Health & Environment

How To Care For Succulents

A Texas A&M AgriLife horticulture specialist offers care tips for the popular container plants.
By Abby Read, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications June 1, 2020

Over shoulder view of womans hand tending potted plant on windowsill
Succulents are low-maintenance plants, but they still need proper care to live a long and healthy life

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Succulents are beautiful and easy to care for, so it’s no surprise that they’re one of the most popular plants pictured on Instagram accounts and blogs. They thrive in situations that just happen to be low maintenance, making them increasingly popular for container gardening.

But low maintenance doesn’t mean no-maintenance.

David Reed, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulture specialist and associate dean for graduate programs and faculty development in the Department of Horticultural Sciences, offers some tips and tricks for making sure your succulents live a long and healthy life.

How to water succulents

woman watering succulents with watering can
Eat can be easy to overwater succulents without the right drainage conditions.

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Succulents come from desert conditions and hold water in their fleshy leaves, making it easy to overwater your plants if they aren’t in the right conditions. Drainage is important.

“Before anything, you need to have a hole in the bottom of the pot to let the water drain.” Reed said. “For succulents, you cannot use a saucer to collect the extra water because it will just keep the bottom soil moist.”

A lot of succulents can experience root rot when sitting in moist soil for too long. “After you water, you need to drain out the excess water,” he said. “However, when you do water, water until you see some coming out of the bottom hole to avoid salt build up, since most water isn’t good quality.”

Since succulents need less water, it can be tricky to know exactly how much water to give. So, Reed has a suggestion.

“You want to put your finger in the soil and see if the soil is dry. Not dry like toast, but dry like a piece of fresh bread,” Reed said. “When you can feel that there is moisture but no wetness, that’s when it’s time to water. Letting the soil dry out completely can damage the root system.”

How much sun does a succulent need?

Succulents make great indoor container plants. And it’s a great way to get your green thumb, however, succulents need a bit more than light from your window.

“Succulents are dry plants. These plants grow in desert-like environments with tons of sun every day and dry weather conditions,” Reed said. “They need to be in the absolute brightest light, or your absolute brightest window.”

One of the reasons succulents are so popular is because they are so forgiving. They are slow to die and slow to grow. “You can probably get away with putting them by a dark window or in a bathroom window,” Reed said. “But only because succulents are very slow to die. They would do best out on a patio.”

How to make your succulent to grow faster

succulent plants
Fertilizing your potted succulents can speed up the growth process.

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Succulents are slow growing plants that need patience to see them shine. However, there are some ways to accelerate that process.

“Fertilize it,” Reed said. “Any good soluble fertilizer that you can find at garden centers will do just fine. For succulents, you should probably use it at the half rate they recommend, maybe every two months.”

Fertilizing potted plants can be tricky sometimes, but Reed gives tips for how to make it easier. “Dissolve it in some water and pour that fertilized water onto the plant,” he said.

For some faster growing plants, you might need to change to bigger pots.

“I’ve seen a lot of succulents stay in one pot for long periods of time,” Reed said. “They can handle and thrive in a tight root system.”

Following these fertilizing steps along with the right light and water care helps support a healthy growing succulent.

This article by Abby Read originally appeared on AgriLife Today.

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