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Succulent plants are wonderfully unique, taking forms that are almost alien like in their structure and beauty – a fact which has made them a prized ornamental plant for decades. Of recent times however, they have skyrocketed as a must have decorative plant for the indoor gardener and decorator (and instagrammer). Never before has becoming a succulent wizard master been so important.
However, given these plants are primed for high heat, high sunlight and low rainfall terrain, can the indoor gardener successful grow their succulents indoors?
The simple answer is yes, although with caveats. To successfully grow a succulent plant indoors, you must choose a suitable succulent, place it in a position with the correct lighting conditions, and adjust your watering and fertilising schedule to reflect the indoor environment specific to your home.
Below, we run though the steps to ensure your succulents remain Instagram worthy for years to come.
Succulents derive their name from the Latin word sucus – which means “sap” or juice”. This name arose from the ground breaking observation that succulents are normally fleshy plants with thick leaves which retain water for arid or desert like conditions. No nobel prize was awarded.
It comes as no surprise then that these plants are evolved and conditioned to grow in arid desert like climates with little water and lots of sunlight. However, they are hardy little go getters and can adapt to other conditions if treated correctly.
Succulents as a group describe over 25 plants families, and dominate the species in groups such as Aizoaceae, Cactaceae and Crassulaceae.
For some strange reason, the horticultural definition of succulents excludes cacti – however, there is no such distinction from a botanist perspective. For the purposes of this article we will consider cacti as part of the succulent group.
Which types of succulents grow well indoors?
This depends on your indoor conditions. Online posts which say “these succulents grow well indoors” are (what’s a nice word) – incorrect, shall we say. It’s like saying some plant ‘X’ grows well outdoors. What, like Alice Springs outdoors or Tasmania outdoors? Rainforest or arid mountain?
You need to assess the light quality in the room or location you’re planning on growing your succulent. Luckily these hardy little mofos will tolerate most humidity levels so don’t worry too much about your indoor temperature and humidity – the light is the most important consideration here.
If your location is a northern windowsill with bright light for most of the day, you can put any succulent your heart desires there. Go get at it Janice. No restrictions. Choose any succulent your broken heart desires.
But if you’re using an eastern, western or (God forbid) southern aspect location, it’s more tricky. You’ll need to assess contributing light and estimate what your light level is (more on this here)
If you have moderate light for at least 5-6 hours a day, you should be ok, but I’d recommend the following succulents which tend to forgive you for subjected them to a jail cell with lower light levels.
Succulents which can grow in shaded rooms
- Sansevieria (snake plant)
- Schlumergera (Christmas cactus)
- Senecio Rowleyanus (String of pearls)
- Hawthoria margaritifera (Pearly dots)
- Hawthoria attenuate (Zebra cactus)
- Panda Plant
- Jade plant
- Cotyledon Tomentosa (bear paws)
- Grassula ovata “Gollum”
There are probably others, but these are a good start. If you have already bought a succulent not listed here, that’s fine – follow the rest of the guide. If you do everything else right, and it still fails – you’ll know that species just needs more light.
Potting your succulent
This is crucial Janice. Your succulents like a good bath but then prefer to be towel dried el pronto. You need high drainage soil and a pot that facilitates the drainage. If you’re planning on growing your succulent in a jar or a glass terrarium – we need to have words. But not here. It can be done but with skill. We will discuss this in another post.
Use a succulent or cacti mix to 30% perlite ratio. That’ll do nicely. It’s important that when you do water the soil isn’t left soggy or wet for extended periods, or your cacti will commit seppuku and your Instagram page will become a remembrance page (or evidence of a crime).
Watering your succulent
This part is a bit more tricky, but you’ll e able to figure it out. The key to watering succulents is when it rains it pours, but it doesn’t rain much. I probably could have figured out a more memorable phrase, but its late.
Essentially, you want to water thoroughly and soak your succulent baby, then not water again until she is dry as a bone. When you think the soil is dry, wait another few days, then soak again. You’ll figure out how long that is soon enough – it depends on your pot size, soil type, lighting conditions, temperature conditions, humidity. Any post online that tries to give you a timeframe are imposter succulent murderers. It depends Janice. Wait until the soil is dry I tell you, then wait some more, then soak.
Fertilising your succulent
The trick with fertilising your indoor succulent is similar to the trick with watering; it doesn’t need it often, but it still needs it.
I’ve had a good read around of the literature regarding NPK (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) ratios for succulents, and the result of that is as follows; there is significant variation in species variety, so unless you plan on doing specific research for your specific succulent, id recommend the following;
Pick a balanced fertiliser that has equal parts NPK. If it’s a generic fertiliser, dilute in water and only use a quarter to half the recommended amount when using as a succulent fertiliser. If you’re using a succulent specific fertiliser, check to see if its been prediluted or not – it should say on the bottle.
I’d recommend a monthly feed during the summer months, and then one off feed in spring and autumn, and then nothing over winter.
You can dial things in a little more, but I think that’s a solid routine and your succulent should do well on it.
- Don’t spray your succulents with a water bottle; it makes their root structure shallow and you’ll have a needy pathetic succulent.
- Don’t overdo it – your succulent doesn’t want or need excessive attention. Water thoroughly but infrequently, fertilise gently infrequently, and ignore.
- Poor soil is probably the number 1 killer for succulents; make sure you get a good succulent mix and add some extra perlite.
- And finally, if you’ve done all these things correctly, but your plants still fail – you might be using varieties that are better suited to outdoors or a more well lit spot. Sorry Janice.
There you have it. Yes you can grow succulents indoors, and yes they can look fabulous. But you’ll need to ensure you set them up for success, and love them from afar. Distance and persistence Janice.
Miss pot plant xoxo