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12 Practical Succulent Care Tips For Beginners

succulent care tips for beginners
Succulent care tips for beginners

Are you looking for succulent gardening care tips to guide you in successfully growing succulents? If you are, these 12 practical succulent care tips will be useful for you.

As a newbie in succulent gardening, it is normal to feel concerned about the possibility of making mistakes while growing these succulents; mistakes that can put their lives in danger. 

You have every reason to worry because you deal with living plants, and they can either live or die depending on how effectively you care for them.

Even those succulent plants they call resilient and low-maintenance can sometimes be tricky at the start.

But once you figure out the best way to care for them in your location, growing succulents will be a breeze. Once you know what to do, you will soon enjoy a beautiful garden with little effort on your side on its maintenance.

There are several factors you need to consider when growing succulents. These 12 practical succulent care tips will help you start on the right track:

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1. Make sure you bring home healthy plants.

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As a beginner, you might think that the chubbiest succulent you picked up from the store is the healthiest one you’ve found. But the truth is, it could already be struggling to stay alive.

Succulents displayed in indoor nurseries may take in more water than needed. But unfortunately, just even one watering can put these plants’ lives in danger as poor air circulation inside these nurseries prevents moisture from evaporating, keeping the soil moist longer. 

It helps to know what signs to look for so that picking the unhealthy ones can be avoided. It is easier to be successful gardening with succulents when you start with those that are healthy from the start. Healthy, but not overwatered.

You can tell if the plant had too much water. Each leaf feels hard and looks bloated like a balloon. Some may crack or drop off. 

Avoid getting the plant when you see these signs because plants like these are already in a bad state. If you cannot rescue them early enough, the damage could progress, and in just a few days, you’ll see most of their leaves gone and your money down the drain.

2. Choose easy-to-grow succulents first.

Avoid starting with hybrids and variegated species if you are not confident with your succulent gardening skills yet, as these kinds tend to be more delicate and hard to grow. Select easy-to-grow species instead. This succulent care tip will help you avoid frustration at the beginning of your succulent journey.

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As your skills in growing these plants get better, you can then start adding in more species including the delicate ones.

Some succulents like the Haworthia fasciata and Sedum burrito can thrive in both indoor and outdoor locations, They won’t complain much even though the light they receive is not enough. They can survive longer days without being watered, yet can tolerate a lot of water, too, making it easy for you to keep them alive. They can both survive in either neglect or with constant pampering.

3. Start with locally grown succulents.

Compared to those succulent plants ordered online (those that have traveled thousands of miles, enclosed in a box for several days), locally grown and stable succulents are much easier to grow. 

They are already well adjusted to the environment and it won’t take long before they stabilize in your home too. Aside from that, they are way cheaper compared to imported ones, and losing a few of them won’t traumatize your pocket.

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Here are the tools you need for gardening with succulents.

Succulent gardening tools are now available in the Philippines. We also ship to Japan, Canada, and Australia.

4. Find the perfect spot for the plants 

Placing succulents indoors is not always the best option. There are succulents that will do well indoors but many of them would love to be outdoors, too. 

Place those sun-loving Echeverias where they can get a good amount of sunlight and protect those that are sensitive to too much light like those Haworthias with fleshy “see-through” leaves. 

Living in warm and humid locations can speed up the destruction of succulents when placed indoors. Many of them are better off outside in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight initially.

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5. Provide Adequate lighting

You might have seen many pictures of succulents placed on the center table or in the office near a computer. But in reality, not many succulents would want to be in that spot for long, especially if there is not enough lighting. 

This succulent care tip on providing enough lighting is important especially when you are growing succulents indoors.

Bestva Grow lights

You’ll know the plant is not happy because you’ll see it either slowly turning pale, getting deformed, leaning on one side,  growing uneven, or elongating. If it happens, do not feel bad. There are a few ways you can do to deal with elongated succulents.

The plant may lean towards the light source. Rotating them from time to time is helpful. That’s one succulent care tip to help you avoid the plants getting deformed. Rotate them from time to time to even out the light distribution the plant receives.

 If you see your succulents losing their compactness, it’s an obvious sign that they are not satisfied where they are when it comes to the amount of light they receive. Using a good-quality grow light can allow you to continue enjoying succulents indoors while keeping their compactness and color.

6. Use the right soil mixture.

Succulents prefer a fast-draining soil mixture. Using the moisture-rich soil we frequently use for most plants can be a recipe for failure. Most succulents prefer their roots dry most of the time. That is why fast-draining soil is needed for succulents. When their roots are wet longer, they can rot or get overwatered.

When you create your soil mixture, use a combination of organic ( compost, cocopeat, potting soil mix)  and inorganic components ( pebbles, lava rocks, coarse sand). There are other alternatives for the soil mixture. You can start with a 1:1 ratio and adjust your mixture based on the species you are growing and your location.

7. Plant in containers with drainage.

You’ll need a planter that will allow water to pass through. Having standing water at the base of the pot enables the plant to have access to the water and bad bacteria can grow. Therefore, having their roots constantly wet is dangerous for them. Even stable succulents may die when soaked in the water too long.

If your planter does not allow water to pass through, having the right soil mixture is useless as it defeats the purpose of the fast-draining soil. For more succulent care tips on what other planters you can use for your succulents, check out this video.

8. Water accordingly.

Watering succulents is often where many succulent growers differ. Some people water once a week, others twice, yet others even once a month! Some water sparingly, while others soak them in a tub of water. 

Why there is no standard recommendation on how much and how often to water succulents is obviously because we grow them in different locations and our weather conditions are different. 

We also grow different species of succulents and factors like the size of the plant, soil mixture, containers and their dormancy period can affect how much water should be given. If watering succulents confuses you, or you need more succulent care tips, this book—Water Me Next Week, A Succulents Plea is a good resource for you.

Succulent book for beginners, succulent care tips for beginners
Beginner’s guide to watering succulents. Beginner’s book for succulent gardening

Also, watering depends on what you want to achieve. If you intend to propagate more, then you should water a bit more often.  If, on the other hand, you prefer growing colorful succulents, then, there is a watering technique you need to know.

9. Watch out for pests.

If you are not very careful, you may bring some pests home when you buy the plants. Carefully inspecting them, treating the issue accordingly, and isolating them when you need to can help prevent your other plants from getting infected. 

When they flower, some succulents attract insects like aphids and mealybugs. Sometimes, simply removing the infested flowers or spraying them with soap and water can solve the problem. Other times, it’s not.

Also, early detection is the key to preventing severe damage to their leaves.

Some succulents are pest resistant. Like the Portulacarias and several Kalanchoes. But there are some, like the Crassulas with tightly stacked leaves where these pests just love to hide and multiply.

10. Be gentle when exposing them to sunlight.

Surprisingly, although many succulents love the full sun, exposing them too soon to the strong sunlight may cause some damage to their leaves. The severity of the injury depends on how strong the sunlight is, how long the exposure was and how delicate the plant is. 

Some places with a milder climate may not experience sunburn in succulents. But in dry, hot locations, especially during summer, it can be harsh for them.

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Learn how to grow colorful succulents ( online course)

11. Do not generalize their care.

Succulents are known to prefer being in dry soil, but some grow in a medium that is a bit moist. Although many succulents love to be in the full sun, some prefer a bit of shade. Some succulents are stunning when colorful, while some are more beautiful when green. The location one plant loves may not be the same as the other. 

So, it is better to find out what’s unique about each succulent plant you have and provide them with the care they need. You’ll find many generalized succulent care advice online but not all will be applicable to your location as well as the succulent species you are growing.

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Free Echeveria identification PDF

12. Consider their dormancy period.

Dormancy is a period in a plant’s life wherein its growth and physical activity temporarily slow down to conserve its energy to stay alive. It is triggered by environmental changes such as a drop in temperature, shortened length of the day, extreme heat, or reduced rainfall.

It is the plant’s survival strategy to stay alive in locations with climates not suitable for their growth. The change is momentary as the plant comes back to life again when the weather is favorable for its growth.
In severe lack of water, the succulents can also become dormant to survive.

Some succulents are dormant during summer while some are dormant during winter. For more succulent care tips about dormancy in succulents, watch this YouTube video about dormancy in Aeoniums.

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