So you’ve killed them again, huh? Here, 5 of the most common mistakes succulent newbies are making, and how to get those beauties to thrive.
1. Placing Them in a Poorly Lit Area
The natural light of a plant’s native habitat is perhaps the most difficult environmental variable to emulate indoors. For common houseplants, we have an easier time—many are native to tropical jungles and accustomed to the shifting periods of shade and sun that happen in your home . But if you put a plant that’s used to experiencing a full 12 hours out in the broiling hot sun on an east-facing sill, you’re begging for failure.
2. Not Watering Them Enough
The Chihuahuan Desert gets a little over 9 inches (22.5 cm) of rain annually—a drop in the bucket compared to what the verdant landscapes most of us call home receive. In the desert, however, when it rains, it pours. To make your own desert-dweller happy, try to emulate the rainfall patterns native to its home habitat. Don’t treat your cacti with a trickle, turn on the taps and let loose a deluge. All succulents benefit from a complete soaking, until water comes out of the bottom of the pot. For succulents, wait until the soil is bone dry to water again.
3. Using a Standard Potting Soil
Most potted plants come in a standard soil mix that works for almost every kind of plant, from ferns to fiddle-leaf figs. The problem: Succulents are designed to withstand one of the most extreme environments on planet earth, so standard potting soil just won’t cut it. Once you get your succulent baby home, change its soil to a desert-dweller mix, combining half potting soil with something inorganic like perlite. This super well draining, low-nutrient soil will work for most succulents.
4. Crowding Too Many in One Container
Succulents tend to come packed into adorable little dishes, all crammed together cheek by jowl. There aren’t many plants that like this arrangement, including succulents. Overcrowding is one of the best ways to encourage mold and insect infestations. The second issue is that, although succulents do very well getting by on slim pickings, they still need food and water, and too much competition means they’ll probably miss out. If your succulents arrive in a crowded arrangement, pluck them out carefully and give them each their own spacious mini desert dune.
5. Growing Unrealistic Varieties
I know it’s really hard to resist growing Saguaros indoors, but please don’t. Some wild things just aren’t meant to be tamed, no matter how pretty their flowers or beguiling their form. Stick instead to the tough little cookies that will happily accept the windowsill as their home sweet home. Crassula is a good genus to explore if you’re working with indoor conditions, as is Sansevieria. The Mammillaria cacti are good picks if you’re looking for a prickly plant companion.
- Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
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