Water More, But Less Often
I know, I know this is the thing that gets said over and over with succulents too much water is not good for succulents. It's true! It is a crucial part of succulent care. I have almost lost a couple plants due to over watering so really this can't be stressed enough!
However, succulents like to have their soil soaked and then dry out before watering again. So, soak the soil and then let it dry completely. For more details about this watering method, check out this post or my ebook on watering.
A couple things I have learned along the way that may help with watering… the thicker the leaves on a succulent the less water it needs. So my beautiful Pachyveria Royal Flush is going to need a lot less water than the Aeonium Zwartkop.
I actually really like the Aeonium Zwartkop because it tells me when it needs to be watered by having droopy leaves. Add a little water and it perks up within a couple hours!
Well Draining Soil
So, I just told you succulents need infrequent watering and the soil needs to dry out between watering. In order to do that you'll need a well draining soil. There are a lot of suggestions as to what you should use for soil and in what proportions.
The basic idea is that you need to mix in something light and porous into regular soil to increase the drainage. I've been adding pearlite to soil at about a 1:1 ratio. One of the best soil mixes I have though is from a can of succulents I got from a gardening class taught by Cynthia Bee.
She uses vermiculite and coconut coir in her mix and it has been really great as far as drainage. That is the key, make sure your succulent is in a well draining soil so the roots can completely dry out between watering.
UPDATE: For more details about my current soil mixture, check out my post Well Draining Soil for Succulent Container Gardens. You can also buy a the succulent soil I use here.
Lots of Sunlight
Succulents need a lot of sunlight to grow happy and healthy. Something I learned though is they don't like direct sunlight in the heat of the summer when they are outside. They are very prone to sunburn.
Rather, if they are outside put them somewhere they will receive some shade and stay relatively cool. Morning light is good with a bright shade in the afternoon. If your plants are inside, put them somewhere they'll receive bright light for most of the day. They are less likely to get sunburned inside, but it can still happen.
Usually a south facing window sill will provide enough light but if you notice signs of sunburn (brown/black spots on the leaves) move it somewhere that the light is not quite as direct.
A sign that your succulent isn't getting enough light is “stretching”. If your plant starts to get really tall with a lot of space between leaves it is stretching out trying to find more light. If you notice this, try to move your plant where it will get more light throughout the day.
This is an example of a succulent that is stretching for light. See how spaced out the leaves are?
One of my favorite things about succulents is how easily they propagate. It is so easy to increase your succulent garden by merely taking off leaves from your plants and putting them out on a damp soil to grow. For more detail instructions on propagating succulents you can take a look at this post or you can also purchase my eBook!
Propagating is so easy and so much fun to see the tiny new plants growing. Plus, if your supply of succulents is constantly growing it is fun to start giving them to other people! Most people are intrigued by how these plants propagate and you may even find some people who want to try it themselves!
I have been participating a little bit in this succulent and cactus forum. There is a lot of great information on there and people are so willing to help out when they can. From all of the things I've read on there though I've decided that the health of your succulents boils down to experimenting with watering, soil and sunlight.
Every area is so different and the plants respond in various ways to their environment. Often you'll see completely contradictory statements in regard to care of succulents but ultimately their environment determines whether or not something will be good for the plants.
I would love to hear from any of you with your successes or failures in growing succulents as well as questions you might have about them. I am passionate about them and am always excited to learn more!