Tips for Growing Succulents Anywhere

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!

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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.

If you've struggled to grow succulents, this is the post for you! These aren't tips you've heard before!
Echeveria ‘Lime and Chili’

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!

Experiment

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.

Find out how you can be successful growing succulents no matter where you live
Agave ‘Blue Glow’

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've found succulents difficult to grow, these 5 tips will really help you be more successful with your succulent garden
Agave victoriae-reginae

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.

Portulacaria afra is a great succulent for growing indoors and out - find out how to grow this succulent and others no matter where you live
Portulacaria afra
Thick leaved succulents can go longer between watering that thinner leaved succulents
Aloe brevifolia

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.

Find out why diatomaceous earth is a great choice for succulent soil

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.

Terra cotta is such a great choice for growing succulents
Crassula perforata, Senecio mandraliscae, Haworthia fasciata, Sedum rubrotinctum, Sedum nussbaumerianum, Graptopetalum paraguayense

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!

Find out why your succulents may not be surviving! This post is so helpful for figuring out how to grow succulents wherever you live (design by Katie Christensen)

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!

Get this great ebook about caring for succulents indoors and solve your succulent growing cares!

100 Responses to Tips for Growing Succulents Anywhere

  1. My wife and I are just getting started with succulents and love them. I’m a graphic designer and I love the looks or designs they produce.

  2. Hi. Grow a lot of succulents. Share the love with my daughter who I envy. She never pampers her succulents. She buys soil from the 99 cent store. Seldom or never feeds them and yet they’re gorgeous. Here I am spending money with the right soil, food, reading, studying etc. and she does nothing and her garden is so, so gorgeous. I guess some of us are just gifted. Am a senior and she is quite young and does not even read anything about growing them. Just venting. She makes arrangements for me and I try to keep them alive. Oh well!!

    • Isn’t it crazy how that works? A lot has to do with the type of succulents and growing conditions, but some people seem to just get it too!

  3. Hi Cassidy, I’m trying to grow succulents in Costa Rica. The weather is hot and wet half the year and hot and dry the other half. I have lots of small pots ful of them but My dream is to make a raised succulent garden outside. Impossible, right? From what you’re saying it sounds like I should use volcanic pumice rocks as a base to raise it high above the soil level so it withstands the rainy season without rotting. Then what do I plant the aloes in?, should I mix some ground up pumice into a potting mix? Or use no potting mix at all? During the rainy season the soil saturates and never completely dries out. Amazingly some aloes like saponaria actually survive this although they look bedraggled afterwards. they recover through the dry season, then get beaten up again in the next rainy season. So, should I just stick with pure pumice? i would really appreciate any tips you could give me. Thanks! And congrats on the new baby girl! Cheers, Jan

    • That is a tricky situation :) I think using something like pumice as your only potting medium would work. You’ll end up needing to water quite a bit during the summer, but if you use the “soak and dry method” I think you can gradually space out your watering and strengthen the roots during the dry season.

  4. Hi, Thanks for all the great information! I’ve tried to grow succulents before at work, but they have all died. I’m not sure why, maybe lack of sunlight. I live in Southern California. Very hot and dry. I was given a Kalanchoe Tomentosa “Panda Plant” this spring. It’s doing great on my kitchen window sill. It gave me the courage to expand my collection. Any suggestions for this climate?

    • Honestly, most succulents do well outdoors in Southern California. If you’re growing indoors I’d recommend checking out this list. Otherwise, I’d say pick something you like, put it in bright shade and gradually move it out into full morning sun with afternoon shade. They should do quite well.

  5. Hi Cassidy! I have 3 potted succulents and they look great, I bought them from a greenhouse. I never really have watered them. My question is can I repot them in a terrace cotta pot and get better growth? I live in Zone 5, it’s been a really hot and humid summer, but what happens for winter? Don’t even know what they are, I think the more common succulents, although I’d love to get some of the beautoful colorful plants. What would do well for Ohio weather?

  6. What do the zones represent? I live in Australia in the temperate forest region with temperature usually from 18° – 35°C so im thinking closer to a 7 but i’m not sure.

    • If you’re usually 18 degrees above zero you’d be a zone 12, so all succulents will survive year round outdoors. If you’re 18 below zero though, you would be a zone 7 so I’d try to cover them with a frost cloth on some of the colder nights. You could also pull them inside for a few weeks.

  7. I’m starting to put together my own arrangements. But I was wondering if I had to keep like plants grouped together? Like ones that need the same kind of watering? You were talking about ones with thinner leaves vs more plumped leaves. Some need more water than others. So i wasn’t sure if I needed to be careful when selecting or just have fun and grab what I like? Thanks and look forward to making some arrangements.

  8. Hi I’m in Perth, Western Australia …our climate is 20- 45C in the Summer. I want to give a pot of succulents to a friend who will spend many months away from home, maybe even 4 months at a time. Will minature succulents survive outside without watering?

    Many thanks
    Maia

    • Unless they get some rainfall, I’m guessing most succulents won’t do very well for that long without being watered, especially in the higher temperatures.

  9. I am a newby with succulents (3 mths.) I live in Arkansas and so far having good results because of all the tips and advice. Thankfully I have had success with propagating. I love and am thankful for all your advice and tips. Thank you.

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Find out more about these 10 easy to grow succulents and add them to your collection!
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Learn how to grow healthy succulents indoors!

Growing succulents indoors is tricky business if you don’t know the proper soil, sunlight and watering requirements. But you can make succulents work for you, you just need to know the right way to care for them! Follow my step-by-step instructions and watch your worries float away and your succulents thrive, year after year :)

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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?

 

Still have a question or need help?

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