I love succulents! Who doesn’t these days? Just ask the folks at Bitches Love Succulents— these hardy little plants can thrive and add a bit of green in just about every environment– from your cubicle, to your kitchen counter, to your backyard!
I feel like I have been seeing succulents everywhere- they’re certainly on trend, and with good reason. Not only are they fairly easy to care for, but they are cheap, and aesthetically pleasing. They can add that extra little something to just about every space, and if you care for them properly, you can propagate the same plant for years to come.
The thing is, succulents have different needs than most other plants, and even if you have lots of gardening experience, their needs (or lack thereof) of succulents may surprise you.
Here are the most common succulent mistakes that even the greenest of thumbs can be prone to make, and how to avoid them.
- Overwatering– the biggest mistake people make with succulents is overwatering them. Waterlogged roots rot, the stem becomes squishy, and leaves fall off. On the surface, your succulent may look okay, until one day you find that your lower leaves have gone slimy and black (I speak from experience). If any of your leaves look yellow, translucent, or slimy, you may be overwatering. Within a matter of days, your succulent will become the equivalent of The Blob. Succulent roots are very sensitive, and are super susceptible to root rot, so be careful with your watering habits! Most succulents only need to be watered once every 1-2 weeks. When they’re actively growing—which for most kinds is spring and summer—drench the soil once a week. When they’re dormant—usually in fall and winter—do so once a month. It’s best to let their soil dry out completely before watering again!
- Using the wrong container- as I said above, succulents NEED well draining soil! They also need well-draining containers! Containers with no drainage holes typically retain far too much water for succulents (and are also susceptible to overheating which brews bacteria), and your plants are far less likely to do well in these. So, while you may love the idea of repurposing that galvanized steel bucket as a planter, be sure to drill holes in the bottom first (or be prepared to deal with many potential issues!) I have had many a succulent die because I was too determined to grow it in an corrugated aluminum pot or a shallow glass container. You’d be best with wood, terra cotta, or cork containers that can easily breathe.
- Using the wrong soil- The first thing you need to know is that succulent roots do not get water from direct contact. Rather, they absorb the water molecules in the air. This is why having a succulent sitting in sopping wet soil is so problematic and makes the plant rot– your roots don’t suck water up as readily, and your soil can stay wet for much longer! This could lead to a whole host of problems, from plant gnats, to mold. Succulents typically don’t do well in conventional garden soil, unless you’re very rarely water. You’ll want a well draining, and gritty soil- think desert sand and pebbles. You can buy a succulent mix at a garden center, but you can always mix your own as well!
- Trying to squeeze too many in one space!– I know, I know– succulent arrangements are gorgeous, but they’re really best as temporary decoration! While succulents can take some *squeezing* better than most plants, at a certain point, close becomes too close, and they reach a size threshold in which they can no longer compete for nutrients! If you have a jam packed succulent arrangement, and you find that some plants are withering or dying away, it maybe time for some separation.
- Keeping them in a windowless room!– When succulents are indoors it’s often hard for them to get enough sunlight. They generally need about 6 hours a day. This can be hard to achieve from a cubicle or bathroom, so if you want to have a succulent in these locations, its best to use other methods of getting your plants enough light, such as putting them outside or in a bright window for the weekend, or investing in grow lights! Remember, these are naturally desert plants, and deal with some of the sunniest and driest environments on the planet.
- Fertilizing improperly- A common succulent faux-pas is the idea that they don’t need fertilizer! Like any other plant, they need a variety of macro and micro-nutrients to survive. While they get along just fine without it, sometimes a bit of fertilizer can be the key to having lush and green plants. If you’re going to fertilize your succulents, be sure to use organic fertilizers such as bone or blood meal, or a manure or compost tea. I’d advise against chemical and store-bought fertilizers such as Miracle Grow Cactus Fertilizer. With organic fertilizers, that typically container lower levels of nutrients, you’re more likely to avoid nutrient burn– which succulents are highly susceptible to.
All that being said– don’t let the worry of killing your little planty babies stop you from getting them in the first place! In truth, succulents can be a great addition to any space, and many of them have practical uses as well! As far as ornamentals go, succulents are great for beginner gardeners, and experienced gardeners alike.
Another word of advice– it’s natural for your succulent to have dying leaves. As plants grow, the old leaves die off, and new leaves replace them! Don’t freak out! Just pluck the dead leaves off and enjoy your lovely succulent.