So you have killed them again, huh? Here are 5 of the most common mistakes succulent newbies make 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 challenging environmental variable to emulate indoors. Of course, we have an easier time with common houseplants. Many are native to tropical jungles and accustomed to the shifting periods of shade and sun in your home. But if you put a plant used to experiencing a full 12 hours out in the broiling hot sun on an east-facing sill, you are 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 desert-dweller happy, emulate the rainfall patterns native to its home habitat. Do not 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 plant, from ferns to fiddle-leaf figs. The problem: succulents are designed to withstand one of the most extreme environments on Earth, so standard potting soil will not cut it. Once you get your succulent home, change its soil to a desert-dweller mix, combining half-potting soil with something inorganic like perlite. This 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, crammed together cheek by jowl. There are not 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 will probably miss out. If your succulents arrive in a crowded arrangement, pluck them out carefully and give them their own spacious mini desert dune.
5. Growing Unrealistic Varieties
We know it is hard to resist growing Saguaros indoors, but please do not. Some wild things are not meant to be tamed, no matter how pretty their flowers are 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 work with indoor conditions, as is Sansevieria. The Mammillaria cacti are good picks if you are looking for a prickly plant companion.
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