The Complete Guide To Succulent Care
OCT 01, 2021
When it comes to plants that are beautiful, easy to care for, and lush, there is simply no match for an elegant succulent. The ratio of work to reward is tremendous, meaning that just a little bit of work makes for a stunning addition to whichever space you want it in.
Succulents do not require much care to thrive in nearly any environment, but with this complete guide to succulent care, you will be an expert when it comes to the ins and outs of this drought-tolerant plant family in no time.
Due to how easy succulents are to care for, many people are interested in what this gorgeous plant could provide in their lives. Even those who generally do not consider themselves to be plant people or to have a particularly green thumb can find so much to love about succulent ownership.
Where To Begin
For a succulent truly anyone can reap the many rewards of, Lula’s Garden has a variety of lovely options to choose from. Whether you are looking for a single succulent or an original, deluxe, or premium succulent garden, or perhaps the irresistible uniqueness of a grafted cactus, there is something there for everyone.
All plants from Lula’s Garden also come in a stunning ivory box that functions as a perfect planter for the first several months of your succulent’s life. If you are looking for a simple introduction into the wonderful world of succulents or just a beautiful addition to your home, this is the place to find it.
Healthy, properly cared for succulents present as plump, full, and beautifully green. From their robust stems to their luxurious leaves (variations of succulents that have leaves, that is), these plants will enliven your home, office, desk, or any other space, bringing levity and joy that it was lacking previously.
You read that correctly; there are in fact variations of succulents that do not have leaves. There are many of them, actually. This is because succulents are one of many plant families, and plants only need certain characteristics to be classified as succulents. So once you have established that a succulent is the right plant for you, you can find even more personalized options when considering which exact kind is just perfect for your lifestyle. While there are some key differences to these plants within the succulent family, they all share a simplicity in their care. Then it just comes down to what other benefits you are seeking from your houseplant.
Having houseplants not only takes a room from good to great, but they also have an abundance of health benefits. There are both mental advantages and physical advantages to having flora around, meaning that plants are good for one’s overall health. Just some of their many benefits include:
- Lowering your levels of stress.
- Significantly improving your mood.
- Possibly clarifying a room’s air and adding to its pure, natural oxygen.
- Making us feel more connected to nature.
- Potentially aiding in pain relief efforts.
- Elevating someone’s sense of both focus and productivity.
Clearly, the number of reasons to have a plant is nearly endless. When you consider how easy succulents are to care for, the list of reasons grows even more. It is a simple endeavor, but there are best practices that will result in a healthy, happy succulent.
This article will give you everything you need to keep your succulent thriving for a long time to come. That said, before we can get into the nitty-gritty of how to care for a succulent, we must first understand what they are.
What Makes a Plant a Succulent?
In order for a plant to be deemed a member of the succulent plant family, it has to have a certain set of traits. These traits are primarily centered around the method by which these plants store water.
Succulents absorb all of the water they are given within themselves to be accessed whenever they are in need of rehydration. It is actually because of this water preserving method that these plants earn their name. These plants store water in their leaves or stems, making them appear quite plump. In short, they appear “succulent.”
This unique water-storing system is what makes succulents survive in harsh conditions where other plants may not be able to. At the same time, this robustness makes them the perfect houseplant for beginners and experts alike.
What Is the Difference Between a Cactus and a Succulent?
As we have covered, there are a multitude of different succulents out there. A large subgroup of the succulent is the mighty, majestic cactus. There can be a bit of discourse about what exactly the difference is when it comes to succulents and cacti, but the consensus is fairly straightforward. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cacti are but a subgroup of the larger category of succulents.
Most Popular Kinds of Succulents
The many wonderful attributes of succulents make them a wildly popular option in the world of houseplants, and their popularity is growing more and more by the day. However, since there are so many different kinds of the plant, you are guaranteed to find one right for you.
A wide variety of succulents include haworthia, echeveria, sempervivum, opuntia, sedum, crassula ovata, euphorbias, snake plants, panda plants, aeonium, graptopetalum, crown of thorns, kalanchoe tomentosa, agaves, and more. Can you believe that’s just a small sample of the types of succulents out there?
While going by what kinds of succulents are most sought-after may not be the right strategy for you to find your dream plant, it is always helpful to get a gist of what is popular and why.
As we have mentioned, cacti are a very special and noteworthy subgroup of the succulent plant family. These plants have plump stems where they store their water and a large network of roots underground where they absorb any and all water. Cacti do not have leaves, so in order to store their water within their body in the way that is necessary to be considered a succulent, they house moisture in their stem.
Instead of leaves, cacti generally have spines or scales to them. While their lack of leaves may seem strange, it is actually a seriously important biological advantage. As cacti have developed specifically to survive in harsh desert conditions where water is hard to come by, their spines or scales do not lose water through evaporation.
Meanwhile, regular leaves like the ones found on the majority of succulent plants lose a lot of water through evaporation. So their leaves are an aesthetic advantage, making them lovely in a home or non-desert environment, but their presence would not be conducive to an especially arid landscape.
That is far from the only advantage of having spines, though. Predators are strongly put off from even attempting to eat cacti in order to avoid the sharpness of their spines. This is a good thing for the cactus too since their significant water reserves would make them an appealing meal to the desert wildlife.
While cacti may not have to worry about predators within your home (other than the odd curious cat or friendly dog), the many traits that they have developed to help them survive makes them that much easier to care for. They are deeply self-sufficient plants, so like other succulents they only require a minimal amount of care.
If you thought choosing aloe vera would leave you with only one kind of plant, you would be wrong. Actually, there are over 300 species of aloe vera. Many people flock toward this plant because the gel produced within the plant has soothing properties.
Aloe vera gel is often used to treat sunburns and other skin irritations. Being able to obtain this gel straight from the source is a large pull for people, making this plant one of the most popular varieties and adaptations of succulents available.
Next on our list of popular succulents is the lovely jade plant. This variety of succulent is so well-loved because of its unique aesthetic. With sturdy stems attached to each perfectly oval leaf, a jade plant is a striking addition to any home.
These plants grow about two inches per year when cared for properly. While there are many advantages to the jade plant, it is crucial to note that they must not be kept anywhere around pets. The jade plant is toxic to both cats and dogs. If this is a concern for your household, your jade plant should be kept in a separate room, or better yet not in the house at all.
The noble agave plant is especially lush and colorful, easily cementing its place as one of the most popular succulents available. Another reason that they are so widely sought-after is the many different kinds of agave plants out there. From big to small, ones perfect for an outdoor landscape and those meant to be houseplants, there is essentially no limit on the many variations of agave plants out there.
The differences do not stop there, though. There can even be some changes in the plants’ colors depending on the climate of the area they inhabit. Like the jade plant, the gel within an agave plant is toxic to pets, but it is also toxic to humans.
How Much Water Should You Give Your Succulent?
Though there are so many different kinds of succulents to consider, on average you should be watering your succulent plant every seven to 10 days. As for the amount of water to give your succulent, each plant from Lula’s Garden comes thoughtfully packaged complete with a helpful eyedropper tool. Using this eyedropper, you can give your succulent two to four full amounts. Please note that this is specifically for the care of your succulents from Lula’s Garden.
To fill your dropper with water, simply place the tip of it within a small body of water. Then, squeeze the top of the dropper to allow the reservoir to fill completely. Once it is entirely full, place the tip of your dropper near the succulent’s stem and carefully squeeze the tool’s top.
This will allow the water to be released onto the soil of the succulent. By dropping the water near your plant’s stem, you help it absorb the moisture faster. Do not worry about the succulents not taking in the moisture, as the water will sink past the pebbles and soil to reach the roots.
If you are still experiencing a bit of trepidation or if you are feeling unsure of whether your succulent is ready to be watered, there is another easy rule to follow. Feel the soil around your plant. Is it wet or dry?
If the soil still has some moistness to it, come back in a few days to reassess. For now, though, no watering is required on your part. If the soil is dry, it is time to give the succulent more water.
Be Careful Not to Underwater Your Plant
All plants need water to survive and thrive, and though succulents are low-maintenance in their care, they are no exception. Underwatering your succulent can harm the plant significantly, as it is being depleted of one of the few things it needs. Luckily, there are a few ways to tell that your succulent is in need of more water other than just feeling for the hydration of the soil.
Signs That Your Succulent Is Underwatered
Your succulent will give you many signs that indicate its well-being and overall health, so all you have to do is pay attention and know how to correctly interpret them. One of their clearest signals of how they are doing is in their leaves.
Look at them and assess them closely. How do they look? If they seem plump, this means that they are full of water, and are likely not in urgent need of rehydration. On the other hand, they could appear quite wrinkled or shriveled. If that is the case, it means that there is no moisture left in your plant’s leaves, and it, therefore, needs to be watered.
In the case that you still require a little more proof that your succulent is ready to be watered, the next step would be to gently feel the leaves. Do so carefully, especially since the plant may be in a somewhat fragile state right now.
If the leaves bend easily to your touch, it probably needs more water. If the plump leaves maintain their shape and angle despite you though, it likely has all the water it needs for now.
What Can You Do To Help Your Underwatered Succulent?
If you have looked at the signs and have now determined that your succulent is in need of water, there is thankfully a very simple solution: water it. Fight the urge to give it more water than usual, as this can then send the plant in the opposite direction of being overwatered, which is also not a healthy state (more on that later).
Give your plant its usual amount of required water, and then be on a more regular watering schedule from that point on. Check the succulent as you pass by to see how it seems to be doing.
Be Careful Not to Overwater Your Plant
Just as there are distinct disadvantages and possible harm that can be done to a succulent by underwatering it, overwatering can be equally as dangerous. In fact, it can be more difficult to fix an overwatered plant than an underwatered one, depending on how long it has been in need of added moisture.
This is why it is so crucial not to overcorrect and water your succulent too much. It will let you know when it needs more water by the state of its soil, stem, and leaves. Similarly, those parts of the plant will also inform you that it has been overwatered.
Signs That Your Succulent Is Overwatered
Again, your first go-to when considering if your succulent is overwatered or not is to turn to the soil surrounding it. If the dirt is moist, the plant is doing well as is. If the soil is entirely dry, it is in need of more water.
If the soil is overly wet, then it may have been overwatered. If this is the case, it is best to give it a few days and see if the plant healthily absorbs the water. If it does not appear to be absorbing the water, it may be best to take some other precautions.
Next, see if your plant is changing color. Underwatered plants generally will not change their hue, but overwatered ones often do. Is there any odd or new coloration to the leaves of your plant? If so, your plant may have too much moisture.
Next, go ahead and feel the leaves while considering their texture and weight. Healthy succulent leaves are plump and firm, but if you feel leaves that seem nearly squishy in texture, your plant has likely been overwatered.
If left unchecked, your succulent being overwatered can lead to a variety of ailments. If there is too much water surrounding the stem, it can lead to root rot which is awful for a plant’s health. Like we mentioned, caring for an underwatered plant can often be more simple than caring for one that has been overwatered, but there are still some steps that can be taken to help the plant get through this.
What Can You Do To Help Your Overwatered Succulent?
At this point, caring for your plant is primarily about damage control and mitigating the harm that may have already occurred. It can be surprisingly easy to overwater a succulent. Since they are so simple to take care of, it can often feel like there is more to be done.
This feeling leads to an urge to continue tending to it, causing overwatering to eventually set in. Know that succulents are very self-sufficient, robust plants. They are built to survive. That said, if you are now in a situation with an overly hydrated succulent, there are some steps that you should quickly take to potentially lessen the negative lasting impacts.
The first step is to place your succulent in a place where it gets as much indirect sunlight as it needs. You want to avoid direct sunlight at this point. Leave it alone and allow it to soak up the sun’s rays. Hopefully, this will cause the soil to dry out, alleviating some of the stress put on the plant due to the abundance of water with which it was inundated.
Come back in a little while and feel the soil yet again. If it is drier, this is likely working and the plant is starting to bounce back. If the color on the leaves is returning to its usual shade, this is also an excellent sign.
If the soil is still just as wet and the succulent’s leaves are the same odd hue as before, it is time to try something different. Now, carefully remove the plant from its current overly wet soil and place it in a planter with fresh, dry soil.
You can use the same planter as before, but make sure that you have taken the time to clean out all remnants of the overly hydrated soil before putting in new dirt. Also ensure that this pot has proper drainage holes, as adequate drainage is crucial to the continued well-being of a succulent.
When removing the plant from its former pot, treat it incredibly gently. It is likely in a more delicate state than it ever has been before, and its roots could be on the verge of rotting. Take care to keep as many of the roots intact as possible, as they will be crucial in whether or not the plant does well in the refreshed soil.
It is also worth considering what kind of soil you used to house your succulent previously, and what kind you will be using going forward. Succulents generally do not do their best in regular potting soil or potting mix, but instead thrive with mixes specific to succulents or cacti, as they are crafted with your specific plant’s needs in mind.
If this still does not work, and the succulent does not seem to be taking well to its new environment, there is still an option you can take. At this point, it is probably best to use trimmings from the roots and leaves to start fresh. Plant those trimmings into dry soil with pots containing drainage holes, and let new and healthy plants begin to sprout.
The Amount of Water Your Succulent Needs Varies by the Season
Another crucial factor to consider when it comes to correctly watering your succulent is the current season, climate, and temperature. All of these come into play to affect the total amount of water your plant will need.
During some seasons, your succulent will require a fair bit more water, while in others it will not need nearly as much moisture. Being aware of the season and how it can affect the growth cycle of your plant is an integral aspect of succulent care.
Winter is the time of the new year, meaning that it may be a period of growth for people. This is not at all the case when it comes to our succulent counterparts. In fact, it is absolutely normal and often to be expected for these plants to go through a time of dormancy during the winter.
Due to the cold climate, succulents go into survival mode. This means that the plant will deliberately slow its growth substantially in order to stay healthy. By holding onto the limited water and resources it has during the winter rather than using them for no reason, it ensures safe passage into months that will be more fruitful in terms of growth.
The succulent’s lack of growth during this time means that its water needs will fall significantly. Whereas in hotter months with a lot of growth it could require very consistent watering, in the winter your plant may only need to be watered a few times over the course of the entire season.
Always check the state of the soil as well as your plant’s stem and leaves to see if it is in need of more water, or if it is good as it is. It can be easy to think you are doing the right thing during the winter by watering it as consistently as always, but instead, this can result in accidental overwatering. Pay attention to your plant and its needs, and your succulents will get through the winter just fine.
Spring and summer will make up the vast majority of your plant’s growing season. Especially in the spring, the succulent will likely experience a great deal of growth. After all, it has been saving its energy and resources throughout the bulk of the winter, and now it is ready to expand its beautiful flora. Your succulent will need much more water now than it did during the wintertime, so you will be closer to the every seven to 10 days schedule.
The summer is also a time of growth and abundance for your succulent, but if it gets too hot then it may go into a period of mini-dormancy. Like in the winter, this is done to preserve resources. If it is especially hot, your succulent will require more water to stay hydrated, just like people.
Again, the only way to be entirely sure of when to give your succulent more water is to feel its soil and check the quality of its stem and leaves. You should likely check on your succulents more often during the summer than in other months, as the heat can result in a change in the plant’s needs relatively quickly.
As the tremendously hot months of summer wind down into the fall, your succulent will need less water. At this point, the plant is getting ready to transition into winter dormancy and will start to preserve more moisture.
Due to the cooler temperature, your succulent also does not need to use as much water to hydrate itself. Check on your plant often as it makes this transition, as that is the only way to make sure it is getting everything it needs.
How Much Sunlight Does a Succulent Need?
Next to watering, having a good daily dose of sunlight is the most important thing to keep a succulent happy and healthy. Generally speaking, most varieties of succulents thrive when given access to the sun for about half of the day, or around six hours.
Keep in mind this amount can vary depending on the plant, its hydration level, the quality of the sunlight, and the season, so pay close attention to your plant to understand its needs and how to care for them.
Keep the Plant in Indirect Sunlight
Just like how humans can get nasty sunburns, the same is true for succulents. If they are placed in sunlight that is too direct, their leaves can turn brown and become damaged. If this damage is especially severe, it can mean the end of the plant. If the damage is not too bad, simply trim the affected leaves and learn that that spot is likely not the right one for the longevity of your plant.
Instead, Lula’s Garden suggests that you are mindful about the specific spot that you put your succulent. Find a place near a window or natural light source, but not directly in front of it. If your plant is in need of more light, you will notice its leaves begin to grow in the direction of the sun. If this occurs, you can move your plant to a spot with slightly more direct light.
Signs of a Succulent That Has Not Gotten Enough Sun
Similar to if your plant is getting too much or not enough water, you will be able to see if a succulent is getting enough sunlight based on its physical attributes. As always, pay attention to the color of the leaves and stems. Know what is normal for your plant so that you can quickly notice the moment anything seems off. Catching any issues early is the best way to right the course of your succulent, and bring it back to full health.
If your succulent’s leaves begin to turn a sickly yellow color, this is probably because it is in need of more sunlight. If this is the case, either move your succulent to a space with better lighting or give it access to light for a longer period of the day.
Make these changes and determine if your plant seems to be getting better. Are its leaves returning back to their normal, healthy green shade? If so, know you are doing something right. If not, continue to give it more natural light.
Signs of a Succulent That Has Gotten Too Much Sun
On the other hand, it is also possible that a succulent can receive too much sun. Similar to under versus overwatering, receiving too much sun can often be harder for a plant to recover from than receiving too little.
With prolonged sun exposure or exposure to too much full sun, a succulent can receive a sunburn that can do some serious damage to the plant. Succulents prefer temperatures ranging between 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so move it to different spots based on the temperature. Your plant may be even more vulnerable to sun damage if it is new or a baby, so be aware of the age of your plant, the climate, and the location of the sun’s rays.
Conversely, one of the biggest causes of browning succulents is a form of sunburn. Just as people can experience sun damage, so can succulents. This is why we recommend putting your plant in a place where it is sure to receive all the sunlight it needs but is not receiving the rays straight-on.
During the summer or especially hot days, it’s a good practice to give your plants more shade than usual. For the most part, succulents thrive in temperatures ranging from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so try to keep conditions within that range. New or baby plants can take in sun damage especially easily, so always be mindful of the sun and how it can affect your garden.
Where You Put Your Succulent Should Potentially Vary by the Season
Since succulents do so well in temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees, it stands to reason that they would thrive more during seasons that stay within that range. There are still things we as plant owners can do to help our succulents through especially hot times, however.
During the unforgivingly hot summer months, be sure to move your plant to a spot with a sufficient amount of shade. This is integral so that your plant does not take in any sun damage. During the cold winter when the days are shorter and there is less sunlight, keep your plants out for longer. This will allow them to still receive enough light to stay healthy. Be aware of bright light and low light situations, and how they impact your succulence.
When and How Do You Replant Your Succulent?
An inevitable part of any healthy and thriving succulent’s life cycle is that it will require eventual repotting. This occurs when your plant has outgrown its current planter, so this is actually a good thing! Needing to be replanted means that you have done an excellent job caring for your succulent, and it is growing because of your efforts.
Boxes from Lula’s Garden are also your succulent’s first planter, making it as beautiful as it is convenient. However, as time goes on your succulent may very well outgrow its original planter. At this point, it is time to relocate your plant into a larger pot with sufficient drainage holes.
Proper drainage becomes crucial at this point in your succulent’s life, as it is growing more and more by the day. Drainage will help prevent your plant from becoming overwatered, keeping it healthy and strong.
Repotting your succulent is also an excellent opportunity to consider a few factors about its environment. What kind of soil are you using, and is there a top layer? Have you included any fertilizer that will help the succulent grow?
Replanting is the time to find a potting mixture made specifically for succulents or cacti, and adding a top layer of pumice can help your plant to do even better in the months and years to come. It can also be helpful to add an agent that will fertilize your plant, expediting its growth and keeping it healthy.
In order to successfully repot your plant, soak the garden’s pebbles in water for roughly five to 10 minutes. At this point, the pebbles should be loose and easily removable. The process of removing the plant can sometimes cause some soil to spill, so repot in a place that is easy to clean. To make sure your plant continues to grow strong, put your plant into a new pot filled with either succulent or cactus mix soil.
How Should You Trim Your Succulent?
Though it could seem counterproductive at first, trimming your succulent can actually help it to grow healthier, quicker, and larger than it would have otherwise.
Trimming a succulent does not have to be a scary or difficult task. Again, remember that succulents are robust plants that want to survive. You are helping them thrive, and they will respond accordingly.
Use scissors that are sterile and sharp to avoid contamination and unnecessary cutting. Be careful and deliberate in your trimming, only taking off what is necessary. When you are done, feel confident that your plant is healthier than it was before, all because of your efforts.
A Comprehensive Guide to Succulent Success
Caring for a succulent is a rewarding endeavor, and it is sure to give back to you all the care it receives multiple times over. These easy-to-do steps cover all of the main requirements when it comes to owning a succulent, so as long as you follow it as a guide, you and your plant will have a wonderful partnership. By being mindful of your plant’s needs, it will thrive and add to your space for a long time to come.