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5 Things You’re Doing Wrong With Succulents

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

5 Things You're Doing Wrong With Succulents

by Cassidy Tuttle August 5, 2015

5 Things You’re Doing Wrong With Succulents

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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    Comment added March 20, 2019Reply

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

    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?

    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.

    Comment added February 25, 2018Reply

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

    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 ?

    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.

    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

    Comment added January 11, 2018Reply

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

    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.

    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

    Comment added October 23, 2017Reply

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

    Comment added December 19, 2017Reply

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

    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 ?

    Comment added December 19, 2017Reply

    All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are not cacti... the link below explains in further detail:

    Comment added October 7, 2017Reply

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

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