WHAT ARE SUCCULENTS?
succulents are plants with fleshy, thickened leaves and/or swollen stems that store water. the word “succulent” comes from the latin word sucus, meaning juice or sap. succulents are able to survive on limited water resources, such as dew and mist, making them tolerant of drought. there are many different species and cultivars of succulents spanning several plant families, and most people associate succulents with cactaceae, the cactus family. (keep in mind, however, that while all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.)
HOW TO GROW SUCCULENTS INDOORS
because of their special ability to retain water, succulents tend to thrive in warm, dry climates and don’t mind a little neglect. this makes them well adapted to indoor growing and ideal for people desiring low-maintenance houseplants.
- choose an appropriate succulent for your indoor conditions.
most succulents like direct sunlight, but if all you have is a shaded corner in your house, go with low light-tolerant plants like mother-in-law tongue. if you plan to grow your succulent in a hanging planter, a trailing variety like string of bananas is a great choice.
- provide a very well-draining potting medium.
nurseries always plant their succulents in soil that’s too rich and retains too much moisture, so you’ll want to repot your succulent as soon as you bring it home. start with a coarse potting mix with good drainage and aeration. you can find special cactus and succulent mixes at the nursery, or even use an african violet mix.
- choose your container.
when repotting, use a container that has a drainage hole and is at least 1 to 2 inches larger than the nursery container. avoid glass containers (such as mason jars or terrariums) as a long-term potting solution, as they don’t allow roots to breathe and can cause root rot over time.
- place the potted succulent in a sunny location.
most succulents prefer at least 6 hours of sun per day, so try to place them near a south- or east-facing window. you may notice your succulents becoming spindly or stretching toward the light if they don’t get enough sun.
- allow the potting mix to dry out between waterings.
the number-one mistake many people make with succulents is overwatering them. it’s best to water more, but less frequently. saturate the potting mix thoroughly (while ensuring water flows out of the drainage hole properly) but allow the mix to dry out slightly before the next watering.
- fertilize your succulents at least once a year.
the plants benefit most from fertilizer in the spring (when the days get longer and new growth begins), and again in late summer. use a balanced, all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer (such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10) diluted to half the strength recommended on the package instructions. .