Why Aren’t My Succulents Growing Like Everyone Else’s?

By Nikki Tilley | June 25, 2022
Image by bbbrrn
by Nikki Tilley
June 25, 2022

Succulents. I absolutely love these plants and all the various types and colors available! They don’t require a lot of space (great for unusual containers) and are easy to care for, at least as long as I’m not their long-term caretaker.

Dying Succulent Plants: Why Can’t I Grow This?

Why, why, why can I not successfully grow these plants? They look so good and healthy for about a month or so, sometimes a little longer, but then they die – not all, but most. Outside they seem to grow fine. Unfortunately, where I live many succulent plants cannot survive winter outdoors. This means they must come inside and that is where the trouble begins. 

Succulent plants need water, but not too much. I try so hard not to over water them. This used to be my biggest problem with dying succulents. Yet, it’s hard for me to find just the right balance indoors. I wait for them to tell me with dry soil or puckered leaves. Sometimes, though, it’s too late. I’ve waited so long that they’ve dried out completely. Other times when I think they need water (seeing the dry soil), they really don’t and respond back with yellowing or mushiness. I have the same issue with cactus. Grandpa would be appalled. I remember seeing my grandfather’s cacti and succulent plants as a kid. They were absolutely stunning, and huge! But that man could grow just about anything.

Easy to grow they say. Sure thing. I will admit that I’m getting much better at growing succulent plants now. I can at least keep them alive through winter, most of them anyway. Aloe has been about the only type I really have success with, although all the succulents (and cacti) in the greenhouse do well too. But here in the house it’s still a struggle to grow a happy jade, haworthia, aeonium, or echeveria. I am determined to overcome this. 

Even when mine aren’t dying, they never look as pretty as everyone else’s do. Why aren’t my succulents growing? I have friends with nice looking full plants. Regardless of light, mine are all spindly. I put them in succulent or cactus medium. About the only thing I don’t really do, and now thinking about it maybe I should, is fertilize succulents. Do they need this? I’ve never given much thought to that before. If so, how much? Will I need to find a happy balance for that too, like with the water? And pruning“¦ what about that? Would they get bushier like other plants if I pruned them?

Propagating Succulents

And this opens up yet another problem I have with growing succulents. The cuttings. They’re so easy to propagate. Ha-ha! Not for me. I let them callus over first. I’ve even done the whole ‘put the leaves on the soil’ thing to propagate, but guess what. They die! At least ninety percent of the time I fail. I try not to dwell on it though. Instead, I celebrate the 10 percent in which I’ve found success.

Keep in mind there was once a time when I couldn’t keep a houseplant, or any plant, alive. Now I successfully grow many. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the succulent growing thing right, but I will continue to keep trying. I am a gardener after all!

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