We need a little more low-maintenance in our lives. For this reason, and so many others, we love succulents. Not to mention adding one (or more) to any space instantly adds modern style.
Let’s get this commonly asked question out of the way first: are cactus succulents or succulents, cactus or….? It’s always helped us to remember that succulents are a big umbrella category, and one type of plant to fall under that umbrella is cactus. So, all cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus.
Ok, let’s get down to creating indoor arrangements, one of our favorite planting activities.
Choose a container
Terra cotta and clay are popular because they’re porous, which helps water evaporate quickly. That’s extra important for succulents because they store water in their fleshy leaves and can rot from overwatering.
But you’re not limited to terra cotta and clay containers, as long as you make sure that 1) they have decent drainage or 2) you water sparingly* to control the amount of moisture your smaller succulents get.
Some of the options we gravitate toward? Small wooden crates or trugs, unique ceramic bowls or cups, small galvanized steel buckets or troughs and rustic urns. Really, the sky’s the limit here and the container can really dictate the overall style and feel of your planting.
* We’d consider once every two weeks in dormant fall and winter and when you have little to no drainage. You can even use a spray bottle, but we’d recommend spraying under the leaves to keep them from becoming spotty or rotting.
Choose your succulents
This is the fun part. There are so, so many to choose from and because succulents have similar light and water requirements, you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Our selection changes weekly, but you’ll normally find a variety of Echeveria, Jade, Stonecrop, Sedum, Haworthia, Spurges, Euphorbia, Aloe Vera, Kalanchoe and Cactus.
Mix up the textures, colors, shapes and sizes or keep them sleek and simple.
Give yourself some space to spread out what you have and to decide on the look you’re going for. If you don’t have a lot of space, consider potting up your succulents at the Altum’s Potting Bar. A lot of people love it because not only can you grab something if you’re missing it (we never seem to buy enough to make a container look satisfyingly full when we get home), you can make the mess and we’ll clean it up.
Start with a fast-draining succulent and cactus mix or create your own with one part regular potting soil, one part peat and one part non-organic material like perlite, crushed granite or small gravel. These rough materials give your succulent room for drainage.
Handle with care, being sure to cradle the plant under the sometimes-delicate leaves or fleshy parts. With cactus, we’d recommend gloves. Those tiny spikes are tough to get out and can be painful for a day or two.
Start in the middle with one of your larger plants. Dig a little hole, cradle your plant under the leaves, and place the stem and roots in the hole, covering with dirt as you go to give it stability.
From there, use your finger or a pencil to make tiny holes for the smaller succulents. You can pack them in tightly so you don’t see any of the soil, but give yourself a little space to water so everything doesn’t run off the leaves.
Remember to fill with added soil as you plant to give each plant a secure spot for roots to take hold. If you get soil on the top of the plants, just gently blow or brush it off.
Water & Light
You’ve probably been taught to give your plants a good soak after planting or transplanting. Not with succulents, though. Give them a few days to get acclimated, then water lightly. After that, only water when the soil is completely dry to the touch, most likely every one to two weeks.
High light is the key, and south or west-facing windows are best because the rays of the sun are not quite so direct and intense at the height of summer (in that case, you can move them temporarily to get them out of the strongest sun).
You’ll know if your succulents aren’t getting enough light. They’ll get leggy with more space between leaves. It’s called etoliation and it can be corrected. Prune it back a bit and move it to a spot with a little more light.
Watch for more information and how-tos on succulents coming soon and in the Altum’s Planting Resource Center year round. You’ll find Succulent themed Make & Take workshops and can sign up online. Plus, visit the garden center any time for a full and fantastic selection of hand-selected premium succulent varieties.