Succulents have seen a revival in popularity in the last few years, but it is not uncommon for some people to struggle to keep them alive. And we think we know why; they’re often marketed as extremely low-maintenance. So, people pick one up, take it home, and never get any information about how to care for their new succulent friend correctly.
Succulents are considered relatively easy plants to take care of because they’re very drought-resistant. But, they do still have specific environmental and care requirements, and if those needs aren’t met, they tend to stretch out and eventually die. Here are a few tips for succulent maintenance in Powell River.
What Environment Do Succulents Need?
If you’re wondering what sort of maintenance any type of plant needs, your best guideline is to think about where it lives in the wild. For succulents, that’s generally in desert conditions. In other words, they thrive in locations with lots of hot sun, dry air, sandy soil, and very little rain. So how can you recreate that environment at home?
- Use specific succulent or cactus soil formulated to drain quickly after watering. Pot them in a relatively small or shallow container with suitable drainage holes, and set a saucer underneath their container.
- Find your plant a sunny spot, preferably near a south-facing window, where they can get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. A west-facing window may also work. If you don’t have a window, they’re going to need to be supplemented with grow lights—but be warned, succulents can struggle without real sunlight.
- Develop a consistent watering schedule. It might seem like rain happens randomly in nature, but it’s actually on a pretty consistent schedule and delivers a fairly consistent amount of water. For desert plants, that might mean anything from once per month to every six months. Different succulents from different areas of the world have different water needs, so do some research to find out what your plant needs. If you think you’ll forget to water it at the right time, set a repeating reminder on your phone.
Common Succulent Care Mistakes
If you’ve got a succulent at home that’s struggling, here are a few common mistakes to look for. You may be able to salvage your succulent if you’ve made some of these mistakes. The bonus of succulents is that they’re pretty resilient. They’ve adapted to pretty harsh conditions, and since they store everything they need in their leaves, they can tough it out through non-ideal circumstances for quite a while. If you correct the problem in their environment, they may forgive you.
A typical watering recommendation for most houseplants is to water when the top of the soil is dry, but that’s not a good idea for succulents. The soil should be dry to a depth of at least an inch or two, and some even like their soil to dry out completely, top to bottom, before watering.
Since rain in desert situations can often be torrential when it comes, give your succulent a good, thorough watering when you do give it a drink. Pour directly on the soil until the water is coming out of the drainage holes. Just make sure to dump any extra water sitting in the drainage saucer after 15-20 minutes. Aim to water your succulent once a month, and up to twice a month in hot, summer months. Ask our team if you’re not sure how often your succulent should be watered.
Because succulents require less frequent watering than other houseplants, it can be hard to make sure you do it on a regular schedule. We don’t believe in the idea of watering your plants on a strict schedule, because that doesn’t account for environmental changes in humidity, sunlight, or heat. But, it might still be worth putting a repeating alert in your phone to remind yourself to check if your succulent needs water. For example, there’s a saying that if you’re watering your ZZ Plant more often than you’re paying your rent or mortgage, you’re overwatering it. If you have a succulent that never seems to be happy, try setting yourself a regular watering schedule and see if that helps.
Using the Wrong Soil
If you’ve got generic potting soil sitting around from the last tropical houseplant you bought, it can be tempting to use it to pot up your succulent. Don’t do it! General potting soil is designed to retain moisture for plants like tropicals that like to have consistent moisture around the roots. It is denser and holds water much longer than cactus soil. This can cause root rot, which will kill your succulent very quickly. Save yourself the heartbreak and use the right soil. Cactus soil has lots of grit to allow air and water to flow through without keeping the roots damp.
If you have a sad succulent in regular potting soil, repot it into cactus soil and see if that makes it a little happier.
Not Enough Light
There’s a lot of information out there about low-light houseplants. There are even a few succulents that fall into the low-light category. However, the problem is that “low light” is not what most people think it is. The strength of the sun is cut by about 50% the moment it passes through our windows. So, when a plant needs bright light with direct sun, it means as close to a sunny window as possible. When a plant needs bright but indirect light, that means moving a few feet away from the window, or hanging a sheer curtain so the sun doesn’t burn the leaves. Low light is only 5-10 feet away from a big sunny window. Most succulents need 6-8 hours of bright light, so they’ll need to be very close to a window, or supplemented with grow lights. Here in Powell River, it can get pretty dark and gloomy in the winter, so all of your plants will benefit from a little extra grow-light therapy through the cold season.
If you’d like some emergency advice to help you save your current succulents, or if you’d like to pick out some new succulents to start again, visit our garden centre! We’ve got a great selection to choose from, and our team will be happy to advise you on how to keep your succulent perky, plump, and healthy.