Succulents are some of the most interesting and easy to grow plants available. They come in a myriad of colors, shapes, and textures, require minimal maintenance, and are perfect for a working individual or busy household -- what isn't to love?
Before we continue, I want to note that this post is limited to more common varieties of echeveria, aloe, aeonium, crassula, jade, haworthia, etc. Many of the different, rare, and very delicate varieties may need certain environments and a special level of care to thrive outside their natural habitat. Not saying that they are 'difficult,' but just be aware when purchasing these varieties that they may need that little extra care. But no worries, there are plenty of succulents that perform very well with little to no care.. they just have to have a couple of things in place.
Succulents need a minimum of 8 hours of bright light, natural or artificial, direct or indirect, to maintain their consistent, well-formed shape. If you notice your plant stretching, or more formally referred to as etiolating, your light amount is likely insufficient and should be increased as soon as possible, to prevent misshapen leaves and pale coloring.
Although opinions differ when it come to drainage holes, soil drainage inside the container is key to growing a happy, healthy succulent. Many growers have a specific soil mix that they turn to, while others mix their own, often adding a variety of materials that help with plant nutrition, soil breath-ability (delivery of oxygen to the roots), and that minimize drainage time. We use a sterile growing medium that is peat based, yet contains a decent amount perlite, and we mix in some additional perlite, sharp sand, and some pumice to keep the soil light and well draining.
** It is important to note that different areas of the USA find success with different soil mixes. While drainage is still the most important feature, feel free to experiment and find the soil composition that works best for you in your personal micro-climate.
Although air circulation is not often discussed, the presence of consistent, moving air is very helpful to succulent health. All plants go through the process of transpiration, it is the flow of water from the point of absorption at the roots, to when the moisture is released into the atmosphere from the leaves. If air circulation is poor, that moisture will not vaporize from the leaves, causing dampness and the potential for rot to develop between the thick, turgid leaves of a succulent. Air movement is especially helpful in the colder months and in times of high humidity.
The most asked question. How much should I water?
This is a very difficult question to answer, because every home, every town, every state, every growing season.. is different. The best answer that I can come up with, is when the soil is dry and/or the succulent is beginning to dehydrate.
Dehydration will not hurt succulents 99.9% of the time, they are programmed to live and survive in very 'imperfect' climates where water might not always be readily available. The .01%, I reserve for some tender crassula and other thin-leaved succulents that may lose foliage as a result of the dryness. I would not recommend waiting to dehydration to occur every time, but it is a great indicator that watering is necessary.
Seasons and geographical location, will affect water drainage time, indoor vs. outdoor will also affect the amount of water needed, as well as daily temperatures.
With so many variables, the best indicator for us is to water when the soil is dry.. and if you have any doubts, just wait another day or two; it is always better to under-water, than over-water.