Over the last 10+ years, there is one type of plant that has become all the rage—especially with Millennials.
You guessed it! Succulents.
It was back around 2007 when they first gained popularity. Anyone who was online or out in the world started to see these sweet little plants popping up everywhere.
You couldn’t walk into a store without seeing a baby succulent arrangement displayed somewhere. And if you opened Pinterest? Forget it! They were all over the place. Growing inside of tea pots; teacups; terrariums!
Some plant-fans had even gone so far as to create vertical succulent gardens so they could display them hanging on their garden walls.
With the succulent’s sudden rise to fame came plant owners looking for tips on keeping their new gardens happy. Today, you’ll learn about general indoor and outdoor succulent care, and find out the answer to the most common question of all: how often to water succulents.
Let’s dive in!
Why Are Succulents So Popular?
What is it about succulents? Well, not only do they come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes, but they’re very hard to kill. Yay!
One of the biggest reasons people shy away from buying houseplants is because they’re concerned that they will kill the plant. (And no one likes to be the perpetrator of plant homicide. It’s a depressing moment of self-defeat!)
But with succulents, a few tips can turn even a plant novice into a green-thumbed expert overnight.
Every plant has a personality, and succulents are downright jolly. They’re cute and plump with a lovely symmetry to them. When you plant different kinds of succulent rosettes in a garden, they create a fun geometric pattern that draws your eye in.
They’re like the joyful flower bloom that never falls off the plant.
And if you plant them in your yard, they will spread rapidly, which makes them a very eco-friendly way to cover a yard, particularly if you live in a state with frequent droughts.
The better question: What’s not to like?
Caring For Succulents Indoors
How can you make sure your succulents are happy houseplants? Follow these basic steps!
Choose your vessel. The first thing you’ll need is a vessel for your succulent garden.
You can use any kind of object that you can put soil in. A bowl, a teacup, a bucket, a shoe, an old guitar, or a regular plant pot… the possibilities are endless!
Some people even like using glass dishes and bowls so they can layer stones and soil for an additional aesthetic touch.
If you’d like a little inspiration to get you started, check out this list of our favorite cactus planters!
Use the right soil. Succulents like to grow in cactus soil, or special succulent soil, which can be purchased at your local garden center, or online.
These kinds of soil are preferred because they drain nicely which keeps the plant from becoming water-logged. A problem which might happen in traditional potting soil.
Settle your succulents in their new home. If you visit your local garden center and buy a flat of succulents you can drop them into their planter as they are. Or you can snip off rosettes or cuttings and mix them together to create a multi-species succulent garden.
Whatever you do, be sure to give them a thorough watering upon planting so the plants don’t go into shock.
Get some sun. Make sure your succulent is getting plenty of light. They like to grow on windowsills, or outside where they can get adequate sun.
Watering Succulents: How Much is Too Much?
So what’s your best strategy for figuring out how often to water succulents?
In most cases, succulents should be watered just once a week, and just until the soil is moistened, not flooded.
If you’re in a climate that is very warm, or it’s during the hotter months of the year, check the soil on your plant to see how much it’s drinking.
Here’s a method for quickly gauging the current soil moisture level.
- Insert a wooden chopstick or toothpick into the soil.
- If the chopstick/toothpick comes back dry and with no clumps of damp soil on it, it’s time to give your cactus a drink.
- Any moisture clinging to the chopstick/toothpick means your cactus doesn’t need any water just yet.
If the soil is drying out right away, try watering the plant twice a week and see how it fares.
In cooler months, or during the more damp/rainy months, the plant will absorb moisture in the air and may require less water.
But once a week is a great place to start and will set you up for success.
If your succulent garden is in a pot without drainage holes be careful not to over-water, as this can flood the plant’s roots and create root-rot.
NOTE: Have a plant with root rot? No problem! Mix one cup water with 1 tbsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide and feed this to the plant. Then begin back on your regular watering schedule.
If your succulents are living in a pot or vessel with drainage holes, go ahead and water the plant thoroughly when you water and allow it to drain.
Before you water again, make sure the soil has dried out. Once again, if the climate is hot and dry, maybe water a bit more. If it’s cool and damp, water a bit less.
How Can You Know if You’re Watering Succulents Correctly?
Succulent leaves should appear plump and should feel firm to the touch.
If the leaves on a succulent begin to look mushy or like you might squish them if you touch them, you are over watering. Conversely, if the leaves begin to shrink up and look dry, that lil’ baby needs more water.
The best thing to do is put a reminder in your phone or calendar to water once a week.
Or choose a watering day for your plants. I like Saturdays. It’s a nice ritual to make a morning cup of coffee and then commence with watering the houseplants.
It’s also totally okay to say hello to them when you water them!
Caring For Succulents Outdoors
Growing succulents outdoors is a lot easier than having an indoor succulent garden.
Why is that? Well, the simple answer is that these plants like to live outside more than they like to live inside.
If you’re growing succulents in pots outside, follow the same planting and watering protocols as if you were growing them indoors. The same goes for a vertical garden.
If you’re growing succulents in a planter bed, or in your yard, (perhaps in place of a lawn) the rules are a bit different.
When planting, it is still preferred to fill the planter beds with cactus or succulent soil. But if you’re growing them amongst other types of plants, your every day, run-of-the-mill garden soil will work fine.
To err on the side of caution, you can mix your garden soil with a bag of cactus soil in the area where the succulents will grow.
You can water succulents growing in the ground more frequently than potted succulents, as the water will drain rapidly and be absorbed into the earth.
The plants will also have direct access to the sun and air and thus will be more able to regulate themselves and not dry out or become water-logged.
Again, you can check your succulents’ leaves to make sure that they are plump, yet firm. If they’re soggy, pull back on the watering. If they’re drying out, water more.
This can fluctuate given the climate and time of year.
Pro tip: If you live in a climate where it freezes in the winter, be sure to bring your potted outdoor succulents inside for the cold winter months. Or if they live in your garden, cover them with an old bedsheet to protect them from frost when the temps dip really low.
Succulents Gone Wild!
Succulents growing outside will grow and spread quickly, so you’ll need to be prepared to prune them regularly to keep their shape and design.
One of the most economical things about succulents is that they will re-root and grow from clippings. So, if you have one mother plant, you can create numerous tiny arrangements without additional trips to the nursery.
Often times, experienced growers will grow succulents outdoors and then snip cuttings or rosettes from their outside succulents to bring inside for indoor succulent gardens.
As an added bonus, you can pot them as gifts for friends!
All in all, succulents make great plant friends be it indoors or outdoors. They’re lovely in color, texture and variety and have great personality. They’re inexpensive, easy to care for, and last for years and years.
Remember that starting out with gardening is always a bit of trial and error. Some plants are really easy to grow, while others are much more persnickety and require a lot of attention.
There is nothing wrong with asking questions or doing research to learn more about your plants.
And your local plant nursery or gardening center should always be willing to answer your questions and help you out if you’re having trouble with your new green pals.
In a pinch, you can usually bring a leaf from your troubled plant into the gardening center and ask for advice on watering, feeding or fertilizing.
For those who are inexperienced, give succulents a try! They are an excellent way to try out gardening or owning a houseplant.
Once you’ve kept a succulent alive for several months, who knows! You might build up enough confidence to buy more plants. And if you’re really brave, you might even try a fiddle-leaf fig!