If you’re new to the houseplant fever that’s swept across countless homes, you need a crash course in succulents. These beautiful, unique, and elegant plants are one of the most popular species among gardening lovers. If you’ve been thinking about getting one of these beauties, you’ll need to learn how to take care of succulents.
The great news is that you’ll have a hard time finding a plant as affordable, low-maintenance, and resilient as succulents. Easily identifiable by their thick, fleshy leaves, they make both great outdoor and indoor plants, and they come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes.
In this article, we’ll explore the beautiful and unique world of succulents, and you’ll learn how to choose the best variety for your home’s conditions. You’ll also find a basic care guide that will help you create the perfect environment for your succulents to grow and thrive so they can fill your home or garden with their exotic charm.
Picking the Right Succulent for Your Home
One of the best things about succulents is that they adapt easily to different home environments. You may be surprised to find out that while they are generally seen as hot, dry climate plants, many species grow in rainy and humid climates — such as rainforests and jungles.
For this reason, before you learn how to take care of succulents, you must take a good look at your house and assess your light and sun exposure conditions. While you may find most succulents being sold as plants that tolerate low-light conditions, you should know that, if they don’t get enough light, it can inhibit their growth, change the color of their leaves, and cause the plant to become weaker and more susceptible to diseases and pests.
As a general rule, the best indoor succulents are naturally green in color, as they can photosynthesize more efficiently in lower light conditions compared to other types — succulents in colors other than green will likely suffer from the lack of full sun.
In a nutshell, if you plan to keep your succulents indoors, opt for species that prefer less light, continually dry air, and the consistent temperatures provided by cozy and warm homes. If you plan on growing your baby succulents outside, choose a variety or varieties that thrive in direct sunlight and are more resilient to temperature changes.
Succulents That Prefer Indirect Light
If you’re growing any of the succulent species on this list indoors, make sure you place them close to a window that doesn’t receive direct light. Remember that they need at least 6 hours of sun per day to grow healthy!
- Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum)
- Gasteria (Gasteria spp.)
- Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata)
Succulents That Prefer Direct Sunlight
The following succulent plants are all great options if you have a bright windowsill in dire need of some plant action! They love direct sun, especially the morning light. Just keep in mind that they may suffer from plant sunburn during the scorching midday summer hours, so consider moving them to a window that only catches the glorious light of the beginning of the day.
- Aloe vera and other aloe species
- Houseleek (Sempervivum)
- Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
- Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
Note: If you have pets who love to nibble plants, it might be a good idea to check plant toxicity before you buy them. A great resource is the ASPCA website, where you can use their search tab to look for specific species and find out whether they are pet-friendly. If you’re only looking for plants that are safe for your pets, consider reading our essential guide to non-toxic plants.
How To Take Care of Succulents: The Basics
Succulents are sturdy houseplants that can withstand a lot of negligence and many of the deadliest plant killers. While they can survive under many conditions, they do need some basic elements to grow and thrive.
Now that you’ve assessed the condition and sunlight available at your place and have a couple of succulent varieties in mind to populate your house, it’s time to get down to business and learn the basics of how to take care of succulents.
As we discussed before, sunlight is kind of a big deal when it comes to picking your succulent species.
While some varieties need full sun, others thrive in corners with partial shade — again, make sure your plants are getting enough sunlight to support their growth.
If you’ve opted for succulents that prefer more light, place them on a south-facing window where they can bask in the full sun. If you start to see some burn spots, this is a sign that your beloved plant is getting too much sun. Simply prune the damaged area and move the succulent to a spot with indirect and less intense sunlight.
Leggy plants — AKA plants that lean towards the light — are a clear indication that your plant baby is not getting enough sun. You may want to change to a different location with more bright light, or you can rotate the pot a couple of times during the week to encourage the succulent to grow upwards.
Pro tip: In general, most succulents will grow best in a south-facing window during the fall and winter and in more indirect and filtered light — e.g., behind a curtain — during the hotter months.
If you thought that sunlight was the most important element when learning how to take care of succulents, think again.
Water, or in this case, overwatering, is the number one killer of most succulents — and so many other poor plant victims. Giving excess water is one of the most common mistakes amateur gardeners make when it comes to houseplants.
When you have a sudden urge to water your succulent, keep in mind that they hold water in their leaves. Therefore, taking a good look at their chunky foliage is a good way to assess their hydration needs. If you see some shrinking or shriveling or some of the top leaves look dry and crispy, it’s time to give water.
It’s also useful to remember that these unique plants are naturally designed to depend on a cycle of water abundance followed by a period of little water and even extreme dryness. In fact, this plant’s longevity is boosted when its roots have enough time to dry between waterings.
Pro tip: A good way to make sure the soil is totally dry is to insert a wooden skewer or stick all the way to the base of the pot. Let it sit there for a few minutes, remove it, and look for signs of moisture. If it’s completely dry, it’s hydration time.
Water needs also vary according to the seasons. While succulents go into a semi-dormant state during the cold months and require less water, their growing season starts in spring and goes all through summer. During these warmer months, the amount of water your plants need will naturally increase.
The best way to support healthy, rot-free succulent roots is to provide them with a well-draining organic potting mix. Waterlogged succulent soil is usually the most common cause of growth problems.
Selecting a soil mix that drains well and dries fast is an efficient way to encourage the healthy growth of your succulents. You can pick up a potting mix specifically designed for succulents, or you can roll-up your DIY sleeves and make your own.
Some of the best additions to your succulent soil mix include natural materials like pumice and perlite, which encourage better aeration as well as good drainage. These substances not only allow for better root oxygenation, but also promote evaporation. This is especially important if you decide to plant your succulent in a container that does not have a drainage hole.
Another wonderful way to encourage succulent growth is by giving them the appropriate home. Since these plants require dry soil to develop strong root systems, providing them with an appropriate growing container can be what makes or breaks your succulent ventures.
Terracotta pots are a great option, as the natural clay encourages quick moisture evaporation and allows the roots to breathe properly. Another creative and sustainable way to display your magnificent succulents is the Back to the Roots Self-Watering Grow Kit. It’s a perfect solution for those with busy lives who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to their plants but still want to bring a piece of nature into their homes.
This self-watering pot allows your succulent to hydrate itself whenever it needs, removing stress from plant parents. You can buy them online on our website or on Amazon, or you can find them at your local Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, and Target.
Succulents are also great companions for the Back to the Roots Water Garden, a low-maintenance and self-sustainable ecosystem that will support your plant as it grows luscious, healthy leaves.
Succulents Are Easy To Grow, Affordable, and Beautiful
If you want to venture into the world of houseplants, succulent plants are a perfect place to start. They’re affordable and come in different sizes and shapes, so you won’t have any trouble finding one to fit both your budget and space requirements.
Houseplants are much more than decorative accessories — they’re a fantastic way to add life to your home. For another houseplant that can survive in almost any condition, check out our essential guide to pothos plant care.