5 things most people get wrong with succulents

5 things most people get wrong with succulents

5 Things Most People Get Wrong with Succulents

 

Succulents are raging hot items right now. The variety of colors, unique textures, and sizes make them a an ever increasingly popular commodity both in the home and on social media.

They’re touted as bulletproof plants that even those among us who aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘green thumbs’ can’t screw up. But in reality – there is many a succulent or cacti skeleton in most of our closets. Particularly for those growing indoors.

The truth is, growing and caring for succulents isn’t always as easy as it may seem.

In this article, we’re going to cover the 5 most common mistakes newbies and experienced gardener’s alike make when bringing succulents into the home – and teach you how to avoid them.

1) The wrong container choice

 

When you bring a new plant into your home, placing it into a new pot is usually one of the first steps you take. For succulents, choosing the correct container is extremely important. The right pot will allow your plant to thrive, whereas using the wrong pot will hinder or even harm your succulent’s growth.

The two most important features to consider with a container are:

  • Drainage

Ideally, you want to select a container that has a well-sized drainage hole(s). This allows excess water to drain out easily so your plant’s roots don’t rot.

If you have your heart set on a container that doesn’t already have a drainage hole, you can do a little DIY magic to rectify the situation.

For glazed ceramic pots, use a glass or tile drill bit to carefully make a hole. If your ceramic container is unglazed, a masonry bit will also work.For plastic and metal containers, a normal drill bit will get the job done.

To keep the soil from falling out, use a piece of mesh tape to cover the hole. You can also place your pot on a similarly sized tray.

Sounds a bit too hard? Alright Janice, don’t fret. We have a cheat for you.

If you’ve found the container of your dreams, and you just aren’t the drill a hole type, then what you need to do is keep your succulent or cacti in a cheap plastic pot (full of drainage holes) that’s SMALLER than your decorative container.

Place some gravel or stones in the bottom of your decorative container (so any moisture which works its way down doesn’t pool at the bottom of your root ball) and then place your plastic container within.

I then place some decorative pebbles over the surface to hide the inception container setup, but it’s not necessary. You don’t have to live the OCD life like me.

When it’s watering time, simply remove your inner container, water, then return. As this has to be done only every second or third week with succulents (generally) it’s not too much of a hassle.

 

  • Material

What your container is made out of matters, too – believe it or not.

Generally, ceramic and terra cotta pots work well for indoor succulents because they’re breathable. If your succulent requires full sun, keep in mind that the container itself will heat up, which means that the soil may dry out faster.

Plastic pots don’t offer as much breathability, but with proper soil and a decent sized drainage hole, your succulent should be in good shape.

Metal containers generally aren’t a good choice for long term use because they’re very vulnerable to temperature changes. The regular exposure to moisture from watering will also rust metal pots, creating less than ideal conditions for your plant.

 

2) Incorrect soil choice

Once you’ve found the perfect container for your succulent, the next important step is choosing the best soil. And oh my lordy do people go wrong here. First thing’s first, do not assume the garden store or nursery soil that your succulent came planted in is any good. It’s probably crapola.

With the wrong soil choice, excess water won’t be able to drain properly. Even if you’re following the correct watering schedule, poorly draining soil can cause the roots of the plant to stay wet all of the time, leading to root rot.

The best soil for succulents and cacti are both fast draining, and retain plenty of natural organic material.

You can purchase a ready-made potting soil blend created specifically for succulents and cacti, or you can make your own.

When potting or repotting several succulents at a time, it may be more economical to make your own mix. Using larger particles of porous material is the best choice. In this article I go over my personal home made mix for succulents and cacti. It’s pretty awesome, maybe you should check it out.

Avoid dense, heavy soil mixes for succulents. Regular potting soil blends that are sold in garden centers are bad news, as they’re typically formulated to retain water. Soils containing water retaining beads, peat moss, and vermiculite shouldn’t be used.

The features you want to look for in potting soil ingredients are light and airy, with particles approximately 6mm in size. Materials that work well include:

  • Crushed granite
  • Coarse sand, but not construction sand
  • Turface
  • Pumice
  • Perlite
  • Pine bark

If in doubt, buy one of the ready made “succulent and cacti” planting mixes. If you’re a hands on little ranger, then make your own – this is the best way. See article linked to above.

3) Too much love baby 

Janice, sometimes you just need to take your finger off the pulse. I know you love your new succulent, and you’re caring for it better than your relationship and friendships. I know those feels.

But a very common cause of indoor succulent death is too much love – specifically, overwatering.

While an under-watered succulent can usually bounce back, an overwatered plant is difficult and sometimes impossible to save. It only takes a few days for the plant to rot if you drop the ball here.

Unlike some other houseplants, succulents don’t have complex root systems. Instead, they retain water in their stems and leaves. In fact I’m pretty sure my fat cells are like succulents. No matter how much I wish it weren’t so, if I eat a little too much those bad boys just mop that energy up and store it away, even though I very clearly don’t need more fat…

Anywhoo. Back to succulents. If you have too much moisture available to your succulent, it’ll just keep eating it up without any self control, just like me around cakes. The key difference between myself and succulents is that succulent cells eventually swell and split and die. My fat cells seem to be immortal on the other hand, which is a pity.

I really don’t know why I’m describing my fat cells in detail here. I apologise.

Luckily, determining whether you’re overwatering your plants usually isn’t too difficult. Signs of over care include:

  • Leaves appearing translucent or yellowish
  • Stems appear puffy
  • Leaves are soggy and mushy to the touch
  • Stems and/or leaves develop black spots
  • Your plant is dying a slow and mortifying death

If your succulent shows signs of any of the above, you need to ease back on your watering schedule and just chill a little. Hopefully you’re not too late.

As a rule of thumb, I never water succulents more than once a week – and I do this only for my full sun succulents that get a lot of baking. My indoor succulents get watered every 10 days – 3 weeks depending on the species, location (light intensity) and season.

 

4) Not matching the succulent to the growing conditions (light, humidity)

Succulents come in so many sizes and varieties that it’s understandable that you may want to put them anywhere and everywhere throughout your home. However, placing your plants in an area with the right growing conditions is essential to their ability to thrive and survive.

A small succulent may look cute on your bookshelf, but if it’s in a dark corner of the room, you better have chosen your species wisely or you’re going to be adding another corpse to your shame closet.

Succulents need and love sunlight. Ideally, they should be positioned in a spot that provides bright indirect light or direct light for at least 5 hours a day.

 

Rotate your plants frequently so that each side of it has adequate light exposure. Avoid placing them in dimly lit rooms that don’t receive sunlight.

With that said, some succulents do well in shade. But you need to know which before you slap one in your dimly lit bathroom. Read this article here for more info re selecting the correct species for your light conditions.

Temperature and the humidity level also impact a succulent’s health. The ideal temperature for indoor succulents is between 10 and 27 C. We tend to think of succulents as desert plants and assume that they need heat to thrive, but that actually isn’t the case. Keep in mind that deserts cool down considerably once the sun sets.

Succulents enjoy lower humidity levels, ideally between 10 and 30 percent. So generally, it’s best to avoid placing them in rooms with higher humidity levels, like the bathroom.

However, if your succulent is in the right location with respect to light, and gets the right amount of water, I’ve found that humidity and temperature level (especially inside) usually isn’t a deal breaker.

To work out the individual growth requirements for your succulent, I recommend succulentsandsunshine.com – a cracker resource.

5) Fertilising fails

Unlike other houseplants, succulents and cacti don’t require frequent fertilizing. They can often do just fine without extra fertilizer, but occasional feedings can help them thrive.

However, over-fertilising can cause the plant to grow too quickly, making it leggy and weak. This can also cause root rot, which will kill your plant. Not good Janice.

It’s important to note that succulents are slow-growing plants and typically do the most growing in the spring and summer seasons. Those are the optimal times to feed your plant.

My rule of thumb when it comes to fertilizer is no more than 3 to 4 times a year, as a maximum. I personally fertilise with a watered-down balanced liquid fertilizer twice a year; once at the start of spring, and once at the start of summer.

Succulents are typically dormant in the winter months and just wan’t to be left alone.

To avoid root rot, fertilise in the spring and summer ONLY when the top layer of soil (or better yet all of the soil) is dry. Don’t feed wet soil please.

 

Conclusion

 

Succulents are pretty darn awesome indoor houseplants for many reasons. They come in many varieties, are relatively easy to care for, and can add a lot of character to a space. Some are small and cute, while others are detailed and striking. However, many succulent lovers make simple mistakes that hinder the plant’s growth, or worse, cause its demise.

Avoid these common care errors and you’ll help your succulents to look their best and grow happily in your home for many years to come.

Much love as always

Miss Pot Plant xoxo

Can you plant succulents and cacti together in the same pot? (We show you how)

Can you plant succulents and cacti together in the same pot? (We show you how)

Can succulents and cacti be grown together in the same pot?

 

This is a question I find myself being asked at least once a month – can succulents and cacti be successfully grown together in a single pot or container?

The simple answer is YES – they certainly can. But you’ll need to know what you’re doing.

Given the confusion that seems to surround this topic, I’ve decided it’s time to write a full guide on exactly how to do it properly. 

The keys to successfully pairing succulents and cacti together are as follows;

  1. Select appropriate species based on compatible growth requirements
  2. Use a proper cacti planting mix with the correct drainage properties
  3. Use one of several methods (discussed in this article) to ensure you’re able to deliver water and fertiliser in a selective manner to individual plants within your arrangement, allowing each species to thrive in optimal conditions
  4. Understanding the principles of arrangement, in order to avoid over-crowding and poor aesthetic results

Easy as that. Or not so easy if you haven’t had experience with this before. But that’s why you’re here. Let’s get stuck into the nitty gritty.

 

 

What’s the difference between succulents and cacti – and why does it matter?

While I’m acutely aware that many of my readers will probably skip this part – it’s important to understand the difference between succulents and cacti.

The name “succulent” comes from the Latin word sucus – which means “sap” or “juice”. It therefore comes as no surprise then that succulents are plants which characteristically have thick fleshy parts designed to store water, in order to be able to survive in hot, dry climates.

However, while the majority of succulents grow in such dry and desert like conditions, others – such as epiphyllum – grow in rainforests, and prefer semi-shade and humid conditions. More on this in a moment.

So how are cacti different to succulents?

You might be surprised to learn that all cacti are in fact succulents. The feature which distinguishes a cacti from a succulent is the presence of aeroles – from which their sharp spines emerge. Succulents do not have these spikes.

This is good news.

As all cacti are a type of succulent, it would make sense that cacti and succulents can be grown together successfully.

However, as mentioned before – not all succulents (and cacti) are found in the same habitat, and as such – mixing plants native to different climate types will lead to problems.

Which leads us to our next topic.

 

Which succulents and cacti can you plant together in a single pot or arrangement?

 

As mentioned above, succulents and cacti are native to a variety of different climates – meaning they will vary in their need for – and tolerance of – sunlight and water.

Therefore, the golden rule for pairing succulents and cacti for a single container arrangement is ensuring you’ve selected species with compatible (or reasonably compatible) growth requirements.

Growth requirements can be complex, but there are really only two major factors you need to consider in order to avoid trouble – how much sun and water each plant requires for optimal growth.

 

Choosing succulents and cacti with similar sunlight requirements

 

As a rule of thumb, cacti normally do best in bright light to full sun for the majority of the day.

Non cacti succulents for the most part prefer bright light also, but many do perfectly fine in the shade – and some will even burn if placed in full sunlight.

Therefore, if you’re planning on placing your arrangement somewhere that gets less than 5 hours of bright indirect light daily, you may be better sticking to a shade tolerant succulent arrangement and leave the cacti outside.

Unless you’re supplementing light with grow lights, you’re going to struggle to keep the majority of cacti happy in a shade dominant location. 

 

If you’re planning on placing your container in a semi shaded locatio with 5 or more hours of bright indirect light, you’ll likely be able to maintain a thriving mix of succulents and cacti – if you choose shade tolerant species.

For locations with bright indirect light all day – you’ll pretty much be able to choose whatever you want to plant.

For direct sun locations outdoors or on a windowsill, you’ll get away with most species as well – but will need to avoid shade dominant succulents that may burn on direct sun exposure.

Below, I’ve made a list of both cacti and succulent species which can tolerate lower light conditions – this list is not exhaustive, but is a good place to start.

Your humidity and temperature variance makes a difference also – so you’ll need to consider these factors also when selecting your species.

 

One of our favourite websites – www.succulentsandsunshine.com – is a great resource to find out more regarding the particular growth requirements of your succulent and cacti species.

Key takeaways 

  • When planning your arrangement, determine what duration and instensity of light exposure at the location you’re planning on placing your pot or container.
  • Then do some research to find species of succulent and cacti which are compatible with your sun levels
  • We recommend avoiding cacti species if your intended location within the home has low-moderate indirect light, or has less than 5 hours of moderate-bright indoor light on a daily basis

 

Watering succulents and cacti planted together in the same pot or container

 

The second growth requirement that must be considered for each of your plants is water need.

One of the most common reasons planters containing both succulents and cacti may fail is due to universal watering for a range of plants with varied water needs – meaning some species are overwatered, and others underwatered.

In general, your succulents will need more water than your cacti plants. While both are prone to overwatering, cacti in particular will do poorly if given too much water – whereas your succulents may become limp or drop leaves if given too little.

How do we solve this dilemma?

Luckily, there are some work-arounds for this that don’t require you to match each species water need in order to be able to companion them. We’ll discuss these in the below step by step guide to planting your succulent and cacti arrangement.

 

 

 

How to plant succulents and cacti together – a step by step guide 

 

 1) Select the correct pot for your succulent and cacti arrangement 

 

There is one simple rule here team.

 Your container or pot MUST have good drainage. I don’t care how pretty it is – no drainage holes, no deal. All succulents (including cacti) will die a miserable death in soil that stays moist for too long. A moist, sad death.

For those in love with a particular container which no drainage holes – there is a work around – which we will discuss in the watering section.

 

2) Select the appropriate soil for your succulent and cacti arrangement

 

This is absolute key. You must pick the right soil for your succulents and cacti to thrive in.

These plants require soil that is porous and drains freely.

Succulents and cacti absorb water from the air around them, so soil that isn’t porous and holds too much water leads to over absorption, cell rupture and root death.

Luckily, most garden stores sell succulent/cacti planting mixes which are designed to reflect this quality.

Just read the label and ensure that they aren’t “water saving”, and that they have some sort of coarse sand or grit material present to make them porous.

 Or, simply make your own like I do.

 To make a potting mix for my succulents, I mix the following

  • 1/3 regular potting mix
  • 1/3 coarse particle (choices here including coarse sand, turface, crushed granite, composted bark – something with a particle size of at least 5mm)
  • 1/3 perlite or pumice

This mix is total boss. The potting mix ads organic material, the coarse particles (I use coarse propagation sand or composted bark) and perlite or pumice form a great porous structure with added organic structure. Perfecto. 

 

3) Decide on a confined or aggregrate planting strategy

 

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that one of the reasons most planters with succulents and cacti mixed in together do poorly is that the cacti generally need less water than their non cacti counterparts, leading to overwatering and death.

 There are two ways to deal with this.

  1. Aggregate planting method 

In a traditional aggregate planter, you’ll arrange and plant your succulent and cacti species all together in the one pot, using a potting mix as discussed above. 

The obvious issue here is in trying to provide tailored water quantities to your plants, given that they are all planted in the same soil in the same pot. 

The workaround with the aggregate planting method is to use a syringe feeding system. 

It’s a simple system. Grab yourelf any type of plastic syringe between 10-50mls, and use this to slowly hand deliver water directly to the base of each plant. In this way you can control the quantity and location of water delivered. 

For example, you might decide to water your succulents with 100mls of water once every 7-10 days, and your cacti with 100mls once every three weeks.

On succulent day, you use your syringe to gentle and slowly drip water directly to the base of your succulents – don’t water too fast or you’ll get lateral spill over to your cacti.

 Then when it comes time to water the cacti, you can either water the whole pot as usual (if the succulents are due also), or you can repeat the same process for the cacti – if the watering schedules are staggered.

 This isn’t foolproof, but it generally works pretty well in preventing your cacti from getting overwatered. 

2. Contained planting method

In this method, you keep each species separately in their original plastic containers with drainage holes, and arrange these pots inside of a larger decorative container. 

A good trick to avoid dead space that looks unsightly is to fill any gaps between containers with your chosen planting mix – then place pebbles or gravel around your plants, effectively hiding their separate containers beneath. 

When its time for watering, you simply water each plant slowly, close to its root base – lateral seepage is prevented by the container hidden below. In this way you can effectively care for each succulent and cacti in your container as separate plants.

TIP: Make sure your individual pots sit on some grough gravel or stones, as you don’t want water pooling beneath and being drawn on by surrounding plants. 

 

4) Maintain your arrangement

 

By now, you should have selected compatible plants, potted them correctly with excellent drainage and appropriate soil – particulate mix, and placed them in a location that matches your chosen sunlight requirement. 

You’re also watering your succulents and cacti by a container or drip feed method, according to their water requirement. 

In order to maintain your arrangement, you’ll need to fertilise with a liquid fertiliser as often as each species requires (you’ll have to look this up). Use the same method as for watering. 

Lastly, ensure you prune back any plants which are encroaching on others, or looking too dominant – I like to do a early spring prune back each year. 

And finally, I report my arrangements every 2 years. Seems to be a sweet spot.

 

And thats it folks!

Hope this was helpful
If it was, spread the love for me and post to facebook, twitter, pinterest, your bedroom door – anywhere helps!

Much love
Miss Pot Plant xoxo 

Can succulents be grown indoors?

Can succulents be grown indoors?

succulents indoors, growing succulents, low light succulents

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. 

 

The basics 

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)
  • Hoya
  • Aloe
  • Gasteria
  • Hawthoria
  • Echeverias
  • Rhipsalis
  • Reutia
  • 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. 

 

Final tips

  • 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. 

Much love

Miss pot plant xoxo