Succulents have different needs than most other plants. Here are the most common mistakes when growing succulents and how to avoid them.
The biggest mistake people make with succulents is overwatering them. Waterlogged roots rot, the stem becomes squishy, and leaves fall off. On the surface, your succulent may look okay, until one day you find that your lower leaves have gone slimy and black. If any of your leaves look yellow, translucent, or slimy, you may be overwatering. Succulent roots are very sensitive, and are super susceptible to root rot, so be careful with your watering habits! Most succulents only need to be watered once every 1-2 weeks. When they're actively growing—which for most kinds is spring and summer—drench the soil once a week. When they're dormant—usually in fall and winter—do so once a month. It's best to let their soil dry out completely before watering again!
2. Using the Wrong Container
Succulents need well draining soil! They also need well-draining containers! Containers with no drainage holes typically retain far too much water for succulents (and are also susceptible to overheating which brews bacteria), and your plants are far less likely to do well in these. So, while you may love the idea of repurposing that galvanized steel bucket as a planter, be sure to drill holes in the bottom first (or be prepared to deal with many potential issues!) You'd be best with wood, terra cotta, or hypertufa containers that can easily breathe.
3. Using the Wrong Soil
The first thing you need to know is that succulent roots do not get water from direct contact. Rather, they absorb the water molecules in the air. This is why having a succulent sitting in sopping wet soil is so problematic and makes the plant rot– your roots don't suck water up as readily, and your soil can stay wet for much longer! This could lead to a whole host of problems, from plant gnats, to mold. Succulents typically don't do well in conventional garden soil, unless you're very rarely water. You'll want a well draining soil. You can buy a succulent mix at a garden center, but you can always mix your own as well!
4. Trying to Squeeze Too Many in One Space
Succulent arrangements are gorgeous, but they're really best as temporary decoration! While succulents can take some "squeezing" better than most plants, at a certain point, close becomes too close, and they reach a size threshold in which they can no longer compete for nutrients! If you have a jam packed succulent arrangement, and you find that some plants are withering or dying away, it maybe time for some separation.
5. Keeping Them in a Windowless Room
When succulents are indoors it's often hard for them to get enough sunlight. They generally need about 6 hours a day. This can be hard to achieve from a cubicle or bathroom, so if you want to have a succulent in these locations, its best to use other methods of getting your plants enough light, such as putting them outside or in a bright window for the weekend, or investing in grow lights! Remember, these are naturally desert plants, and deal with some of the sunniest and driest environments on the planet.
6. Fertilizing Improperly
A common succulent faux-pas is the idea that they don't need fertilizer! Like any other plant, they need a variety of macro and micro-nutrients to survive. While they get along just fine without it, sometimes a bit of fertilizer can be the key to having lush and green plants.
- Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
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