How To Care For Succulents: Growing Them Doesn’t Have To Be Prickly!

If the reason why you're trying to find out how to care for succulents is that yours keep dying, don't worry: we can fix that.

Taking care of your new green babies should (and can) be fun rather than a stressful challenge. So, whether you've been over- or under-watering them or making them 'prickly' in a different way, we're going to show you exactly how to care for succulents correctly.

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9 tips to grow your succulents successfully all year round

1. Get to know your new spiky friends

Succulents in diy concrete pot

The following tips will apply to most succulents. However, let's be realistic: 'succulents' is such a wide umbrella term that you can't always expect a cookie-cutter approach to work with every single one of them.

That's why we also recommend googling your individual succulents as they'll likely belong to different families. Perhaps one of them needs more water or less sunlight. Either way, make notes so that you can take these things into account when putting the following tips into practice.

2. Give them plenty of sunlight (but carefully!)

Green home houseplants

To give you a general idea, most succulents need around six hours of sunlight every day. That's why, if the layout of your home allows it, you should consider placing yours on an east- or south-facing window sill.

However, if you're planning on growing some new ones, do this gradually: if a succulent has only just been planted, it can actually scorch when placed in direct sunlight, so give them time! A sheer curtain is another handy solution for these delicate babies.

Finally, remember that your succulent plants will tend to lean towards natural light, which is why you must remember to rotate them. Not only will this help them develop on a straight vertical axis, but it'll ensure that every side gets the right amount of light in the long run.

3. Set yourself up for success by choosing a pot with drainage…

Ceramic flower pot

One of the most common reasons behind a stressed succulent parent standing in front of a dead plant and wondering what they did wrong? The most unlikely suspect: traditional pots.

This is simply because succulent plants aren't big fans of waterlogged soils. If nothing prevents all the excess water from escaping, the roots will rot.

Luckily, you can easily bypass this risky scenario by opting for pots with drainage at the bottom (for example, terracotta models with a small plate underneath).

4. … and using the right soil

Succulents in pots on wooden table

If you've just been grabbing some fresh soil from your backyard, go outside, put it back, and then keep reading (wash your hands first, maybe).

Succulents are actually quite fussy when it comes to soil. Since, as we've just seen, drainage is really important for them, they need special cactus soil, which you can either buy pre-made or create yourself by mixing traditional potting soil with sand, perlite, or pumice.

If you've realized that you've already covered your succulents in regular potting soil, it might be worth repotting them (gently, though! While their top is all prickly and sturdy, their roots are usually rather fragile).

5. Water them correctly

Cactus on an old window

Here's the tricky bit: succulents don't need to be watered as often as your other plants, but they do require higher quantities of water, especially during the hotter months.

But how do you know how often? And how much water?

Watering them every 14-21 days seems to be a good compromise for many plant-lovers.

Still, the best thing to do to care for your succulents properly is checking what each of your species and families needs.

However, as a general rule of thumb, stick a finger in the soil (around 1.25"): already dry? Then they need more water. 

At the same time, overwatering them is just as bad, so, if the soil is still moist, leave it for a bit longer.

Just so you know what to expect, the second scenario is a lot more likely to present itself during fall and winter, as that's their dormant period (basically, your succulent plants aren't actively growing).

When watering them, keep adding water until you see it come out of the bottom.

However, if you've decided to be a rebel and opted for a pot without drainage holes (you like living dangerously, don't you?), pour less water.

6. Fertilize them in summer

Evergreen succulents

If fall and winter are the dormant period, spring and summer must be… yep, you've guessed it: their growing season.

That's why, as well as water, you'll need to give them a little bit of fertilizer too during the warmest months.

7. Bring them in during winter

Decorative houseplants in winter

Ok, we assume you're planning on growing most of your succulents indoors, but we'll tell you this just in case: if you have a few spiky babies outside, do bring them in as soon as the weather gets colder.

Even better, place them in a conservatory or greenhouse if you have one.

If your succulents are in a sheltered spot such as next to a wall or under a well-protected eave, you could try leaving them outside, but we still recommend placing some bubble wrap around their pots. This weird but effective trick will actually protect them from frost.

8. Wipe them and keep them clean

Houseplants in pots

Just like your shelves and decorative items, your succulent friends will inevitably gather some dust, so you should be a good plant parent and clean them.

Now, how you do that will really depend on what succulents you own. With leafy types, you can simply wipe them with a damp cloth.

Obviously, you can already tell why this would be a bad idea for spikier species, right? Still, nothing that a soft makeup or paintbrush can't fix.

9. Deal with bugs if needed

Succulent plant infested

Hopefully this won't be the case for you. After all, when you keep your succulents indoors, it's rare that bugs will bug them (literally).

At the same time, it's always better to be prepared for the worse. Sometimes, pests like gnats or mealybugs can get to them, especially if the soil is far too wet, and you'll end up with eggs and larvae. Eugh.

If that happens, move the unlucky succulent away from its neighbors to avoid spreading this pest to them, and spray its soil with some 70% isopropyl alcohol.

FAQs on caring for succulents

1. Is it better to mist or water succulents?

Not only is it better to water your succulents, but you should definitely avoid misting them. Think about it: in nature, succulents are used to drier and more arid climates! By misting them, you'd end up changing the levels of humidity around them, which can lead to them rotting.

2. Why do my succulents keep dying?

If your succulents keep dying, don't be discouraged! Go through our list of tips once more and see which one (or two…) you haven't taken into consideration before. Once you fix it, we're confident that your succulents will thrive just like your love for them.