Succulents are a very popular plant with their gorgeous shapes and colors as well as their drought tolerant qualities, but not everywhere is the ideal place for them to grow. These tips will help you keep your succulents alive no matter where you live!
Welcome! I’m glad you’re interested in how to grow succulents outdoors!
You’re here because you love succulents, but you’re not sure if you can grow them where you live.
I totally understand!
But, I’m convinced anyone can grow succulents, wherever they live, and I’m going to give you the guidelines you need to do just that.
As this blog has grown over the past few years I’ve begun to realize how many people want to grow succulents but don’t have the perfect growing conditions for them. This shouldn’t surprise me since I belong in that group of people! I’ve answered lots of emails from you with various questions about growing succulents.
My goal with this website is to help you grow succulents no matter where you live.
For some, growing succulents is a breeze. For others, it’s a daily struggle. This post will help you make growing succulents a breeze.
When people say that succulents are hard to kill, I cringe a little. Like all plants, you need to know how to care for succulents in order to keep them alive. Sure, they can be very forgiving and are often easy for people to keep alive, but in parts of the world (or in parts of your home) people have to fight to keep them alive.
The tips I share with you in this post will help you figure out what you need to do to make succulents work for you, and hopefully make them easy to care for!
If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this: don’t be afraid to experiment! So much of the information I share with you is based on research I’ve done and then backed up by my own experience. I’m always trying new things with my plants or trying out new plants. I realize that succulents can be expensive depending on where you live, but if you’re willing to be brave and experiment you’ll have much better success growing succulents.
While succulents have the same basic needs, not every home or growing environment is the same. You need to adapt those guidelines based on where you live, how much natural light you have available, the pot and soil you are using. All of these factors contribute to the health of your succulent. What works for me here in Utah won’t necessarily work for someone in China. So take the basic guidelines for growing succulents and adjust them to where you live.
Pick the right plants
One thing I have learned over and over (from the tragic death of many succulents) is some succulents grow better than others in my home and on my porch. I know that most succulents won’t survive the winter outside where I live (Zone 5) and I’ve accepted that. But, not all succulents will do very well inside my apartment either. I don’t have very much natural light so a lot of plants struggle.
If you’re growing succulents outdoors you’ll want to be very aware of how much sunlight succulents need. While many succulents say “full sun” they may not tolerate 100 degree weather with direct sun all day (though some will). They will generally need to acclimate to that amount of sunlight if purchased from a nursery where they were kept in a greenhouse.
You’ll also want to be aware of their frost tolerance. For those of us with cold winters, Sempervivums and stonecrop Sedums are our go to succulents for outdoors. I’ve loved being able to create potted arrangements for my porch that will survive year round and always look great! Those of you fortunate to live in zones 8 and above, you can have your pick of succulents! Most succulents do best in a zone 9 or 10 when outdoors.
If you are growing succulents indoors and, like me, don’t have a lot of natural light in your home you’ll want to look for plants that tolerate low light. Most Haworthias and Gasterias are great in low light. Sansevierias are also becoming a new favorite of mine. They need hardly any light or water. Sadly, you’ll want to avoid Echeverias if you don’t have much light. They tend to get stretched out as they try to find more light. Also, more colorful succulents, like Sedum nussbaumerianum, need plenty of light to maintain their color. Succulents that are naturally green tend to be happier indoors. For more indoor succulent recommendations, sign up for my emails and get a free PDF with my top 10 indoor succulents!
If you tend to over water, try to find succulents that are forgiving with over watering or need more water. Since Portulacaria afra has thin leaves I’ve found it needs to be watered more often. Crassula arborescens undulatifolia and Aeonium zwartkop are two others I’ve found to need more water. On the other hand, really plump succulents like Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’, Pachyveria glauca, and Aloe brevifolia can go much longer before needing water again. You’ll also find that cacti, such as Mammillaria rhodantha and Mammillaria gracilis fragilis, are very tolerant of long periods of drought.
Are you catching on here? Plant selection can be a major factor in the success of your succulent garden. I’ve discovered a great resource for learning the growing needs of succulents (and other plants): Dave’s garden. You can search by plant name or by growing requirements. If you don’t know what kind of succulents you own, I’ll help you learn how to identify them in this post.
Tweak your soil materials
I’ve had quite a few people email me about living in a humid environment. While succulents can survive in humid areas, the soil plays a major role in preventing rot. In dry environments the right soil can help prevent succulents from drying out too quickly. Here is my basic recommendation for making your own well-draining succulent soil. You can also purchase a great mix here.
The mix mentioned above is great for growing succulents, indoors and out. If you tend to over water or if you live in a humid environment though, I highly recommend planting in just one material: pumice. This seems to be the most universally available product that retains some water but also dries out quickly. I know of several succulent growers that plant in strictly pumice. Bonsai Jack carries a great quality pumice (1/4″ particles, which is ideal) but you can get it at most nurseries.
For areas that are very hot or dry (or both), adding more organic material (like the pine bark in the DIY soil mix I recommend) will help them from drying out too quickly. While drying out very quickly isn’t the worst problem to have, no one wants to water succulents every other day, right? One of the great things about succulents is their drought tolerance, but they do still need water to survive. So, if you find your soil dries out in a day (not just the top, but all the way through), you may want to consider adding more organic material to your soil mix.
Choose a great pot
The material of your pot can also play a big role in how well your succulent survives. Terra cotta is a great choice if you’re just starting out. It is very porous, thus allowing more air flow to the roots. This means the soil will dry out more quickly.
If you live in a very hot dry environment this may not be the best choice, but most of the time it’s a really great option. Ceramics are also generally a good choice. You’ll find a great selection of pots to purchase on Mountain Crest Gardens and Etsy.
Plastic and metal are much less porous so succulents in these containers will take longer to dry out. It may be a good idea to compensate by using DE in your soil or something non-organic.
As always, I highly recommend you use a container with a drainage hole. Especially if you are just starting out with succulents this will make your life much easier.
As you become more confident in growing succulents try growing them in something without drainage, like a glass bowl. There are endless options of things to plant succulents in, but start with something basic to practice caring for succulents in your area before branching out to more unique containers.
Accept death and less than perfect succulents
Ultimately you need to realize that you may not have 100% success with your succulents. Instead of being disappointed take it as an experience to learn and improve. Also, generally an arrangement of succulents is about the same price as a bouquet of flowers.
But… even without caring for it it will last much longer than cut flowers! Even with great attention to detail sometimes plants are going to die. I know how sad it is to lose the beautiful plants you’ve put your time and effort into. But, if you can learn from those deaths you’ll be on your way to preventing it from happening again in the future!
I hope this post has given you some ideas of how to adapt the basic care of succulents to your specific growing environment. I’m convinced that anyone can keep succulents alive no matter where they live, but in order to do so it’s important to have the right plants, soil pottery and take some risks by experimenting. I’d love to know where you are growing succulents! Feel free to leave me a note in the comments!