Succulents are unique, beautiful, and best of all, they’re easy to care for! In this complete guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to grow them indoors or outside, and keep them thriving for years to come.
People often ask me what my favorite type of plant is. You just have to take one look at my houseplant collection (and even my garden outside), and you’ll see that the answer is quite obvious. I love succulents the most!
Some people think that succulents are difficult to care for. But the truth is that they are extremely easy, and fairly low maintenance.
I’ve been growing them for decades, and I’m so excited to share with you all of my knowledge about maintaining these gorgeous and fun plants.
Below I’ll give you tons of tips on how to grow succulents. Including all you need to know about water, light, fertilizer, soil, pruning, pest control, and much more!
Here’s what you’ll find in this comprehensive guide…
What Is A Succulent?
A succulent is a type of plant that has plump, firm leaves and stems which are designed to retain water. They are native to arid climates that don’t get much rain.
Since they are good at storing water, they don’t need as much moisture as other types of plants. This means they require less maintenance from us.
Different Types Of Succulents
There are so many different types of succulents that it’s impossible to name them all in one article. But some are much more common than others. Here are a few of my favorites.
- African milk tree
- Aloe vera
- Ghost plant
- Burro’s tail
- String of pearls
- Pencil cactus
- Jade plant
- Starfish cactus (Carrion plant)
- Huernia (Dragon flower)
- Holiday cacti
Most succulent plants will flower at some point in their life, and several will even bloom constantly with the right care.
Unfortunately, a few of them will die after they flower, which is a normal part of their life cycle. But many others can continue to blossom again year after year.
The bloom times, colors, shapes, fragrance (or lack of), and sizes vary wildly depending on the genus and species.
I often get asked if succulents are toxic to cats and dogs. Unfortunately some of them can be poisonous, while others are completely non-toxic.
So, if you’re concerned about their safety, then I recommend researching the specific variety that you have. The ASPCA website has a good list to start with.
How To Grow Succulents
Before I get into the specific details of succulent care, let’s talk about where to grow them. Understanding their hardiness, and placing them in the right location are the first steps for success.
You might be surprised to learn that most succulents are fairly cold hardy. Their native habitat is the desert, which can get pretty chilly at night, even below freezing at times.
But the exact hardiness depends on the species. I have some that can survive several months of sub-zero temps in my zone 4 MN garden. While others would quickly die at the first sign of frost, and must be kept indoors during the winter.
Where To Grow Succulents
No matter if you want to grow them indoors or outside, it’s very important to keep succulents in a dry location where they will get bright light.
They do equally well in pots as they do in the ground, as long as these conditions are met. Choose a container with holes in the bottom, or a garden area that doesn’t get much rain.
Succulent Plant Care & Growing Guide
Growing succulents can be tough if you’re not familiar with their care requirements. So below I’m going to give you all the details you need in order to be successful.
In general, most succulents grow best with bright light. Some will thrive in full sun, while others prefer a partial shade exposure.
Indoors, place them in or near a sunny window during the fall and winter, and give them filtered light during the hot summer months.
If you see them getting leggy or reaching for the window, that means they need more light. Move them to a sunnier spot, or use a grow light.
Before moving or planting them outside, it’s a good idea to look up their ideal exposure. That way you can prevent issues like sunburn on the ones that prefer to be protected from the intense afternoon rays.
Proper watering is by far the hardest part of successful succulent plant care for most people. And guess what, overwatering is their #1 killer.
They hate wet feet, and consistent overwatering will cause them to rot and die. So always, always check to make sure they actually need it first.
The soil should be completely dry before add more. To check it, stick your finger at least 2″ deep. If it feels wet at all, then wait longer.
This is one the most important things to get right. So if you struggle with it, I highly recommend buying an inexpensive moisture gauge to make it super easy for you. Learn exactly how and when to water them here.
When it comes to growing succulents in pots, it’s important to choose the right container. First off, adequate drainage is a must, especially if you plan to put them outside.
They won’t tolerate soggy soil for very long, and choosing a pot that doesn’t have drainage holes is a recipe for disaster.
In my opinion, terracotta pots are the best choice. The clay helps to wick away the moisture faster, which means that overwatering will be less of a risk.
One of the most common succulent plant care questions I get is regarding what type of soil to use.
I like to make my own using a combo of perlite or pumice, coarse sand, and regular potting soil, so I can get the perfect consistency. Learn how to make your own DIY succulent soil here.
Because they tend to have shallow roots, succulents can grow in the same pot for a long time. That means you won’t have to worry about repotting them very often.
You’ll know it’s time if you see roots coming out of the bottom holes, the plant is top heavy and keeps falling over, or their growth has slowed dramatically.
Use a clean container that has adequate drainage, and is only one size larger than the current one. Then bury them at the same depth as they were before.
Related Post: How To Make Your Own Gritty Mix Potting Soil
Succulents will benefit from being fertilized during their active growing period. You can buy special liquid plant food that’s made specifically for them.
Only feed them during the spring and summer. Start by giving them a weak dose of liquid fertilizer in early spring, gradually increasing it to full strength. Then continue feeding them regularly until fall.
Don’t fertilize them during the colder fall and winter months, or the new growth will likely be very weak and leggy.
Be careful what you use to treat them though, some varieties are very sensitive to any type of spray. So test it on a few leaves first, then wait a couple days to make sure there’s no damage before treating the whole plant.
Or you can try making your own spray using a mixture of 1 tsp mild liquid soap per 1 liter of water.
Learn more about How To Get Rid Of Houseplant Bugs Naturally
Some succulents need to be pruned regularly in order to maintain their shape and size, while others may not require it at all.
If yours is getting leggy or sparse, then you can trim or pinch it to keep the compact shape. Cut off weak and leggy growth by pinching it with your fingers, snipping it off with a sharp pair of clippers, or use heavy duty shears for thicker stems.
Dead flowers and spikes can be removed at any time. But if you’re pruning for shape, then the best time to do that is in the spring or summer.
Related Post: How To Make An Indoor Succulent Garden
Winter Succulent Care Tips
Believe it or not, succulents go into a state of dormancy during the winter months. They won’t drop their leaves like other plants can, but their growth will slow down, and they won’t need as much moisture.
So allow them to stay dry longer, and water very sparingly. Also, don’t repot, prune, or feed them during the coldest months of the year, just let them rest.
Succulent Propagation Tips
For the most part, succulents are notoriously simple to propagate. Many can be rooted from leaf or stem cuttings, while others need to be divided.
Troubleshooting Common Succulent Care Problems
When you get the hang of caring for succulents, you’ll see that they don’t have many problems. But below are some of the most common issues you might run into, along with tips for how to fix them.
The most common cause of leggy succulents is inadequate light, and this is usually more of a problem when you grow them indoors.
If this is happening to yours, give it more sun, or add a grow light indoors. You can prune off the leggy stems once they start to recover.
Brown leaves are usually caused by either sun scorch or under watering. If they have brown spots, then it’s most likely sunburn, so move to a partial shade location.
Whole leaves that are brown and dried means they aren’t getting enough moisture. Avoid letting them get bone dry for long periods of time.
Succulent leaves will begin to shrivel as their internal water supply starts running low. It’s usually not a huge concern, and they will plump back up after you give them a drink.
However, if the soil is moist, and the leaves continue to shrivel, that is a sign of root or stem rot. Check the base of the main stem or trunk for firmness. If it’s mushy, then you’ll need to take cuttings in order to save the plant.
Related Post: How To Propagate Succulents In Winter
FAQs About Succulent Plant Care
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about succulent care. If you can’t find your answer here, ask it in the comments below.
Do succulents need direct sunlight?
While many types of succulents need direct sunlight, there are some that grow better in lower light conditions. It’s best to look up the specific variety you have to determine exactly how much sunlight it needs.
Why is my succulent dying?
Your succulent may be dying due to overwatering, as this is the most common cause of death. Too much moisture will cause them to rot.
Are succulents easy to take care of?
Yes, succulents are easy to take care of, and they thrive on neglect.
Do succulents grow better inside or outside?
In my experience, succulents grow better outside than they do inside. That being said, there are several types that make good houseplants, and can live for decades indoors without any problems.
How fast do succulents grow?
How fast succulents grow totally depends on the variety you have, as well as the care you give it. Some are much faster than others. But in ideal conditions, most of them are very fast.
Succulents are simple to grow, and fun to collect. Once you get the hang of how to care for them, you’ll have no problem keeping them thriving for many years, both indoors and outside.
If you struggle with maintaining healthy indoor plants during the longest, darkest months of the year, then my Winter Houseplant Care eBook is for you! It will show you exactly how to keep them thriving all year long. Download your copy today!
More Succulent Care Guides
- How To Care For A Christmas Cactus Plant (Schlumbergera buckleyi)
- How To Care For A Thanksgiving Cactus Plant (Schlumbergera truncata)
Share your succulent plant care tips in the comments section below.