So you’ve brought your first succulent home.
Congratulations, you have just taken your first step towards becoming a full-fledged Plant Parent™.
Succulents have grown in popularity in recent times - and with good reason. Not only are they pretty to look at, they’re also pretty useful. Studies have shown that keeping succulents and cacti indoors help boost air quality since, aside from the natural filtering that they do, they produce oxygen even during nighttime - something not all plants are capable of. Not only that, Studies have found that indoor plants can actually improve your concentration and boost your mood by up to 15 percent!
It’s due to these reasons that people have been hoarding these little babies to populate every nook and cranny in their homes. Unfortunately though, not every aspiring plant parent is well-equipped to handle the responsibilities that the taking care of these babies entail.
No, you don’t need a degree in rocket science to keep your little green (or red! Or gold! Or purple!) baby happy - but that doesn’t mean everything’s going to be a cakewalk, either.
Taking care of succulents is a pretty straightforward affair: just give it enough light and water, as well as the correct substrate and container, and it’ll be something that’ll give you joy for the months and years to come. Just like a pet. Or a kid. You get the idea.
But I’m digressing. Let’s get to the basics:
Let There Be Light
It’s a common horror story encountered by most people: they bring home a succulent, put it someplace where it looks pretty - never mind if it’s in a dark spot - and then proceed to panic when the plant turns leggy and lanky.
So, what went wrong?
Succulents, as do all plants, need light, and being originally from the world’s deserts, they tend to prefer it bright. Cut off their access to it and - to rephrase Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm - they will find a way: stretching and craning until they look like stretched out cartoon characters instead of the beautiful plants they once were.
Don’t mistake bright light for full sun though, as it could scorch some succulents and cause them to get sunburnt. Place your new succulents in a dedicated spot near a window where they will get lots of indirect sunlight and some shade for close to eight hours a day and they will do just fine.
Pro-tip: If you’re still new to being a Plant Parent, try to choose green succulents over the brightly-colored ones. They tend to do better in lower light.
If you really want to take your chances on brightly-colored succulents, try to get an elevated container just so they'll get just a bit more light in your home.
Here Comes The Rain Again
In the immortal words of the legendary Spice Girls, “too much of something is bad enough.” And to be honest, they might as well have been talking about new Plant Parents’ watering habits.
I get it, we love our plants: we talk to them, we fuss over them, we water them at the first sign of dryness; but it can get too much.
Truth be told, death by over-watering is much more common than under-watering: excess water pools in the roots, thereby rotting them. Believe me, it is not a pretty sight.
So, how does one avoid over-watering?
For starters, know that your plants are hardy ones: they can survive long stretches without water. After all, most of them come from deserts. Second, make sure the soil is completely dry before watering your succulents. Also, it’ll help if you establish a schedule for your plants: once a week is enough for plants in smaller pots while watering once every two weeks is perfect for those in larger ones.
Also, rather than giving your succulents spritzes of water, give them a good soaking — and by that, we mean to the point the water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. Then let the soil dry out completely before watering again.
Pro-tip: When you water, try not to get the succulents' leaves wet. Excess moisture on the leaves is just as bad as excess moisture on the roots. One way to do this is by using long-spouted watering cans in order to achieve precision during watering.
Home Sweet Home
If you’re like us, I’m pretty sure you’ve spent hours browsing the Internet for some plant-spirations. And while those images of repurposed containers and DIY terrariums look cute, they’re not exactly the most beginner-friendly.
Let me explain.
When it comes to housing succulents, drainage and air circulation is very important, and unfortunately, conventional plastic or glass containers don't really allow for good drainage or breathability. Opt instead for pots with drainage holes, so that water drains easily from the soil and no part of your plant baby will be left in standing water.
Having adapted to store their own water, succulents hate sitting in excess moisture and thus, require well-draining soil for them to thrive in your care.
Here’s an easy (and effective!) mix to get you started: just mix together two parts potting soil to one part fine pumice.
A Few More Words
People often wonder and ask about what they should do when they see the plant shedding a leaf or two upon bringing it home. Our advice? Don’t panic. Unless it’s a lot of leaves at a single time, shedding is perfectly normal; the plant, after all, is taking its time to adapt to a new environment. Also, don’t throw the shed leaves away! Put them in a container of soil, and pretty soon you’ll see new succulent babies. Neat, eh?
So what are you waiting for? Get those shovels, pots, and plants out and let's get digging!
- MIKE REBUYAS