Succulent Growing Mistakes: Growing Succulents The Right Way

By Becca Badgett | September 7, 2020
Image by Singasong
by Becca Badgett
September 7, 2020

You’ve probably heard that succulent plants are easy to care for and low maintenance. This is accurate, but don’t let this cause you to believe you can treat succulents however you want and expect them to flourish. This is not true.

Issues When Growing Succulents

Just like other living plants, succulents perform best in specific growing conditions. When they’re planted in the correct soil and located in the right spot, you’ll eliminate many succulent growing mistakes. Other common problems include too much water, improper temperatures, and too much sun.

Mistakes with succulents are easily corrected when you learn how to grow them properly. Following these simple steps can help eliminate some of the mistakes with succulents that new growers often make.

How to Grow Succulents and Avoid Common Mistakes

  • Plant in the right soil: Remove new plants from the nursery soil they usually come in. Repot into an amended, fast-draining cactus mix. Amend soil with pumice, coarse sand, or perlite. This keeps water from standing in the root area, which can cause rot.
  • Locate in suitable light: Many are under the impression that you just put succulent plants down in full sun and they will grow properly (I once did this too). Just like other plants, succulents must be located in proper lighting for that plant. This includes cacti. Sometimes, the plant will need a full sun area, but it must be gradually adjusted to this light. Acclimate each plant into a brighter area by about half an hour every few days. The leaves of succulents can sunburn if they get too much sun too quickly. Sunburned leaves don’t recover, but the plant is usually fine. Some of these plants need partial sun and partial shade. Many do best in morning sun only. Research your plants to learn their specific needs.
  • Watering do’s and don’ts: Most succulents are native to areas with limited rainfall, so they’re accustomed to remaining dry for long periods of time. When growing them in your home landscape or in containers, they appreciate being dry. No set watering schedule is necessary. If you see a lower leaf wrinkling, it’s probably time to water. If your environment is humid, the plant takes moisture from those conditions. Again, each type of plant varies to some degree.
  • Fertilization: Succulent plants need limited fertilization, but they do need additional nutrients at times. Feed succulents at the start of their growing season following a watering. Use a succulent food or a weakened version of your houseplant food.
  • Temperatures for succulent plants: Unless they’re sempervivums, which should grow outside year-round in all areas of the U.S., most succulent plants prefer a range of temperatures in the middle. If your temperatures reach the low 40’s or down to freezing, you need to bring them into a protected spot for winter.
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