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5 Things You're Doing Wrong With Succulents

by Cassidy Tuttle August 5, 2015

5 Things You’re Doing Wrong With Succulents

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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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27 person already talking about this.
    Answered on December 17, 2017Reply

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

    Margie trejo
    Answered on November 19, 2017Reply

    Love this website

    Margie trejo
    Answered on November 19, 2017Reply

    I love this website. So much information!

    Answered on October 23, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on December 19, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on 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
    Answered on October 9, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on October 7, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on 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
    Answered on 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

    Answered on December 8, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on 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.

    Answered on September 28, 2017Reply

    Its never a good idea to use any stones "for drainage".. after a while you will find , more so with plants other than succulents but not excluding them, that the water actually sits between the rocks or gravel and does not completely drain which eventually causes root rot. btw....... I work in a nursery. To maintain plants health it is best to plant them in the correct soil to start and replant in new soil once in a while and up a size in pot.

    keautta thomas
    Answered on 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
    Answered on July 9, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on August 15, 2017Reply

    Agreed! I can't read it. Disappointing.

    Carol Lunger
    Answered on 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.

    Genna de Havilland
    Answered on June 6, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on May 16, 2017Reply

    Great post! You might enjoy my post showing the growth progress and flowering of a haworthia succulent:

    Thomas SunHawk
    Answered on April 29, 2017Reply

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

    Nancy Otis
    Answered on April 14, 2017Reply

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

    Edith Dacoron
    Answered on March 27, 2017Reply

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

    Answered on June 26, 2017Reply

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

    Lisa Aigen
    Answered on March 12, 2017Reply


    Mazz Kenley
    Answered on 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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