10 Common Succulent Mistakes to Avoid & Solutions

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Succulents are often touted as easy-care, low-maintenance plants. Very good for beginners, but they are a little tricky. There are some things that you have to learn, and there are lots of mistakes that you can make with succulents. It is easy because they visually tell you exactly what’s going on, and you can determine from there exactly what you need to fix. They are fantastic beginner plants for this reason. For today, we have ten of the most common succulent mistakes and their solutions for you. We’re going to go over exactly what they look like and how you can fix it to make your succulents thrive.

1. Lighting

 The first succulent mistake we want to talk about is giving it too little light. When your succulent is getting too little light, it’s going to etiolate or stretch out and elongate. You’re going to see more spacing between the foliage and the plant structure will not remain all small and compact. You just have to give your succulent more light to prevent this.

This enables your plant to not have to stretch to reach for that light. You can move it to a brighter window or get a grow light and put it kind of closer to the plant. There are many different ways to fix this and prevent it from happening.

Unfortunately, there is no way to shrink your succulent back down and stop it from stretching out. You can prevent it from stretching out more, but you cannot repair the damage that’s already done. The only way to get it looking good and normal again is to propagate it. Which doesn’t harm the plant. You’re going to get a lot more plants out of the one mistake. It can be slightly annoying because it’s something simple that can be avoided if we just give it enough light from the get-go. However, it’s also a mistake that every single succulent owner has made.

2. Overwatering

Almost everybody has overwatered their succulents at some point. Succulents are very difficult to tell when to water. You start to see leaves shriveling up and think the succulent is dying. That is not always the case though.  When your succulent needs water, feel the leaves. Especially, the top ones or the ones right around the base that is very thick and plump. Those you want to feel if there’s any give. If they start to feel a little squishy, then you want to go ahead and water it.

There are many different ways to prevent over-watering. Just paying attention to your succulent’s visual cues for when they need water will be a huge step toward that. Also, having terracotta pots that wick away moisture, is going to help. That way your succulents are not sitting in some type of a plastic pot, making lots of humidity and containing a lot of moisture. You can also prevent overwatering by having a well-draining soil mix.

3. Wrong Soil

Speaking of soil mix, that is the next mistake that is commonly made. The soil mix is too water-retentive. Using straight potting mix or a heavy house plant mix and potting succulents up in it. This is made worse if you’re putting it in some cute ceramic pot that’s going to hold in all that moisture. Then your poor succulent is going to be sitting in a giant bog essentially.

 Peat moss is the basis of most standard potting mixes. It is harvested from bigs and is meant to hold onto a lot of moisture. They break it up with perlite or barka little bit, depending on the mix.  None of that is enough to make it well draining enough for succulents who prefer desserts or South African, very well-draining mixes. Succulents don’t want to be sitting in a bog. They want to be able to breathe. They want to be able to dry out.

Succulents can hold onto a lot of water. When they’re holding onto water and sitting in water, they tend to rot. To prevent this, make sure that you’re not using the straight potting mix and that you’re breaking it up with other things like sand, perlite, rocks, and bark. Water should run right through the pot.

4. Underwatering

There is a common myth out there that succulents and cacti do not need water ever. People think you can just put them in a pot, set them on a windowsill, and leave them to water once every six months to a year. This is not true. Succulents need quite a bit of water, especially if they’re drying out daily. If a succulent is getting all its needs met with a lot of light, they’re able to grow properly. Then they’re using that retained moisture to sustain themselves and push out new growth.

Depending on your conditions, you are going to have to water your succulent more often than not. For example, if you’re in hot, sunny, beautiful California and you have your succulents on your porch, you’re probably watering them every day or every other day. Especially, if they’re in terracotta pots where it’s very warm and wicking away that moisture very quickly.

 If you have them inside where it’s darker and they’re not getting as much light or it’s wintertime when things are cooler, then you’re not going to have to water your succulent as much. It just depends on your specific conditions. Regardless of the conditions, your plant is going to need water. You should be feeling the leaves, testing the leaves, and paying attention to their growth patterns. Then watering accordingly.

5. Acclimating

It’s very common to see little burn spots on your succulents. You’ll see little divots,  brown tips leave curling up or falling off and drying out, and a lot of sunburns. This is what happens when you don’t slowly acclimate your plant. We do have a whole video on acclimating plants if you’re curious about how to do that.

Essentially, you just want to slowly transition your succulent from one extreme to another. You don’t want to just take that succulent from a dark area and put it directly outside in bright light. Because then you’re going to end up with a lot of burning on your leaves. The same is also true if you remove your succulent from bright light, where it’s getting a lot of really good light and you put it in a dark corner of your home. Your succulent will have a lot less light and fewer resources to sustain itself and grow. You want to make sure that you slowly adjust to avoid these issues.

6. Mixing Different Needs

Another common mistake that we see is mixing succulents with different needs. Some succulents are going to need a lot more water than others. Some are going to handle bright, direct light, and some are not going to handle direct, bright light. The term “Succulents” just means a thick-leaved plant, usually associated with a plant that likes to dry out quite a bit.  They’re still going to be from different areas and capable of handling different temperatures. They’re also going to need different soil mixes with different needs in general, which is why you need to take a look and see what your plants need.

For example, aloe is going to need water a lot more often than Echeveria. Even a Hawarthia is going to be able to withstand a lot more drought than an Echevaria or aloe. It just really depends on what succulent you have. Some are going to need more water and going to rot more easily than others as well. Pay attention to everything that’s in the mix and pull out what’s not going to work with the rest.

7. Repotting and Watering

This next mistake happens all the time. Most people don’t even realize when they’re doing it, that it’s a bad thing. They have no idea that it’s going to hurt their plants at all because it’s just a standard for most plants. Watering immediately after repotting with just about every other type of plant is a fantastic thing to do and it’s going to help your plant.

Unfortunately, with succulents, just like with the propagations for their leaves, you don’t want to water them. You want to let them dry out. Just let it sit for a couple of days to a week after you report it. This allows your succulent to recoup, regrow, and heal itself up. Let it callous over any damaged areas, then you can go ahead and water them.

8. Pest Control

This one tends to go unnoticed as well. Because succulents are left alone for so long, they end up being forgotten about. They’re not watered every single day and checked on every day. Nobody is looking for new leaves every single day because they’re slower-growing plants. What happens in that time, is pests will move in. They’ll get in the cracks and crevices of these succulents, and they will overtake the plant. Take proper precautions, paying attention, checking every once in a while, and not letting your succulents touch.  These things are going to help prevent pests from taking over your entire succulent collection.

9. Water on Foliage

This next mistake is not talked about very often. It is something that kind of goes unnoticed because it’s something that most succulent experts already know and they don’t think to mention it to newer plant parents. Why you are getting spots on your leaves? They’ll just be brown spots, brown, divots, and damaged areas. A lot of times,  plant parents will think that maybe they bumped it, or maybe there’s a pest.

What’s usually happening with that is water got on the leaves, especially if it’s some sort of a fuzzy succulent, a Kolancho for example. Those spots are where the water has landed on your succulent leaves. The sun shone through it and it sat there and it was so bright that it damaged and burned your plant. If you are watering your succulents, just pull them back to a shaded area until some of that water can dry off. You don’t want to rub all the protection of the leaves,  but you want to make sure that they’re not going to be soaking wet and have a lot of bright light directly shining on them because that can damage them. Especially, if it’s a very strong afternoon light.

10. No Growth

Your succulents are not growing. It’s been months and you have no idea why. A lot of times what’s going on is they are not receiving enough light. They need more light than they’re getting and cannot retain enough energy for new growth. You just have to move them to a brighter location, and generally, you start to see new growth. If the new growth is deformed, then you want to make sure that you are giving them some type of fertilizer. They generally don’t need much, and just a standard fertilizer will be perfectly fine for your succulents.

This lack of growth can also stem from not enough fertilizer, lack of water, and many of the other common mistakes that we talked about here can lead to no growth for succulents. Namely light, though, is the biggest one. Give it more light and then experiment from there.


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