Taking Care of Succulents

So You Want to Keep Your Succulent Alive?

Let’s get one thing straight first: you do need to take care of your succulents. If you follow my instructions, your succulents will not only live, but they will constantly thrive with new growth.

Sunlight

The photo above was taken on a warm, sunny day on my porch in Dallas, TX. I mention my location because it definitely gives me an advantage in caring for my succulents; they love the sun. If you live in a cold, cloudy climate, make sure your succulents are still getting indirect sunlight all day year-round.

If isn’t nice and warm, your succulents should not be outside. When in doubt, keep them inside. Leave them in a windowsill or very close to an open window. Try to put them near windows that get sunlight for a good amount of time all day.

Rotate

Every few hours, if you are home, you could rotate which windows your plants are in so they get sunlight for the entire day. This is great to do on weekends when you’re at home relaxing. You can also take this time to observe which window gets the longest and best sunlight, and then leave your succulent in that window for most days. You can also rotate your succulent to different windows on different days.

Another way to help your succulent is to rotate which side of the plant is facing the window. If one side of your succulent faces the window too long, the other side might suffer a bit with the lack of sunlight. Your succulent will also grow toward the window, so rotating your succulent will help it grow straight up, rather than curved toward the sun.

Water

I really don’t know why everyone thinks you don’t need to water succulents. Let’s clear this up. Do succulents need water? Absolutely. You want to not water your succulent? Then prepare to throw it out in a couple months.

How much do you water your succulent? It depends on the time of year, how much sunlight your plant is getting, how hot it is, how fast your plant is growing, and a whole bunch of other factors. I water one of my succulents right now 3 times a week, one twice a week, another once a week, and so on.

You have to learn the watering technique, and then you have to learn to read the response you get from your succulents. Be prepared to change how you water your plant whenever it starts responding differently.

Watering Technique

The basics: make sure your plant has a good drainage system. When buying pots, make sure you get ones with a hole on the bottom of it and a little plate for the water to leak on. If you accidentally buy a pot that doesn’t have a hole at the bottom, put a good layer of rocks underneath the soil so that the plant can let the water leak out. The water needs to have somewhere to go, because succulents like to drain their water out.

Don’t water your succulents with spray bottles. I don’t know why everyone thinks this is how you should be watering your succulents. Water them with a cup of water and make the soil wet. Don’t drown your plant, but you should definitely soak the soil. The soil should be visibly wet.

When your plant’s soil is completely dry, you need to water it again. This is really just about checking up on your plant. It might take one day for your plant to suck up all the water. It might take three weeks. Either way, water your plant if the soil is dry.

If your plant’s soil is dry quickly though, it means it is going through a growth spurt. It’s a great sign.

Dead Leaves

You might think dead leaves are a bad sign. I won’t deny: dead leaves could potentially mean your plant is about to die. On the other hand, it could mean your succulent is about to change and flourish.

Check out my succulent in the yellow pot. It’s probably my favorite one, because it’s grown so much since I first bought it about 6 months ago. It’s a skyscraper now—it’s taller than my sister’s dog, Theo, who is 80 pounds.

It continually grows inches by the day (at least that’s how it seems), so when all the succulent’s leaves fell off, I was nervous. I facetimed my mom, a plant whisperer. I asked, “Is it about to die?”

She told me, “Just keep taking care of it. We’ll see what happens.”

Before these pictures, this succulent had big, soft, pink leaves. After the leaves fell off, the plant became very prickly, almost like a cactus. I’m not sure exactly what type of plant it is; I can’t even tell you the difference between a succulent and a cactus. Whether a succulent or cactus, the plant is thriving.

As you can see, after all its leaves fell off, it actually started growing little arms.

I love how the arms are pink, just like the leaves were. I’m excited to see what this plant will look like as it continues to grow and develop. Will more arms grow on different parts of it? Also, can anyone tell me if it’s a succulent or a cactus?

Soil

There is particular soil that is specifically for succulents. Make sure you look for it when you go to the store. It will say succulents on the bag. Leave your succulent in it’s original, plastic pot for a week or so before you move it into the nicer pot you bought. When you move the plant over to its new home, add more soil and pack it down. Be extremely gentle with your plant while you move it.

Yesterday I facetimed my mom. My huge cactus (or succulent?) in the yellow pot was falling over. She explained to me how plants seem to “eat” or absorb some of the soil, so I have to add more soil to stabilize the plant.

Then, I showed her the plant pictured above. She told me the same thing: that plant needs more soil to straighten it up. Side note: I absolutely adore the pink on this plant, too. Always be gentle when adding more soil.

Plant Food

So you bought a succulent at the store and it’s soil is as dry as the Sahara Desert. You know you obviously have to water it, but while you’re at it, you should put a couple drops of plant food in the water. After that initial feeding, I usually feed my succulents once a month.

We all need food to thrive, right?

Switching Pots

This won’t have to be done too often, usually, but if your succulent is looking a bit too big for its current pot, you probably should buy it a new home. Only switch pots if your succulent starts to look like it’s struggling a bit, and you’re certain it’s too big for it’s pot.

Again, be gentle while switching the succulent from one pot to another. If the roots look all tangled up, break them up a bit so that the plant isn’t strangling itself. That way the roots will grow in new directions.

Don’t worry, you can buy a new baby succulent for the pot that your plant outgrew!

Progress Pictures

You won’t really notice how much your plants have grown if you don’t take progress pictures every few months. You would be surprised at how big and healthy your plant will start to look! Remember, this plant is your new baby. Treat it as such!

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