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Growing Succulents: Beyond the Basics

Posted by Candice Hart - Gardening

I'll admit it. I have a succulent addiction! They're everywhere at my house and I think you'll enjoy them just as much as I do. If you've never grown succulents before, I'll walk you through how to plant a succulent container garden here.

By definition, a succulent is a plant that has thick fleshy leaves or stems adapted to storing water. Succulent is a very broad term that can include many, many plants. Some of the common succulent plants you may be familiar with are hens and chicks, jade plants, aloe plants, or holiday cacti, just to name a few.

Why Grow Succulents?

  • They need minimal watering. For a gardener that works or travels a lot, succulents are a great choice. They thrive on neglect and dry soil. In fact, the easiest way to kill a succulent plant is by watering too much.
  • They have few disease and pest problems. Besides the occasional mealybug problem, there are usually very problems that pop up on succulents.
  • Containers can be taken outdoors for the summer and kept as houseplants for the winter. My deck is full of succulent container pots for the summer and then before the temperatures dip below freezing, I bring those pots in and keep them as houseplants.
  • They have interesting flowers and plant forms. The variety of colors, shapes, and patterns that are available in succulent plants is like nothing else.

Succulent Container Maintenance

Succulents are very low maintenance plants, but there are a few factors to consider.

Lighting

If growing succulents indoors, a southern or western facing window would have the most ideal bright light for these plants that prefer a high light location. Many succulents will thrive under incandescent or fluorescent supplemental lighting if the ideal lighting situation is not available.

When temperatures are above freezing, these container gardens can be enjoyed outdoors in a full sun location.

Temperature

Most cacti and succulents can adapt to wide fluctuations of temperature because that is what occurs in their native dessert habitats. It is naturally very warm in the day and cold at night in the desert.

Exposure to temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees F for long periods is not harmful to succulent plants. In fact, many desert plants will initiate flower buds when grown in a cool, dry, well-lit location. Nighttime temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees F are suitable to stimulate flower bud formation.

Watering

The amount of water needed for a container garden really depends on the following:

1) the time of year

2) the size of the plant

3) the type of potting soil

4) the size of pot

As a result, these plants can't be watered on a set schedule because of those varying factors. In other words, you can't set an alarm to water your succulent containers every Monday. Watering no matter what the conditions are, can lead to easily overwatering the container.

A few tips for watering:

  • Overwatering is by far the easiest way to kill a succulent or cacti plant, so prior to watering, check the soil with your finger to judge the amount of moisture still left.
  • If the soil still feels moist, don't water yet. Wait until the soil completely dries out before watering again. •When watering, soak the container thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain away.
  • Your container should provide adequate drainage so that the roots are not standing in water.

Fertilization

Feed plants monthly with a standard houseplant fertilizer, only during the active growing season which is usually between March and October.


Watch it!


For a more in-depth look at how to plant a succulent container garden, click on the image above to check out this video tutorial.


Learn More!
Read all about Succulent Containers in this printable two page sheet.


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