I’ve received a few emails lately asking how to care for succulents indoors, especially during the winter. I know a lot of you are living in areas similar to mine (not conducive to growing succulents outdoors year round). Since I definitely have some experience growing these beauties indoors I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and observations with you today!
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First off, I will say that succulents tend to grow best outside. As cute as they are, they don’t make the best indoor house plants. That said, if you love them as much as I do, you’ll grow them anyway! And you should! There are a lot of other indoor house plants that may not be as picky as succulents, but succulents are tough enough that they still survive and do fairly well inside. Haworthias and Gasteraloes are two genus of succulents that do especially well indoors.
For those of you with cold winters, bringing your succulents inside before it snows will actually be a good thing for them. Most succulents are dormant during the winter. They need a period of cold to help them produce better blooms in the spring and summer. I’ll outline some tips below that will help your succulents stay as healthy as possible while they are living indoors. Some of these tips will seem familiar (see 5 Tips for Growing Succulents) but these will be directed specifically toward growing succulents inside.
6 Hours of Sunlight
When succulents are indoors it’s often hard for them to get enough sunlight. They generally about 6 hours a day. You’ll want to keep your plants as close to the window as you can, but be careful not to let them get sunburned if the light from the window gets too hot. This tends to happen most with south facing windows (which tend to get the most light if you’re in the northern hemisphere). I’ve kept my succulents in an east facing window, right up against the window, and they have done really well. If your succulents aren’t getting enough light they will start to stretch. colorful Echeverias are especially prone to stretching indoors. If there isn’t anywhere that gets brighter light (or more hours of light), don’t worry! After it get’s too stretchy for your taste, just cut off the top and propagate it! The bonus is that you’ll also get more plants :)
This is only true during the winter months of growing your succulents indoors. If you are growing succulents indoors during the summer, just water as normal, waiting for the soil to dry out before you water again. During the winter though, succulents don’t need very much water at all. Since they are dormant, they aren’t growing and they don’t use up as much water. I generally water my indoor succulents about every 2 weeks in the winter. Many people recommend even less, but I’ve found that having the heater in my house running tends to dry out the succulents pretty quickly. Just keep an eye on the soil. You’ll want to let it dry out completely and then give it about a week before you water again.
I get quite a few emails with people who think their succulents are dying because the leaves are wilting and shriveling up. Here is a little secret, just like all plants, eventually the lower leaves of succulents are going to shrivel up and die. You should only be concerned about dying leaves if the newest or uppermost leaves on your succulent are shriveling. If it’s just the ones near the bottom of the stem (closest to the soil), you don’t have anything to worry about!
Avoid Glass Containers (or anything that doesn’t drain)
Glass containers generally aren’t a great long term potting solution for succulents, especially during the winter. Succulents do not like to be sitting in soggy soil so a glass jar (or terrarium) is not going to make your succulent happy. This seems to especially cause problems in the winter when succulents need even less water than normal. Often succulents will get bugs or diseases from having soil that is too wet.
If you just love the glass container you have your succulents in, be so so careful with how much water you give it! I would measure out how much water you are pouring on and make sure you only put in enough water to just get the soil damp. The same thing goes for a container without a hole for water to drain out. Air flow is especially important for succulents in the winter to help keep the soil mostly dry and the plant breathing.
If you can help it, I really recommend staying away from glass unless you know your succulent really well and are confident in your watering skills. My favorite pots to use indoors are terra cotta and glazed ceramics (as you can tell from the photos). They provide great air flow and allow the soil to dry out easily.
If you grow your succulents indoors year round, they won’t notice much change in temperature unless they are right by the window. As a general rule, succulents like to be warm during the summer and cool during the winter. If you can, keep the temperature in the summer between 70 and 80 degrees. During the winter, you’ll want your succulents to be a little colder, between 50 and 60 degrees. Most succulents can tolerate higher and lower temperatures as well, but those are the ideals. Generally it is not a good idea to let the succulents get below freezing as this tends to cause damage to most succulents. I’ve found that having my plants by the window and keeping my house at a normal temperature for me seems to work just fine. They get a little warmer by the window in the summer and a little cooler in the winter.
I think I may need to devote a whole post to this at some point so I’ll just cover the basics here. If you are following healthy practices for your succulents as indoor house plants (good watering, sunlight, airflow and temperature), bugs should not be a problem. But… they often are still. I haven’t had too many problems with bugs but I’ve had quite a few ask about how to take care of them. My experience has mostly been with gnats. You’ll generally get gnats if your soil stays too wet. There are a bunch of other bugs that can attack your plants too. If you do get bugs, I’d recommend cutting back on watering. You can use a solution of dish soap and water or diluted alcohol to kill off any bugs that may find a place on your plants. A google search will bring up some other options as well.
Hopefully you feel better prepared to take care of your succulents indoors now! If you have any questions , leave them in the comments below or send me an email! For an even more in depth guide, be sure to check out my ebook, Growing Succulents Indoors. You can also find some great succulent pottery for indoor growing on the Products I Like page.