5 Things You’re Doing Wrong With Succulents

By Cassidy Tuttle | August 5, 2015
Image by Cassidy Tuttle
by Cassidy Tuttle
August 5, 2015

Growing succulents indoors is a tricky business if you don’t know the proper soil, sunlight and watering requirements. According to this week’s gardening guest blogger Cassidy Tuttle,  you can make succulents work for you, you just need to know the right way to care for them! Cassidy, a self-described “professional photographer turned succulent addict,” is here to offer her expertise on how to make your succulents thrive!  For more information on growing and caring for succulents (or just to admire her photography), please visit her website Succulents and Sunshine.


Succulents are very popular houseplants and frequently people say they are hard to kill. However, many people find their succulents looking less than perfect within a couple weeks of purchasing them. There are a few common mistakes that are easily remedied to help you on your way to growing beautiful succulents indoors and keeping them alive for years to come.

Haworthia fasciata is a great succulent for growing indoors

The Wrong Succulents

While most succulents will survive for a while indoors, most will not thrive. Succulents that are grown indoors should tolerate low lighting and grow slowly. Some of the easiest succulents to grow indoors include Haworthia fasciata, Sansevieria trifasciata, and Crassula ovata. Many cacti also do well indoors, such as Mammillaria gracilis fragilis. Often the brightly colored succulents seen in arrangements and gardens in the ground will start to turn green, stretch out and lose their shape indoors. However, if you buy a brightly colored arrangement like this it will last much longer than an arrangement of cut flowers and you don’t have to take care of it! Most succulents will stay alive for a couple weeks with little to no care.

No drainage hole

Unless you are extremely careful with how much and how often you water, you’ll want your succulents in a pot with a drainage hole. The roots of the succulents will quickly rot if they sit in wet soil for too long. While there is a great selection of pottery with drainage holes, many don’t. Either avoid these pots or add a drainage hole by using a diamond tip drill bit. You can add a drainage hole to almost anything!

An example of an over watered and rotting succulent
Make sure you have the right soil for growing succulents

The Wrong Soil

As mentioned above, succulents will rot and die if they are in wet soil for too long. If you buy your succulents from a big box store like Lowes or Home Depot, they will likely be planted in a very rich soil that retains water and stays wet for a long time. Instead of keeping them in this soil, you’ll want to buy a cactus mix which is readily available at these same stores. Another great option for indoor succulent soil is diatomaceous earth. The easiest form of diatomaceous earth to find is Oil-dry, designed to clean up oil spills. Most auto parts stores and many hardware stores will carry this. You can mix this in with a standard potting soil or use it on it’s own. diatomaceous earth absorbs water but dries out quickly. This is perfect for succulents. If you find you really like to water plants, using diatomaceous earth as the soil for your succulents will help prevent over watering.

Not enough light

Most succulents need full sun to maintain their color and shape. You’ll want to put your succulents in a south facing window where they receive light for most of the day. You may still notice some stretching if you are growing Echeverias which grow quickly and need lots of sunlight. If you grow Haworthias, Gasterias, and Sansevierias however, you’ll be able to get by with just a few hours of light per day.

Worrying too much

While succulents do need water to thrive, most will tolerate several days and even a week or two without water before they’ll start to shrivel and die. Overwatering is the quickest way to kill your succulents. Generally succulents are inexpensive to buy so take it easy, experiment, and see what succulents do best where you live. Fussing over your succulents will likely result in too much watering and quickly lead them to their death. It’s much easier to revive a succulent that has had too little water.

It isn’t hard to keep your succulents alive if you take these tips to heart. You’ll find that the more you grow and let yourself experiment, the happier you and your succulents will be! To learn even more about growing succulents indoors, check out my ebook The Essential Guide to Growing Succulents Indoors. You can also get a free PDF of my top 10 recommendations for indoors succulents on my website.

You can connect with Cassidy Tuttle on her website Succulents and Sunshine, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Google+!

Remember to tune in next Wednesday for another unique perspective on gardening!




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  • Bill
    Comment added March 20, 2019Reply

    Items of printed info are published over pictures of what your articles are referring to!! Thus making info...unreadable...?

  • Alec
    Comment added March 14, 2019Reply

    My Bunny Ear Cactuse has to of it’s pads which are looking a little bad on the tips. What are the symptoms of underwatering?

  • Diananalovic
    Comment added October 27, 2018Reply
  • Diana Leavy
    Comment added June 26, 2018Reply

    I loved your website, so informative. I have a 30 yr old ponytail palm that is no longer vigorous. Brown tip leaves and no new leaves are forming. I have not changed its care in these years. Do you know what I might do to invigorate it?

  • Irene Westberg
    Comment added March 7, 2018Reply

    Many purchased succulents have small stones on top of the dirt and under the plants. Is this so the dirt doesn't dry out? If not why put the little stones on top of the dirt?

    • Trang Vu Thi Thu
      Comment added July 30, 2018Reply

      These stones are actually used to keep moisture for the plants.

  • teri
    Comment added February 25, 2018Reply

    your the only source that I have come across that mentions diatomaceous earth....and where to get it THANKS

    • Birdbrain2007
      Comment added April 13, 2018Reply

      Please don't use Diatomous Earth willy nilly. I know it's great for fleas/mites and other parasites, (I use it in the dust bath for my chickens and their bedding.) but it's harmful for bees too.

  • j bartmanovich
    Comment added February 19, 2018Reply

    Received a Graptopetalum as a gift. I touched the leaves and they lost their "ghost" color. Did I do something wrong ?

    • Liv
      Comment added March 31, 2018Reply

      The oils on your hands damage the planetary not to touch with bare skin

  • Paddy Balsdon
    Comment added February 17, 2018Reply

    Surely this is not a cactus, or part of the cactus family - it is a succulent from southern Africa which doesn't have any cactus.

    • Eli
      Comment added June 3, 2018Reply

      South Africa does have cacti and succulents like echivaria's come from Mexico as well as southern America.

  • Yogendar gusain
    Comment added February 6, 2018Reply

    I was searching websites where i can get full information on indoor plants as well as gardening tips and found this website to be the best one.

  • Eva Thomas
    Comment added January 17, 2018Reply

    Very helpful advice

  • Lyn
    Comment added January 11, 2018Reply

    Hello and thank you for the information on succulents, hopefully my plants will thrive now

  • Amy
    Comment added December 17, 2017Reply

    Where there is writing with the pics behind, you can barely make out the words.

  • Jeff Banks
    Comment added December 6, 2017Reply

    I found this article very helpful I too am a succulent lover and have made these plants my passion for the past three years. I had never heard of using oil dry to amend the soil but I am going to use it in the near future, wet soil is always a problem so I hope this will help although I use cactus and succulent soil and amend it with perlite sometimes when we get a lot of rain my soil gets too wet and hopefully this will help with the fast drying process.

  • Kat
    Comment added November 25, 2017Reply

    I don't know why we gardeners just insist on selecting the wrong plant for our circumstances! Even when we know better, we are always trying to get a full sun plant to be happy indoors, or shade plants to grow with more sun! :) Thanks for the great reminder to enjoy what will work!

  • Margie trejo
    Comment added November 19, 2017Reply

    Love this website

  • Margie trejo
    Comment added November 19, 2017Reply

    I love this website. So much information!

    • Marianne Ruthven
      Comment added July 14, 2019Reply

      Your website has helped me so much. THANK YOU

  • Andy
    Comment added October 23, 2017Reply

    Turn your mobile device sideways and you will be able to read where the pictures overlap!

    • Jordan
      Comment added December 19, 2017Reply

      Thank you for posting this! I was wondering where the accompanying pics were!

  • Jeanne
    Comment added October 22, 2017Reply

    Please separate text and photos. Hard to make out the words on my phone and I really wanted to read what you write! Thx

  • Carol Mirto
    Comment added October 9, 2017Reply

    What is the difference between succulents and cacti and does the care differ ?

  • Joyce
    Comment added October 7, 2017Reply

    Great info, but couldn’t read it due to graphics

  • Troy
    Comment added August 27, 2017Reply

    Hi..great article..for those having trouble reading on mobile devices due to background images just turn your device sideways or switch to landscape mode...the image will move aside...cheers

  • Lynnette Bowden
    Comment added August 24, 2017Reply

    While the pics are great it's super challenging to read the words layered on top of the pics. Would have been more practical to have words and graphics separate

    • C
      Comment added December 8, 2017Reply

      They are separate on a computer.....but probably not on a smaller device. Computer is great!

  • Oliver
    Comment added August 7, 2017Reply

    Your advise is probably really useful if it was actually readable. Unfortunately your fancy pictures behind the text just make it impossible to read.

  • Beth
    Comment added July 18, 2017Reply

    I just acquired a few jade clippings, have put them into a glass jar with water to encourge roots. Am now looking forward to seeing them sprout roots and potting them. The soil information here will come in very handy!

    • Jerilyn Brown
      Comment added June 25, 2018Reply

      You cant water root JADE CLIPPINGS. They are a succulent and will die. Lay the clippings out on a dish or paper towel and let the ends dry or callus for abut a week to 2 weeks. Then plant them. They will grow. Never put them in water

  • Beth
    Comment added July 18, 2017Reply

    So helpful! Thank you! I love succulents and cacti and always tell my friends they are hard to kill and that they are nice for someone who's heart breaks at seeing a plant die. Didn't know that all succulents are so sensitive to overwatering and with the information here I'll be more likely to try again with other succulents I've had bad luck with.

  • Judy
    Comment added July 14, 2017Reply

    A few months ago I bought a large pot of Jade and divided it into three pots. I used river rocks for drainage and I only water them once a week. They live on a window sill that gets early morning sun and are thriving but I'll definitely try mixing in some diotamaceous earth when I get new plants. We bought a bag recently after a friend told us it was safe to use on cats to keep fleas and ticks away.

    • Barb
      Comment added February 4, 2018Reply

      Hi, Judy. I think you will find that the referenced diatamaceous earth is a much coarser version than you would use on a cat, which is like powder. The coarse, rockier sort is sometimes available as kitty litter, although I don't think it's good for that use. This is great, tho, because now I know what to do with it instead!

  • keautta thomas
    Comment added July 11, 2017Reply

    Most of the info I already knew. I really should have known that succulents had special ground to grow in as do most different varieties, like orchids and african violets.

  • Debbie J
    Comment added July 9, 2017Reply

    I loved the article but please remove the picture background as it is extremely difficult to read.

    • Troy
      Comment added August 27, 2017Reply

      Hello..great article. A little tip for those who find articles like this hard to read because of background image...if reading on your phone or mobile device..turn it sideways or switch to landscape mode. Your device is crunching the web code together..problem solved!...thanks again for the great content...cheers :)

  • Carol Lunger
    Comment added July 5, 2017Reply

    Very informative and easy to understand. Not sure why people can't read unless background has been changed. Thank you for great info.

  • Victoria
    Comment added July 2, 2017Reply

    Very helpful as I am experimenting with several varieties to re-establish the succulent garden originally planted by a beloved grandparent when she built the house and did the original landscaping.

  • Tina
    Comment added June 27, 2017Reply

    I have had a lot of success with jade plants. I have a south facing window near O'Hare airport. In the winter, everything comes inside. I take cuttings and pass them on.

  • Genna de Havilland
    Comment added June 6, 2017Reply

    Sorry can't read it..backgrounds are too busy

  • GG
    Comment added May 16, 2017Reply

    Great post! You might enjoy my post showing the growth progress and flowering of a haworthia succulent: http://wp.me/p8wGFJ-cM

  • Thomas SunHawk
    Comment added April 29, 2017Reply

    Many pages are impossible to read because of the background picture.

  • Nancy Otis
    Comment added April 14, 2017Reply

    This article is impossible to read. The large photos completely hide the text.

  • sophia
    Comment added March 29, 2017Reply

    I have Echeverias on my pavement. After worl done by a company who installed fible underground,some of my Echeveria have blackened leaves. I remember seeing some compost on the plants and in the bed after the company reinstated the grass sections which were dug up. Could the compost have damaged the plants? What can I do to prevent them from dying?

  • Edith Dacoron
    Comment added March 27, 2017Reply

    How come the leaves of my outdoor succulents develop dented spots? What's causing it?

    • Higashiimo
      Comment added June 26, 2017Reply

      It may be due to insects, happened to mine once but it recovered (slowly) after I moved it indoors :)

  • jacob
    Comment added March 19, 2017Reply

    Well I have gone through your details about watering succulents, in this regard all I can say is that the zone matters alot. Here in Pakistan Punjab Lahore it is desert in summer from May-August...Further, sun is extreme even in March-April. That means, sun after 12 o' clock is not suitable for most potted plants and we provide them filtered sun in order to avoid sunburn. Your details for watering are perhaps limited to your own zone and not about tropic territotries, therefore We water our plants every day about 3 glass of water.

  • Lisa Aigen
    Comment added March 12, 2017Reply


  • Carrie Recker
    Comment added January 22, 2017Reply

    This is mostly wrong. I think you should say this is what works for you. I have a large succulent collection, and all succulents can be grown successfully in doors. They grow beautifully, and flower and make babies. Glad you found what works, but it is not the end all be all.

  • Mazz Kenley
    Comment added September 28, 2016Reply

    Hi - I loved your article 5 things you are doing wrong with succulents. Very straightforward and informative - my succulents should be safe now. Mazz ?

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