Succulent and cacti care
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Politics and Activism

How To Care For Your Succulents

Some tips so even the those with the blackest of thumbs can be proud plant parents!

How To Care For Your Succulents
Cactus by Leotina Elsa Grattoni (via Flickr Commons )

You see them everywhere: Instagram, Forever21, Target, your local nursery, college dorm rooms, kitchens, yoga studios. There is a wide variety to choose from: symmetrical, asymmetrical, grafted, singular, colorful, prickly, smooth-- all with two common attributes: little to no maintenance, despite great beauty. Succulents, hearty little plants that originate from arid climates, have seen a boom in popularity over the past five years. I, myself, have somewhere around 10 or so succulents, some being as old as 5, thriving in my home in Central New Jersey. In this article, I will give you five tips on caring for these plants so that your Instagram can flourish with lush pictures of great greenery. Or so that your dorm room lit solely by fluorescent lights can be a little less sad. Whatever your motivation for investing in the succulent, these tips are for you!

Having always been hailed as an independent plant with great longevity, the aesthetic appeal of the succulent makes them all the more attractive to the average busy person who would like some horticulture in their life. Now, you may be wondering, "What about those cute little cacti, Martine? Does this article concern their care as well?" And the answer is yes! A little-known fact is that cacti are actually a subcategory of succulents. With that being said, onward to the care of the cutest plants on the planet!


Little terracotta pots are a classic container for any plant!

Succulent Propogation by Nancy Hoang

You can house your resilient plant in almost anything as long as it has a drainage hole with a plate to catch water beneath it. It is preferable that the container be shallow, but it doesn't have to be. The necessity for the drainage hole is simply this: succulents won't soak in all of the water that you give them at once, and you don't want their roots to get rotted from water that can't drain. Succulents like to take in water over a period of time, and if there is a drainage hole with a dish to catch extra water beneath it, then eventually the water will evaporate back up into the soil. Alternatively, if you don't have a container with a drainage hole, you can put them in a container with gravel on the bottom, sand as an intermediate layer, and soil on top. If you want to put your succulent in a terrarium, which they can do very well in, I suggest you give them the gravel, sand, soil arrangement. Additionally, succulents in terrariums prefer being misted over being watered.

Make sure to choose a pot that can afford your precious plant baby room to grow!

Soil choices

Succulent Cuttings by Nancy Hoang

Succulents don't need particularly nutrient-dense soil, as they come from areas of deprived soil. However, they can survive perfectly fine in either special succulent soil or potting mix. The most important thing is that the soil is properly drained! If you plan on using potting mix, combine 2 parts sand to 1 part potting mix, as that will lend porosity to the soil, which allows it to drain better.

How much and how often to water

They get their name from their incredible ability to retain water!

Succulents by Nancy Hoang

Succulents are from areas with scarce rainfall and full sunlight, thus they have evolved to store a significant amount of water to sustain themselves in periods of drought. Thus, it is in your best interest to simulate these conditions to optimize the life of your plant. Basically, you will drought and drown your plant. I've noticed that my plants do best if I keep them in a sunny windowsill and water them once every week. I wait until the soil is dry to the touch, and then I give enough water that it seeps out of the drainage holes. I cannot give you a measurement of water you should use, as every plant presents different needs, but should you find you have over-watered your little desert treasure, simply give more times between the next watering and reduce the amount you have given the plant. Some symptoms of over-watering include shriveled leaves, no new growth, puffy looking leaves/stem, and yellowing of the leaves.

Lighting and temperature needs

Succulents by Kenny Song

As you know, succulents hail from very hot climates. This doesn't mean you can't keep an indoor succulent garden in, perhaps, New Jersey which experiences all four seasons. Some plant varieties can withstand as low as 35-40ºF, where some others might only be able to tolerate 50-60ºF. If you keep your succulent indoors during the colder months and make sure they get plenty of sunlight, they should be okay. Perhaps keep them near the window, but not on the sill, as most sills tend to be points of the draft within a home and therefore up to 10ºF cooler than the rest of the house. Not living in a place where natural light is super accessible? Not a problem-- you can cultivate your garden in artificial light!

If your succulent is one that grows upright, I suggest you rotate it every week. I say this because your plant will begin to exhibit phototropism-- that is, grow in the direction of its source of light-- and lean in an uneven fashion. This can cause some plants to lean so badly that their steams break under the weight of uneven strain.


Succulent by Paul Felton

You might not think of it, but succulents require a little bit of pruning. All this entails is removing any leaves that are clearly dying: they're brown, shriveled, or perhaps even fell off into the pot. It's normal for there to be dead leaves on the stem of the succulent, but if you have leaves dying in the rosette (center) of your plant, it is sick and might die. If you remove these, you can be sure that your succulent doesn't suffer a disease, and continues to look good.

And those are, to the best of my knowledge, five essential tips for gardening with succulents. I have followed these tips religiously in all the years I have had succulents, and they have yet to fail me! Hopefully, these tips take your succulent garden to heights it has never seen before!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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