How to Care for Succulents

I’m a little obsessed with succulents. I’ve had quite a collection over the years and I’m finally taking care of them the right way, so that they grow and thrive during all seasons.

When I was younger, my grandmother was quite the gardener. I remember her spending her days out in the yard in her ratty tennis shoes, pulling weeds, dead-heading her flowers, and buying iris bulbs. She even had a little song and dance about portulacas. She passed away when I was young, but I like to keep her memory alive by gardening, too. My first experience with succulents were her hens and chicks, probably echeveria imbricata.

There are many different varieties of echeveria/hens and chicks, they are most known for growing cute little baby succulents from the “trunk.” When you remove the dead or dying lower leaves, little babies can grow from those spots that once were occupied by the succulent petals.

Other popular succulents include the different varieties of sedum and sempervivums. Sedum is great for hanging over a pot or spreading over a space. Sempervivums also have a lot of character and can make babies. I personally find them a bit harder to care for the sedum and echeveria.

Here are the three most important tips (in my opinion) for caring for succulents

#1 – Make sure they are in the right soil and have the right drainage. Succulents don’t like to sit in moist soil all day. If you keep them too wet, you can make them rot and kill them. Cactus soil is easy to find at nurseries and home improvement stores, use that kind of soil, versus regular potting soil. Make sure your container or yard can drain properly. Some succulents can stand more water than others. I have some sedum, for example, that are thriving in a wet shady spot in my yard.

#2 – Succulents need to right light. In general, succulents usually need about 6 hours of sun, but too much sun is a possibility! In winter and Spring, my succulents really like being on my full-sun, South-facing, back porch. In summer and when it starts to warm up, they prefer shadier areas! Currently, they are loving my North-facing front porch that is almost all shade. Where I live, summer is easily 100-115 degrees, and full sun is just too much for my succulents. Some varieties are hardier than others, but mine like to be shaded in the summer, at least for the hot afternoon sun. Morning sun is friendlier. You might live in an area where your succulents prefer all-day sun in the summer – experiment! If your plants are getting sunburnt and crispy, move them to more shade. See my little Turkish Hens and chicks (some of my favorites) below? They love shade in the summer! They are growing and thriving on my warm, shady, porch.

#3 – Water your plants directly, and when needed. When you water succulents directly, you are getting their roots wet, and not the rest of the plant. I find sempervivums especially vulnerable to being watered from above. If I spray them with water and they don’t dry out before the sun shines on them, or they stay too wet on the top, they either rot from the top, or they get burnt from the water and the sun. My shaded plants don’t mind being sprayed as much as my more full-sun ones, but my sempervivums aren’t all fans. Succulents may get grouped together with cactus, and you may think they can go long bouts without water, but many actually love to be watered frequently – if you at least let the soil dry out between waterings. If your succulents are wilting and getting crispy, they need more water. If they are getting brown and squishy, they need less water.

Other things to remember –

Succulents also have seasons where they are dormant. If your succulent isn’t producing babies or seems to not be growing, they may be waiting for the next season.

Most succulents can be moved around pretty easily. If where they are at isn’t working, move the pot or pull them out and plant them somewhere else.

If your succulents are growing and running out of room, thin them out. Pull some of them up and plant them elsewhere, or give to friends. Babies will often start rooting when they grow, these can be stuck right in the soil. Some babies need to be carefully pulled off from their mother. I take these and pop them in the soil, too. They generally will start to root and grow.

Many of my upright sedum (like in the first picture above) are SO EASY to propagate. Their leaves fall of easily and often root and grow babies all by themselves. My neighbor has a whole flower bed full of them, because they multiply so easy.

Beware of frost. I had a beautiful “mother of thousands” plant. It’s large, broad leaves sprout little babies all along the edges, and I left her out during the 1 day of frost we got this winter, and it killed her. I’m still not over it.

Succulent babies can be more sensitive to sun and water. when little babies are sprouting from leaves, I try to keep them in warm shade, so they don’t burn.

What are some of your favorite succulents?

What do you do to make sure they thrive?

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