How to Care for Succulents: Growing Succulents and Keeping Them Alive

how to grow succulents

Succulents are a large group of ornamental plants that have thick fleshy leaves. Most types of succulents adapt well to indoor environments and grow well in bright sunlight. Placed on a sunny windowsill, succulent plants can grow for many years with only minimal care. Succulents also thrive outdoors where some species can survive cold temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C) or as high as 90°F (32°C).

How to care for succulents: Place succulents where they get as much light as possible. Water thoroughly when the well-draining, loamy potting mix dries. Succulent plants thrive in temperatures between 65°F and 80°F (18°C – 27°C). Feed as often as once a month with a diluted balanced houseplant fertilizer during the growing season.

There are hundreds of species of plants that are in the class of succulents. The sheer variety of succulent species means that it’s difficult to describe them all. Some varieties can be as tall as giant cacti that grow to between 10 and 52 ft. (3 – 16 m). Many types of indoor succulents are small to medium-sized plants with fleshy, spiked leaves. One thing is familiar with all kinds of succulents—they love the sun and require little watering.

These drought-tolerant plants produce flowers. Even growing indoors, species of cacti and succulent plants bloom with dainty flowers on the ends of long stems. Types of flowering succulents include aloe vera, echeveria, jade plants, and some species of hoya. However, most people grow succulents indoors for their fleshy leaves and minimal care requirements.

Do Succulents Need Sun?

Succulents require about six hours of bright, indirect sunshine daily to thrive. Although some species of succulents can cope with a few hours of direct sunlight, most need filtered light. The best place to grow succulents in on a windowsill or in the brightest area of an office.

Some species of succulents can grow with low sunlight because they adapt to many indoor conditions. But remember, when it comes to caring for succulents, plenty of light is better than heat or water.

In this article, you will learn about the best care advice for growing succulents at home and in your garden. Find answers to your questions on caring for indoor succulent plants at the end of the care guide.

succulents need sun

Most succulents need about six hours of bright indirect light

How to Care for Succulents

Because succulents are so easy to care for, they are popular plants for succulent gardens or open terrariums. Even with occasional watering, succulents can survive growing in a bright spot in sandy soil. However, for these fleshy-leaved plants to thrive, it is crucial to follow a few tricks and tips on looking after succulents.

How to Water Succulent Houseplants

how to water succulents

Water your succulents only when the soil has dried out completely

Water succulents as often as the soil dries out. Succulents need regular watering to keep them alive. Every time you water the plant, give the soil a good drenching until it pours out the drainage holes. Then wait, however long as necessary until the soil dries again before giving it another soaking.

To know when it’s time to water your succulent, poke your finger in the soil—the soil should feel dry. Make sure that the soil at the drainage hole is also dry. Remember that the soak and dry method is the best way to water succulents and cacti.

Several factors affect how often you need to water indoor succulents. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to watering frequency:

  • Pot size—Larger pots hold moisture for longer than smaller ones. So, always grow succulents in the appropriate size of container to help keep them alive.
  • Type of pot—Unglazed clay and terracotta pots allow soil moisture to evaporate faster than from plastic or ceramic ones.
  • Potting soil—Light, aerated soil drains quicker and dries faster than denser soil with less inorganic material.
  • Climate—You need to water cacti and succulents more often in hot, arid climates than during winter.
  • Succulent species—Different species of succulent have different watering needs. For example, desert succulents are more drought-tolerant than other varieties of succulents.

The Best Potting Soil for Growing Succulents Indoors

succulent soil and potting mix

Grow your indoor succulents in well draining soil as they don’t require a lot of water

Succulents need to grow in sandy soil that dries quickly without staying soggy or damp. The ideal potting mix for succulents is one-part organic material and one-part perlite, coarse sand, or pumice. Another suitable combination would be a cactus substrate, which has crushed granite, bark, or small pebbles.

The perfect potting medium for succulents should hold just enough moisture to hydrate the roots. But, it should not be so damp that it puts the plant at risk of root rot or fungal diseases. The air pockets that inorganic materials create also help enough oxygen to circulate in the soil and keep your succulent alive.

Of course, the ideal potting soil for succulents needs to be in an appropriate pot. Succulents generally grow better in terracotta pots as they allow more moisture to evaporate. However, whatever type of container you use—plastic or terracotta—it must have drainage holes in the bottom.

Indoor Temperature for Succulent Plants

caring for succulents indoors

To care properly for your indoor succulents, grow them in an average room temperatures

Succulents thrive in average room temperatures between 65°F and 80°F (18°C – 27°C). As long as they are protected from intense heat or sudden fluctuations in temperature, you shouldn’t have to worry about temperatures indoors. Some species of succulents can grow in temperatures between 50°F and 55°F (10°C – 12°C).

Most types of succulents benefit from colder temperatures in winter. Remember, that in deserts—where many succulents grow outdoors—nighttime temperatures can plummet to around 0°F (-18°C). So, succulents are suitable for growing in a sunny outdoor rock garden.

Keeping some types of succulents alive in cooler indoor temperatures can be tricky. Cold temperature and high humidity can put the plants at risk of root rot.

Humidity for Indoor Succulents

growing succulents indoors

Succulents thrive in dry arid conditions with low humidity

Succulents don’t need high humidity to thrive. Their leaves are a storehouse of moisture, and they can survive in dry, arid conditions. Household air tends to lack humidity, so succulents are easy to grow at home. Dry air encourages moisture to evaporate quickly from the soil—just ideal for growing most succulent species.

In many cases, too much humidity is detrimental to succulent growth. A lack of air circulation, cold room temperatures, and high humidity are the worst conditions for succulents. Therefore, never mist succulent plants and keep them in a bright location where they enjoy moderate temperatures.

How Much Light do Succulents Need?

do succulents need sun or shade

For ideal growth, succulents prefer plenty of bright indirect light

Succulents need plenty of bright light—natural or artificial—to grow well. Most species of succulents can’t tolerate direct sunlight, so it’s vital to filter the light if the plants grow on a south-facing windowsill. Aim for about six hours of bright light daily for optimal succulent plant growth.

If you have an indoor succulent garden, you can keep it on an east-facing windowsill. The early morning sun helps to energize the plants for healthy growth. If you have your open succulent terrarium beside a west or south window, make sure it’s behind a sheer curtain to filter sunlight.

Some species of succulents are low-light houseplants. However, even in these conditions, growth won’t be ideal. You may notice signs that succulents don’t get enough light. For example, stretching towards light, slow growth, or pale leaves all happen due to poor lighting.

To keep succulents alive, they prefer sun to shade. However, too much direct sunlight also affects their growth. The intense sun’s rays can burn succulent leaves, causing brown spots to appear. In these cases, you need to trim the leaf to remove the damaged area.

Fertilizing Succulent Houseplants

How much to Fertilze Succulent houseplants

You can fertilize your indoor succulents once a month during the growing season

Succulents are not heavy feeders and only require light—if any—fertilization. If you decide to apply fertilizer, use a diluted, balanced fertilizer that is one-quarter strength. Fertilize monthly, or less frequently, during the growing season for optimal results. Don’t feed succulents during the winter months.

Generally, succulents are slow-growing plants. Therefore, a buildup of fertilizer minerals can affect their growth. Regular, thorough soaking can help to flush out residue chemicals. You should also flush the soil once a year to remove excess mineral salts. To do this, run water through the potting mix for two minutes and allow it all to drain.

Propagating Succulents

how to propagate succulents

Most succulents can be propagated by stem or leaf cuttings

Succulent propagation is extremely easy. Because there are such a wide variety of succulents, propagating them depends on the species. Some succulents propagate well with leaf or stem cuttings, whereas, with some, it’s best to separate the roots. Whatever type of succulent you grow at home, you can quickly grow new plants from cuttings.

Succulent propagation from plantlets—Some succulents such as mother of thousands produce plantlets—baby plants on the mother plant. To propagate these succulents, carefully remove the small “baby” plants and grow in an appropriate potting mix.

Succulent propagation from stem cuttings – Cut the succulent stems to the desired length with clean sharp pruners, and remove the lower leaves. Place the cuttings on a paper towel and let the stem heal off at the cut end for about 2 weeks or more before planting. A callus will be formed on the soft tissue and protect the cutting from bacterial infection. After new roots appear, plant the succulent in the appropriate potting mix.

Succulent propagation from leaf cuttings—With most succulent species, you can easily remove leaves to propagate them. After removing the leaves, place them on a paper towel or dry soil to let them dry out and grow roots. Replant in a pot to produce a new succulent plant.

Succulent propagation from plant division—Remove a large succulent from its pot. Gently ease sections of the root apart and plant in a new pot with fresh potting mix.

Repotting Indoor Succulent Plants

when to repot succulent houseplants

Repot your succulent every 2 years in the beginning of the growing season

As a general rule, repot succulents every two years. Repotting allows you to refresh the potting soil and also check for root rot. Transfer succulents to new containers just before the growing season starts. Just remember that, while most succulent plants start growing in spring, some begin in the fall.

Some signs that succulents need repotting include the following:

  • Roots poking out the holes
  • Slower than usual water drainage
  • Poor growth
  • The succulent shows signs of overwatering

To repot a succulent in a new pot, gently ease the plant from its current container. Shake the excess soil free from the roots and check for signs of root rot. Trim dead or decaying roots. Transfer to a new, larger pot that contains fresh potting soil.

Pests and Diseases That Can Affect Succulent Growth

Common pests that can infest any type of succulent are mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats, and scale. It’s essential to spot the signs of houseplant pests to eradicate them as quickly as possible. Use rubbing alcohol or a neem oil solution to get rid of succulent pests.

How to spot the signs of succulent pests:

  • Mealybugs—Small cotton-like growths on succulent leaves. Remove with rubbing alcohol.
  • Spider mites—These pests are difficult to detect, apart from the signs of webbing between leaves and stems.
  • Fungus gnats—Because gnats thrive in moist soil, only water your plant when the growing medium is completely dry.
  • Scale—These insects look like tiny brown spots on the thick fleshy leaves. Get rid of these pests by applying alcohol.

How to Care for Succulents Outdoors

caring for succulents outdoors

Succulents are excellent plants to grow in a rock garden or as border plants in your garden landscape. Even though most people think of succulents as heat-loving plants, they grow surprisingly well in cold temperatures—as long as they get enough indirect sunlight.

Here are some tips for growing succulents outdoors:

Light—Plant succulents in your backyard in a sunny spot that gets some shade throughout the day. Outdoor succulents tend to grow poorly in a completely shaded area or a north-facing garden.

Appropriate soil in a succulent garden—Succulents must grow in soil that drains well. To amend garden soil for succulents, dig in plenty of perlite, sand, or gravel to improve drainage.

How to water succulents outdoors—Succulents are plants that can survive weeks without water. However, you need to water them every so often. Water the soil until it’s moist to hydrate outdoor succulents properly. Then let the soil dry entirely for however long is necessary before watering again.

Outdoor temperature to grow succulents outside—Succulents can withstand temperatures down to 0°F (-18°C) at night. Depending on the species, succulents thrive in temperatures between 60°F and 80°F (15°C – 27°C).

FAQs About Growing Succulents at Home

how to care for succulents indoors

Are succulent plants toxic?

Most species of succulents are not poisonous to pets in your home. However, doctors from PetMD say that succulents, such as aloe vera, kalanchoe, jade plants, and euphorbia, could cause digestive upset if dogs or cats ingest the leaves. So, keep these types of succulents away from pets. (1)

Why is my succulent looking withered?

Not enough water causes wilting growth with succulents. The leaves will appear shriveled, weak, and may turn yellow. Even though succulents are fairly drought resistant, they need infrequent, thorough watering to thrive in all conditions—outdoors and indoors. To revive a withering succulent plant, give the plant a deep watering.

Why are my succulent leaves turning brown?

Intense heat or direct sunlight can turn the succulent’s leaves brown. Growing succulents on a south-facing window in summer can cause browning on parts of the leaves. Or, brown spots on the leaves could be a reason if the plant was growing near a radiator in winter.

Why are my succulent leaves curling?

Root rot due to overwatering or too much sun causes succulent leaves to curl down. Fortunately, it is easy to remedy these growing issues before the plant dies. Either water the plant only when the soil dries entirely or take out of direct sunlight until it recovers.

Do succulents flower?

Succulents flower indoors and outdoors under the right conditions. Generally, succulents need plenty of bright light to bloom. Many succulent varieties produce flowers from spring until summer. Other succulent species such as aloe vera, crassula, and Christmas cacti bloom in winter. Succulent varieties such as sempervivum die after blooming once.

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