Succulents are one of the easiest plants to grow.
The Succulent family is made up of virtually endless varieties of Sedums, Echeverias, Aloe, Aeomoniums, and Crassulas, all offering unique colors, textures and forms that can turn an ordinary container into a unique accent on your patio or window ledge. Cacti are also an extraordinary subset of the succulent family.
We love succulents in rock gardens, between patio pavers or in the crevices of rock walls and most of all, in succulent wreaths. But one of the easiest ways to grow and enjoy them throughout the year is in containers.
The beauty of succulents comes in their colors (wide ranging from chartreuse to deep crimson), texture and form (tight rosettes, trailing columns, flat paddled leaves and spiky, rounded, ruffled leaf forms and plant shapes) and low maintenance. A friend of the forgetful gardener, they are very forgiving when it comes to watering, with most preferring soil that nearly or completely dries out between waterings.
Succulents are most commonly found in extremely hot, dry climates. Thick, fleshy leaves, stems and roots enable the plants to preserve water and survive and thrive in these conditions. These same characteristics also make succulents perfect for interesting and architectural container gardens no matter the climate. In colder climates, containers can be brought in during the winter months. The same warm and dry indoor air that can stress other houseplants encourages succulents to thrive.
Choosing your container
Because succulents have such low water needs, containers that are small or shallow are ideal. Terra cotta or clay containers are an excellent choice. These materials are porous, allowing excess water to evaporate quickly through the sides of the container.
We love to plant up a series of shallow bowls or a shallow tray for a long table, stretch of counter or window ledge. Strawberry jars or multi-opening herb containers can also make interesting succulent gardens.
Make sure any container you use has excellent drainage.
Fast-draining succulent and cactus soil mix is ideal for container gardens. If you prefer to mix your own soil, use one part regular potting soil, one part peat and one part non-organic material such as perlite, crushed granite or small gravel. Soil should be crumbly and not form clumps.
Succulents are unusual in that they should not be watered immediately after transplanting. Place the container in a sunny spot. Wait a day or two and water lightly the first time. Thereafter, check plants weekly during growing season (spring and summer) and water thoroughly when the soil is completely dry.
During the cold days of late fall and winter when your plants go dormant, you can cut watering back to once every 2-3 weeks.
Succulents are more sensitive to overwatering than under watering. In fact, repeated overwatering will rot the roots of your plants, hands down the most common cause of plant failure.
When indoors succulents should be in a high light window, south or west is best. High light conditions are ideal for all succulents, however there can be some discoloration on leaves in the strong summer sun. If this is the case, make sure to diffuse the strongest direct sun with a shade or move your plants out of the direct sun, at least temporarily.
If your plants aren’t getting enough light, you’ll notice stretched or elongated stems with more spacing between leaves, a condition known as etoliation. Don’t give up on your plant. Simply give it more light and prune it back to its original shape.
When outdoors, most succulents will thrive in the summer sun. And surprising to some, they’ll even stand up to chilly evenings. These temperature fluctuations are actually common in their natural habitat where desert temps can swing from highs above 80 degrees during the day and down to 40s and 50s in the evening.
Only light fertilizing should take place during the growing summer season with a water-soluble fertilizer once per month. You’ll want to stop fertilizing completely during their winter dormant season.