it’s low maintenance. The only thing that quickly leads to the demise of a succulent is too much water. Other factors such as maintaining light levels, humidity and temperature are not much of a problem.
|Scientific Name||Depending on the species|
|AKA||Succulents; other common names are used depending on what kind of succulent it is|
|Native to||Depending on the species|
|Shape||Depending on the species|
|Maximum size||Depending on the species|
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light|
|Preferred humidity||Low (10-30%)|
|Preferred temperature||40 to 90oF (4 to 32oC)|
|Soil or Potting Medium||Well-draining, sandy soil|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize only once a month during growing season|
|Propagation method||Seeds, stem or leaf cuttings, division of plantlets|
|Toxicity||Some are toxic, some are not|
|Vulnerable to||Fungal or bacterial rots|
Overview of Succulent Plants
Succulent is a collective term for a huge number of plants. Some of the most popular families include that have succulent characteristics include Agavaceae (Agave), Aizoaceae (Lithops), Aloaceae (Aloe), Apocynaceae (Adenium), Bromeliaceae (Tillandsia), Cactaceae (Opuntia), Crassulaceae (Kalanchoe), Euphorbiaceae (Euphorbia).
They can be found in different parts of the world. Most of these succulents have been cultivated extensively and there are a lot of varieties you can choose from nowadays. It’s not a surprise then that it has a wide global market.
Too much water is an enemy to the succulents. Why? Because these plants do have their own storage of water in the form of their thick and fleshy leaves and stems. They’ll survive prolonged periods of drought without hurting.
If you try to add more water, they’ll have excess supply and they won’t be able to utilize it. This surplus of water will remain intact in the soil creating a flooded condition. The roots will be stressed, suffocate from lack of oxygen, and eventually die and rot.
That’s why it’s very crucial to regulate the amount of water and the frequency of application. Make sure to water only when the soil is completely dry. If humidity is high and temperature is low, lessen the frequency of watering.
Always remember to drain the water when watering. If saucers are used below a pot, don’t forget to empty that pool of water. It’s also important to water deeply and thoroughly so the soil gets evenly moist.
Succulents are lovers of bright light. For an indoor setting, this means bright, indirect light. You’ve got to pick a well-lit location for this plant like the one close to a window.
You can choose between a southern or western facing window as a location. If not available, just place it somewhere near an artificial light source. Your succulents would have vibrant color if the light condition is good.
From time to time, you can expose your succulents to direct sunlight. This is helpful when the temperature gets really low like in winter. This will help prevent frosting of vulnerable succulents.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
For the majority of succulents, a low humidity is required. Remember most of the succulent species thrive in the dry places of the deserts. They are well acquainted with the arid conditions.
This is favorable for the plant owner whose relative humidity at home is low most of the time. You’d save up time doing things like misting to increase humidity. Your succulents wouldn’t need such kind of special treatment.
As for temperature, succulents are pretty tough that it can tolerate a wide range of temperature from 40 to 90oF (4 to 32oC). Generally, it loves a warm temperature but the cooler temperature at night, 60-65⁰F (15-18⁰C), helps initiate flowering in succulents. Flower induction starts to occur once this optimal temperature is met.
Plant Food and Potting Media
A commercially available cactus and succulents mix can be used in potting any succulent plant. It’s important to keep in mind that the mix should have a well-draining characteristic. The mix should have a sandy texture.
You may also have your own potting mix using coarse sand, pumice and decomposed granite as an amendment. Succulents wouldn’t like a humus potting mix so there’s no need to put in organic matter. In fact, it’s not a heavy feeder so fertilizer isn’t much of a requirement.
You’re mostly likely to feed your succulents once a month during the growing season. Use a general houseplant fertilizer that’s diluted to half. Do not fertilize during winter because this is a dormant period where the plant’s internal processes are working at a minimum.
If you’ve overfertilized your succulents by accident, it would surely reflect on the plant. The tips of the leaves will show browning, often a result of a fertilizer burn. Make sure to leach off excess fertilizer with water to save the plant from further damages.
Some succulents are slow growing while some are not. The frequency of pruning should depend on the growing behavior of your succulent. When the succulents get top heavy, you’ll need to trim off some of the stems and leaves.
Remove discolored leaves, portions that are infected by disease or those that were simply aged. Pruning helps in maintaining the plant in good shape and health. You can save the mature leaves or stems you’ve pruned to be used for propagation.
It’s important that you use sanitized pruning shears and scissors when you make cuts into your succulents. We do not want to spread diseases by the tools that we use so make sure to disinfect.
If the portions you’ve pruned were diseased, make sure to discard it properly. Treat them with appropriate chemicals such as fungicide or pesticides to kill the harmful organisms before you throw it away.
Through time, your succulents would outgrow its pot and you’ll need to do the repotting. Repotting brings a lot of benefits to the plants by providing a fresh set of potting media and nutrients as well as a wider breathing room for roots. It’s like giving the plant a new chance in life.
Always do repotting during the active period, usually in spring. Sanitize all the tools that you are to use. Prepare the sterilized soil and the new pot.
Remove the succulent from the old pot. Be careful because most of the succulents are fragile. Gently loosen the soil around the roots and shake them off.
Examine the roots and trim off the dead ones. Place the succulent in a new pot while filling in the empty spaces. They prefer shallow planting because their roots are not that long.
Set it aside in its location and water after a few days. Make sure to water thoroughly. Don’t forget to drain excess water before putting it back.
Propagating succulents can be done using seeds, cuttings or plantlets. Seeds may take a long time to grow so vegetative propagation is commonly used. You can use either stem or leaf cuttings to grow new succulents or you can divide and separate the plantlets.
For leaf cuttings, choose mature leaves and pinch them off from the stem. Set it aside to let the wound dry first. Prepare the potting mix and lay the leaves one by one on top of it.
Mist on the leaf cuttings and set it aside. These cuttings will develop roots after a few weeks and new plants will emerge at the base of each leaf. You can plant them individually once ready.
Some succulents can be propagated using stem cuttings. All you need is choose a mature, good quality stem, cut it off and plant it separately. The stems will later develop its own roots.
You may also use the plantlets that have emerged at the base of a succulent for propagation. All you need is cut these babies and separate them from the mother plant. Pot it in a different container and let it grow on its own.
Pests & Diseases
Succulents can be sometimes infested by mealybugs and scales. It happens when the conditions alter and become favorable for these pests to thrive. The good thing is that they can be easy to manage using various mechanical, chemical, biological control methods.
As for diseases, the common problems are caused by fungi and bacteria. Once infected with these disease-causing organisms, succulents often suffer and die. It’s crucial to immediately isolate sickly plants to prevent the spread of the disease.
Treat the plant with the appropriate fungicide or bactericide. In some cases, you’ll need to trim off the diseased portion. If unlucky, you’ll be forced to get rid of the whole plant itself.
That’s why it’s very important to use sterilized soil at the beginning. This is to lessen the chance of having infectious pathogens thrive in the soil. Also, avoid wetting the foliage of your succulents.
A wet and humid environment invites pathogens to grow and reproduce.
There are some succulent species that are safe but there are also those that are toxic to your pets. You have to check first before you make any purchase so that you’ll know how to properly handle it. We do not want you making regrets in the end if something bad happens to your cats or dogs.
Typical Questions about Succulents
Why are my succulents turning yellow?
Yellowing leaves are most often caused by overwatering. Too much water in the soil will cause the roots to die and rot. Since the roots are damaged, transport of minerals and water from the soil is affected.
When the upper portions of the plant, especially the leaves, no longer receive the inputs they need, the cells will start to suffer and die as well.
Can I save a dying succulent?
It depends on how much damage is done in your succulent. If the damages are in its early stage, there’s a high chance that you can save it. However, the chances get slim every passing time.
The key is to notice the problem at an early stage. Regardless of what causes the succulent to suffer, being able to identify the signs and symptoms early on will have an advantage. Whenever you observe some changes in your succulent, don’t wait a day or two to find remedy.
Is it okay to use artificial light on succulents?
Yes, that’s okay as long as you keep it on for 14 to 16 hours a day. Succulents need bright, indirect light and if your room lacks the strategic locations for sunlight to penetrate, then artificial light is the next best option.
You can make use of white fluorescent tubes and have them set up at least 6 to 12 inches above the succulents. The light harnessed shall be sufficient for the plant to proceed its photosynthetic activity.
Growing succulents at home is not as complicated as others assume it to be. Just remember the basic growing conditions it needs, adapt it in your home, adjust things when necessary and you’re most likely to succeed.
Some succulent species would require a different treatment from the rest. That’s pretty normal since not all plants are alike. The key is to learn what it needs and what it wants and do your best to give that to your succulent.