Plants/Plant Care

Growing Succulents – The Beginners Guide

If you find yourself obsessed with succulents, welcome to the club! They’re the perfect plants for both beginners and experienced gardeners alike – and trust me – you CAN’T say that about all plants. If you crave a low-maintenance garden that’s full of color, texture, and interesting aesthetic, then succulents are your best option. Searching the internet, you will find there’s quite a lot more to succulents than you might think. Different types, how to care for them, and how to grow them. With this guide to growing succulents, you’ll be caring for them in no time.

What Exactly Is A Succulent?

Succulents are a popular plant, but you might be wondering: what exactly are they? Succulents are plants that store water in their leaves and stems, which is what makes them tolerant to dry weather and why they’re so low-maintenance. They come in a variety of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Succulents are also known for being independent plants that don’t like to be fussed with, so they’re the perfect plants for gardening beginners or those with a tendency to – admit it, we’ve all been there – neglect their plants. While succulents are indeed low-maintenance, they still need a few things to live and grow.

Growing Succulents Indoors

No matter where you live or what climate you’re in, it’s easy to grow succulents in your home. Avoid placing them near vents, dark corners, and electronics. You can place them just about anywhere else as long as they have the right type of soil and some sunshine. They look perfect on a windowsill!

Five Essentials For Your Succulents

  • Containers with drainage – terra cotta pots are the best for beginners. If you’re using anything else, make sure there’s a drainage hole at the bottom.
  • Succulent friendly soil – your soil should contain quarter-inch particles and promote drainage.
  • A watering tool – use a tool that will deliver water directly to the soil. Avoid using a spray bottle.
  • Sunny windows – did you know succulents need at least six hours of sun every day?
  • Succulents – duh, you can’t forget your succulent! Start with one of the beginners listed below!

Beginners

The easiest succulents to start with are:

  • Zebra plants
  • Elephant Bush
  • Gollum Jades
  • Gasteraloes
  • Vicks plant

They are all beautiful, versatile options that are dry weather resistant and can thrive indoors.

Containers

If you’ve recently purchased a succulent from a nursery, the first thing to do is repot them within 24 hours. The small plastic pots and highly-absorbent soil they come in are not ideal. You can move them into larger terra cotta containers with a drainage hole and surround them with soil that can dry quickly. Terra cotta pots are perfect for beginners because the vessels dry quickly, they’re breathable, and they prevent water from building up because they pull the water from the soil. Succulents don’t do well when they sit in wet soil, which is why they need to be planted in a container with a drainage hole. You should also consider the size of your container. Succulents will take the shape and size of the container they’re planted in, so you have control over how big you want your succulent to grow! How cool is that?

Soil

As I’ve mentioned before, succulents don’t do well in wet soil. If you already have gardening soil at home, great! You can add pumice or perlite to your mixture, both of which you can buy at your local plant nursery. You can also make your own soil at home by combining pine bark fines, turface, and crushed granite. If you’re not so DIY savvy, you can purchase a succulent friendly soil mix.

Watering

Knowing when and how much to water your succulents is a little tricky. Only water your succulent when it is dry, never water it when it is wet, damp, or moist. If they dry out in a few days, water them every few days. If they dry out in a few weeks, water them every few weeks. When watering your succulent, drench the soil with water. Don’t use a spray bottle. Once water starts exiting the drainage hole, you’ve watered it enough. Let the soil dry completely then water again.

Growing Succulents Outdoors

Succulents do wonderful when they’re outside because they’re getting the air, ventilation, and sun that they need. Growing them outdoors is where you’ll really see your succulents thrive. Read on to know what to keep in mind while growing your succulents outside.

Climate

While succulents grow outdoors in almost any region, they thrive in warmer temperatures. If you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing or goes above 100 degrees Farenheit, it would be best to put your succulents into containers and be prepared to relocate them inside during extreme weather conditions.

Succulents

The easiest succulents to start with if you live in an area that experiences cold weather are:

  • Houseleeks
  • Common houseleeks
  • Glowing Fire
  • White Stonecrops

If you live in warmer climates, opt for these succulents:

  • Echeveria ‘Perle von Nunbergs’
  • Blue chalksticks

Soil

Succulents don’t require special fertilizer to grow outdoors. They can grow in most outdoor soils, except for hard and compact soil, like clay. If the dirt around your succulents retains too much water, you can add crushed granite, coarse grain sand, or perlite to your soil.

Lighting

If you purchased your succulent at a nursery, chances are they are often stored in shaded areas so they must get accustomed to their new outdoor conditions once you bring them home. If the plants are placed directly into sunlight after bringing them home, they can get sunburnt and even die. They are not used to the amount of sunlight or the strenght of the sun. It is best to place your succulent in a shady area or somewhere they can receive indirect sunlight when you bring them home, and the best time to acclimate them to the sun is during the spring when the sun and temperatures aren’t as strong.

Seasonal Care

If you live in an area with extreme weather changes during the seasons, you’ll want to take some extra little steps to keep your succulents happy and healthy. You should grow your succulents in lightweight containers that are easy to transport indoors. On chilly winter nights, you can protect your succulents by covering them with a frost cloth. If the temperature falls below freezing, take them inside. In the summer, if the sun is more intense than usual or the temperature goes above 100 degrees Farenheit, you’ll want to keep them from getting sunburnt, so it is best to move them to a shadier area.

Don’t Kill Your Succulents!

Like I’ve said, succulents are low-maintenance, however, it is possible to kill them. In the notes below, we’ll teach you how NOT to kill your succulents!

Common Problems

  • Overwatering – less is always more. The plants will rot if you water them too much. Only water your plants if the soil has been completely dry for several days.
  • Bad soil – soil is the number one killer of succulents. Make sure the soil you use can drain easily and quickly.
  • Poor drainage – if your succulents sit in a container without a drainage hole, they can rot or die because they’ll be sitting in water too long. Succulents do best when their roots can dry out quickly.
  • Lack of good lighting – if your succulents don’t get enough sunlight, they can experience etiolation. This means long and weak stems, gaps between petals, and loss of color. Move them near a window that receives direct sunlight for at least six hours a day, or use an indoor grow-light.
  • Sunburning – if you notice black spots on the leaves or a white hue on your succulent, your plant may be experiencing too much sun exposure. Once this happens, it won’t go away. However, your plant can continue to grow despite the injury, so long as you minimize their sun exposure.
  • Using a spray bottle – spray bottles will not reach the bottom of your soil and it will not soak it. Using a spray bottle can cause shallow, thin roots. Spray bottles can also lead to mold growth, especially if you spray it on the leaves instead of into the soil. For best results, use a pitcher or can to water your succulent.

Things To Watch Out For

  • Mushy leaves – if your succulent looks mushy, spongy, or swollen, then you’re watering it too much, or you do not have proper drainage.
  • Rotting succulents – if you notice that your succulent is beginning to rot or dry out, your soil is too dense and it is not drying quick enough. You can save the healthy leaves and propogate them to grow new succulents.
  • Shriveled leaves – this is a sign of dehydration, and you need to water it more. If you notice leaves falling off or dying, this is normal.
  • Color loss – this means that your succulent isn’t getting enough sunlight. Move it to a bright window where it will receive six hours of sunlight daily.

Keep in mind, I am no expert. I encourage you to do your own research to really get to know the succulent type that you have. I hope this guide to growing succulents has helped you!

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