Top 5 Care Tips for Happy and Healthy Succulents
Succulents are the darling of the gardening world. If you take a peek at any décor magazine or Pinterest page you’ll see these diverse range of conversation starters are the hottest plants around. It’s no wonder that succulents are so popular, from their low maintenance easy-to-grow nature, to their jaw dropping variety and beauty — succulents are here to stay.
Here at West Coast Gardens all our succulents are homegrown and this has taught us a few tricks to achieve happy, healthy succulents. Here are my top picks for basic care practices:
1) Let them see the sun!
Succulents offer brilliant colours and are at their best when exposed to long days of direct sunlight (6 hours+ of direct light). While you can grow succulents in the shade, their colour won’t be as intense. The more sun the better!
If your succulent is growing a bit lanky, with a long stem and lots of space between leaves, then it’s probably not getting enough light and is “reaching” for the sun.
2) Water Gently…
Your best bet for succulents is to water thoroughly, but less often. This is the rule whether the plants are indoor or outdoor. Stay away from ineffective misting and ensure that the top 2 inches of soil are dry before you water deep and saturate the soil.
During the winter months of December and January, your succulents will go to sleep and show little to no signs of growth. This is where overwatering can do real damage to your plants and where most of the losses can occur. Check to make sure your soil has very little moisture before you water. Once the days get longer near the middle or end of February, you will see your plants actively growing again and that’s your cue to start watering.
Year round tips
The rule of thumb when watering any plant is to water in the mornings so they have time to absorb the moisture before the heat of the day hits. Consider watering containers, as they are the most effective and allow a steady stream of water. If the soil looks to repel the water, try using a small tool to break up the surface so water can saturate. If your plants leave start to shrivel, then you know you are not watering often or thoroughly enough. You won’t lose the plant entirely but may suffer a few leaves to dropping off.
3) Watch out in cooler temperatures
Most of these sun loving plants are not hardy below 4 degrees Celsius. Always use the night time temperatures as a guide to know when your non-hardy succulents can be set outside, and a good rule is a consistent nighttime temperature of 10 degrees Celsius so the plants don’t get too stressed out.
Come late summer into early fall, watch the nighttime temps to know when to bring the succulents inside to rest for the winter. Since your plants are already experiencing a natural cooling in the fall, you can bring them in once night temps maintain a 5 degree average. Just don’t let them have a frost.
4) Give them the right home!
Use a mix of soil that is free draining. I like to use a mixture of 40% peat 20% coir, and 20% perlite and 20% coarse washed sand when I make my own blend. Or simply purchase a pre-packaged blend for succulents or cactus. A very effective look is to top the exposed soil with small polished or crushed coloured rock, and sand. This also helps keep from the soil blowing away and less evaporation from the soil.
Choose pots that have good drainage. Shallow clay or concrete bowls, bird baths, and standard pots are all very effective when planning succulents. Since succulents are slow growing, they also work quite nicely in small glass terrariums or small ceramic pots with stratified sand to create a miniature desert effect.
5) Easy on the fertilizer
I like to keep this simple. Whatever you are feeding to your hanging baskets or flowering plants, you can give to your succulents at half strength. I also like to give established succulents a good feeding of 20-20-20 from time to time during their of their growing season (June) to give them a boost in growth. Stay away from watering with fertilizer during the sleepy months from December through mid February. Just clear tap water is enough.
Wondering where to start when selecting succulents?
With so many varieties it can be tough to know where to even begin! Here is a list of my favourites:
Echeveria – Perle Von Nuremberg, Round leaf, Nodulosa, Elegans, Topsy Turvy, Blue, and Red Grey
Sedum – Nussbaumerianum, Darley Sunshine, Angelina, Fine Gold, Lemon Ball, Adolphii, and Adora Blue
Senecio – String of Pearl, Blue Chalk, Sting of Bean
Kalanchoe – Tomentosa Panda, Flapjacks, Orgyalis, Mexican hat and your common flowering types like Calendiva
Crassula – Jade, Small Red Carpet, Variegata, Princess pine, Hobbit, Campfire, and Pagoda
Aeonium – Zwartcop, Kiwi, and Sunburst
Sempervivium – (hardy types zone 3) Forest Frost, Black, Hopewell, Red Rubin, Green wheel, and Sir William