Succulents are known for their thick stems and and swollen, fleshy leaves. These puffy appendages act a water reservoir, allowing the plants to live in arid climates that may experience minimal rain. What their drought resistant physiology means for indoor gardeners is that succulents don’t require frequent watering and are able to survive even when you’ve forgotten about them for a while. This does not mean, however, that they don’t require certain essentials in order to flourish.
How to Water Your Indoor Succulents
Watering your plants, no matter what type of plant it is, is usually the most important factor that will determine if you plant lives or dies. Plants that don’t like a lot of water can be easily killed by overwatering and plants that do like water will shrivel and die if you forget about them for too long. Just because succulents don’t need to be watered frequently doesn’t mean that you can just water them however you like.
Overwatering succulents can cause root rot and they can eventually die if their root system is perpetually soaked. At the same time, they do need to stay hydrated. When it’s time to water them, give them a nice, deep watering but then let them dry out completely before you water them again. They can actually survive on just dew or mist but they do prefer more than that in order to thrive. You definitely do not need to water these guys daily. In their dormant period, which is typically the cooler months, you can water them even less often.
Provide Ample Sun
There are some species of succulents that do very well in low light but most varieties like to get quite a bit of sun. Succulents typically enjoy about 6 hours of full, direct sunlight per day so place them near a bright south or west facing window. If you don’t have ample sunlight available in your house you can purchase a grow light to provide them with a little boost. Or, if you aren’t too picky, just go with a species of succulent that does well in low light, such as the snake plant or the jade plant.
Use the Proper Soil
Drainage is incredibly important for succulents because they really do not like to sit in a pot full of stagnant, water soaked soil. Your best bet when it comes to potting soil is to use a potting mix made specifically for cacti and succulents. These special mixes are designed to be very well-draining yet still retain enough moisture to provide ample water to the roots. Succulent potting mixes will often contain a good deal of perlite and small gravel, or may even have some coarse sand mixed in. African Violet potting mix will work for succulents as well.
Choose the Right Container
To say it again, drainage is a must. Unless you’re the succulent whisperer and you can intuit the exact amount of water your plant needs you should choose a pot with drainage holes. Drainage holes are your back up plan for when you accidentally over water your plants because they’ll allow all that excess water to drain away from the roots. Glass jars and terrariums look great when they’re filled with succulents but if you want to give your plants their best chance at growing strong and healthy you’re better off with a nice, breathable terra cotta or ceramic pot.
If you’ve purchased your succulent from a nursery you’ll probably need to repot it into a slightly larger pot so it has more room to grow. Succulents don’t usually need as much repotting as other plants so as long as you choose something that provides it with ample space you should be able to leave it in that pot for quite awhile.
Watch for Pests
Pests aren’t often a problem for indoor succulents but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Fungal gnats, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites could take up residence on your succulent if given the chance. This opportunity is usually provided by bringing a new plant into your home that already has an infestation. To prevent any contamination of your other plants, place your new plant in a temporary quarantine and just watch it for a short time to be sure no little pests are trying to hitch a ride into your home.
Should some of these pests find their way in and become a problem you can usually save your plants with a little TLC. Mealy bugs, which look like little pieces of white fluff, can be washed off with a powerful spray of water or by using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Scale can also be removed with rubbing alcohol or you can simply scrape them off the plant. You’ll notice you have spider mites if you see any small spider webs forming on your plants but you can usually just wash them off by spraying your plants with water. If all else fails you might need to try some insecticidal soap to completely remove the infestation.
Signs Your Succulent is Unhealthy
Keeping a casual eye on your succulent is usually enough to tell that it’s content or that it’s in trouble and needs your help. Yellow, brown, transparent, or droopy leaves are all signs that your succulent is getting too much water. Shrivelled or dry and crispy leaves will let you know it’s not getting enough water. Brown, crisp leave might also mean your succulent is getting way to much hot, direct sunlight. Spindly stems that stretch up into an elongated shape or leaves that start trying to grow towards the sun is a major sign that you succulent needs more sunlight.
Until your plant actually dies, these problems are usually all fixable. Adjust your watering schedule, move your plant to a more suitable lighting situation, or repot it with fresh soil if it seems like it’s growing too big for its current home. Don’t worry if you see the lower leaves shrivelling up and dying, this is very normal and you can just pick them off. It’s definitely a problem if the newer, uppermost leaves are dying, in which case you may need to adjust the care you’re giving to your succulent.
It’s not really too difficult to care for succulents as long as they’re getting enough sun and you give them the right amount of water. Their soil can dry out completely before they’re watered again so you don’t need to keep a constant eye on their hydration. Succulents are pretty hardy little plants which makes them an excellent choice for beginners or for those who tend to kill everything they try to grow. Different species have different care requirements so make sure you read the plant’s label when purchasing to determine their sun and spacing needs.