Waltons guide to caring for succulents
Succulents are great for those who want to add more greenery in and around the home, or for those who don’t have a great track record with keeping plants alive.
The good thing is they don’t need a lot of care and attention to thrive on your windowsill - but for those who aren’t blessed with a green thumb, we’ve got all the essential things you need to be mindful of when caring for succulents.
Choose the right plants
There are some species of succulent that just aren’t suited to being grown indoors. Some of the more colourful varieties, such as those with reds, oranges, and purples, require direct sunlight, and more light than is available indoors.
Succulents that are naturally green, such as jade plant or aloe vera, will be the perfect place to start. These varieties should be easy enough to care for indoors, and will flourish under your care. Try to space them out properly, too, as they won’t like being crowded together with no space to breathe.
Choose the right soil
Succulents don’t like waterlogged soil. If they stand in too much water for too long, they will more than likely rot and die. They don’t like rich soils - choose a soil that provides good drainage and good airflow for the roots.
Regular potting soil or soil from your garden won’t do, as this will likely be too rich for the plants. Opt for a special cactus soil or a mixed potting soil with pumice, sand, or perlite. You’ll want to make sure that your succulent has a well-draining soil mix so as to look after it properly.
Choose the right pot
Just as the soil is important for keeping your succulents happy, choosing the right pot for them is equally as crucial. Make sure to choose a pot with drainage holes so excess water can escape through the bottom. Pots with little to no drainage will require less watering, in case the roots become waterlogged - these pots will find it difficult for soil to dry out completely.
By choosing a pot with a drainage hole, you can make sure that excess water drains away from the roots of your succulent, therefore preventing rot, and it will also provide more airflow for the roots.
Choose a sunny spot
While succulents can survive for long periods of time without water, sunlight will still be critical for ensuring your plant can thrive. Choose the sunniest windowsill you have available; succulents generally need around 6 hours of sunlight a day.
You should turn the pot occasionally, too, to make sure that your plant is getting sufficient light. It will start to grow towards the sunlight over time, so may eventually lean over the side of the pot. By turning the pot you should be able to prevent this, as well as ensure that the whole plant is getting the sunlight it needs, rather than one concentrated spot of it.
Get the watering right
They can survive for long periods of time without water, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t water them at all. It’s better to give them a good soaking, until water drains out the bottom of the pot, than to dribble a little bit of water in every now and again.
In their native habitat, succulents and cacti are used to getting torrential rain in the desert, and then nothing at all. By only using a small amount of water more frequently, the root system will be much weaker. Using the soak and dry method will give the plants the kind of watering that they’re used to, and will help them thrive. Soak the soil, and leave it to dry out completely before watering in the same method again.
You should make sure to water directly onto the soil and not the plant itself. Any water that stays on the plant itself could lead to rot setting in. Avoid using a spray bottle, as misting could cause brittle roots and mouldy leaves.
Remember to fertilise them
They will be a lot less maintenance than more tropical plants, but you should still aim to fertilise your succulent at least once a year to ensure it has the best possible chance to grow. Aim to do this around springtime, when it starts to grow again - your succulent won’t absorb any nutrients you give it during the wintertime when it’s mostly dormant.
Choose a fertiliser that is water-soluble, and water it down to half the strength that the packet suggests, before adding it to the soil.
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Lead image: Gingagi via Getty Images.