My Top Tips for Caring for Succulents (Including Cacti)
Indentify your succulent and look up any specific requirements. Hopefully the shop or website where you purchased your plant will have some notes on what species or genus your plant is. However it is more than likely that it will just have a generic note on it saying it is a succulent. While many succulents have similar basic care requirements, it is always worth knowing exactly what you have so you can keep a look out for any problems that may arise, look up it’s growing season, and get an idea of any little quirks or growing habits your plant might have.
Test the soil before you water. Succulents do not like to be in wet soil for more than a couple of days, therefore its generally advisable to check the moisture levels in the soil before you water. You can do this with a dry chopstick or moisture reader. After a while you will get the hang of how heavy the pot feels after you have watered and when you need to water.
Always go for a pot with drainage hole if possible. Succulents need good drainage. Any water that hangs around for too long can lead to rot which will wipe out your succulent quicker than you know it. So if you have a pot with a drainage hole, it makes watering much easier and gives your succulent a better chance.
If drainage holes are not present, water carefully in small amounts. Succulents can survive for a considerable amount of time in containers without drainage holes as long as you water carefully. I recommend using a plastic syringe or turkey baster to water in these cases. This way you can control how much water you give your planter and where. I recommend watering enough to wet the root ball of the plant but no more.
ALWAYS USE SPECIALISED SUCCULENT COMPOST!! Normal compost is too heavy for succulents. I also recommend trying different succulent composts. I have bought succulent composts which I have still found too heavy. A good succulent compost will not clump together when it’s dry.
In the winter get your succulents as close to a window as possible, preferably a south or west facing window. Winter is probably when you are most likely going to loose a succulent to rot. Try and lessen the chances of this happening by giving your succulent as much sunlight as possible. However keep in mind you may have to move your plant in hot weather.
Use succulent fertiliser in the growing season. Try and get a fertiliser especially for succulents and follow the instructions on the bottle. When I use fertiliser on my succulents I find I get a stronger plant. However do not use fertiliser when the succulent is dormant or too often as perversely it can make your succulent susceptable to pests and diseases!
Use a gravel or top dressing as it helps keep your compost drying out too much and it gives a cleaner and more professional finish.
Give succulents morning sun and afternoon shade in the summer. I generally advise giving succulents as much sunlight as possible because for most of the year the UK is quite overcast and and we are not blessed with high levels of sunshine. However one thing to note is that succulents can sunburn! So on those precious few weeks of the year the UK feels like summer, it is important to protect your succulents from very strong sun – especially if your succulent is behind glass.
If a succulent dies on you don’t be discouraged! It happens – sometimes you will know what you did and other times you won’t! Don’t be hard on yourself, just try again!
Ideal Conditions for majority of Succulents:
A very free draining compost
plenty of natural sunlight
A non humid atomosphere – do not be tempted to mist with water