How to Care for Succulent Plants

how to care for succulent plants

How to care for succulent plants: care guidelines for succulent plants in containers or in the garden. From natural remedies to instructions for cultivation (watering, fertilizing, soil…).

Succulent plants can decorate our houses, bringing a touch of elegance and nature. They adapt to every environment, and fortunately there is no need to have a green thumb to take care of succulent plants!

How to Water Succulent Plants

These plants only need to be watered in the summer, because by the middle of November most succulent plants will receive the last watering. The only exception is the Lithops plant, and those succulents that are in full flowering between November and December.

Succulent plants originate in the dry terrains of southern Africa and they must be watered moderately until they flower fully. During cold periods, succulent plants do not need to receive water; they absorb water from humidity and any direct watering would provoke rotting. However, some semi-succulent plants may occasional watering during colder periods, to prevent the soil from completely drying out, such as the Hindu rope plant.

For flowering succulent plants, such as Ariocarpus, be careful not to wet the flowers because water could enter through the inflorescence and penetrate to the apical level, causing widespread rotting.

When to water succulent plants?

You can start watering in the end of winter (March) in the South, or in the spring (April) in the North, and in the extreme North, succulent plants should start to be watered around May.

Watering finishes around August in Northern Italy, and can continue until November in the South.

Water for Succulents

Be careful! The water that you use to irrigate succulents must not contain calcium! Succulents are acid-loving plants, and if you use tap water to water them (rich in calcium), you risk changing the pH of the soil and causing great damage to the plant. If you live in an area where tap water is particularly rich in calcium, follow the instructions given on the page dedicated to watering acid-loving plants.

Succulent Plants in the Home, Where to Place Them

Succulent plants should be placed on the southern side of the house, maybe on a brightly-lit windowsill and away from moisture.

Succulent Plants: Temperature

The natural habitat of succulent plants is characterized by cold and dry winters, so many succulent plants enter into a vegetative rest state that lasts until March. It’s for this reason that succulent plants can survive relatively low temperatures without suffering grave damage.

Not all succulent plants are so resistant, however. Others require greater care; for example, those originating in the tropics such as Epiphyllum, Hoya, and Hylocereus (seen in the photo) do not withstand temperatures below 13 °C. Except for a few species, succulent plants are not able to tolerate temperatures below 5 °C.

These plants need shelter in the cold months; they cannot stay outside, they must be kept inside the house in the brightest spot possible, but not on the windowsill because direct sunlight should be avoided. Taking care of these particular succulent plants is more time consuming because they mustn’t be watered, but rather require a nebulizer to saturate the water with humidity (the area around the aerial parts of the plant) approximately every 4 days.

Cold-Hardy Succulent Plants

Those who live in Northern Italy could be interested in cold-hardy succulent plant species. The cold-hardy plants can survive even temperatures near -10°C; these are the species belonging to the genera Agave, Echinopsis, Echinocactus, Gymnocalycium, Mammillaria, Notocactus, Rebutia, Trichocereus…in this case too, however, it is necessary to keep the succulent plants sheltered from rain and humidity.

Transplanting Succulents

Among the necessary steps to cultivating succulent plants is transplanting. The first transplantation of succulent plants should be carried out immediately after purchasing! Subsequent transplants into new containers should be carries out every 2 years.

At the moment of the transplant, make sure that you’re using a potting soil specifically made for succulent plants, or, while transplanting, modify a universal potting soil to make it easier to drain: add material such as sand, large porous rocks, gravel, or expanded clay. During the transplant, cut away the roots that are too long or dry, using a sterile blade. For all the instructions, we invite you to visit the page how to transplant succulent plants. If you have decided to prepare a do-it-yourself soil for succulent plants, keep in mind that these plants are used to living in substrates that do not retain water, such as terrains rich in sand, gravel, or rocks.

Propagation of Succulent Plants by Cutting or Seed

Seeding is the best method to propagate almost any type of plant; it produces daughter plants that are more resistant, but requires much more time. Other than seeding, for propagation of succulent plants it is possible to take advantage of cutting techniques. For all the information about seeding succulent plants and propagation by cutting, we sent you to the page dedicated to Propagation of Succulent Plants.

When to Seed Succulent Plants?

The best period starts in the second half of winter and goes until the beginning of spring (January-April), using a seedbed and taking care to choose a good soil. The suggested soil is an accurately-sifted compost for cactuses, to which is added some sand to make it more fluffy.

Succulent Plants, Curing Diseases

The diseases that can commonly strike succulent plants grown in containers in the home are linked to imbalances in the watering and water quality. Remember to always water with neutral-pH water or slightly acidic (see the paragraph when to water succulent plants) and to stop watering completely by November.

Other common diseases of succulent plants are bug infestations and rotting due to fungal infections. For specific natural remedies we invite you to read the appropriate page:

If you love beautiful plants, you may also be interested in our guide to the stunning loropetalum.

Translated by Raymond Bellon

Published by da Anna De Simone