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Succulents, like most other plants, are naturally outdoor plants. When taken from their natural habitats, we can create indoor environments that reflect these.
Because cultivated succulents are often grown in regions that compare poorly with their natural habitat, growing them indoors allows you to replicate their conditions somewhat. Temperature, humidity, rainfall, and soil conditions are primary concerns for outdoor plants.
Keeping Indoor Succulents Alive and Healthy
I often hear growers comment that some mortality is acceptable, but surely keeping our plants healthy and vibrant should be the goal of every gardener. Any plant’s death should be a loss and a learning opportunity. That way, we learn how to care for succulents and can become better at keeping our succulents alive.
Let’s look at the three rules of how to keep succulents alive.
Rule #1 – Honor Their Seasonal Cycles
For indoor plants, the gardener must allow the plant to rest by reducing watering and fertilizing frequency and volumes during this time. You can trigger the plant’s dormancy response by gradually cutting these two inputs.
The need for rest is universal and is hard-wired into all living organisms. Most often, but not always, it’s regulated by changing seasons and allows plants to rest, recover, and recuperate.
We’re accustomed to expecting plants to flourish in the spring and summer and begin to hibernate in the fall. Knowing which succulents become dormant in the summer allows us to avoid expecting their summer growth.
Fortunately, plants don’t migrate like birds and whales. They’re stuck to where you put them, and it’s your responsibility to meet the needs they could satisfy if they could fly out the window.
Because it lacks mobility, your succulent has evolved to survive in unfavorable surroundings by decreasing its demands and slowing its metabolism, so don’t give it what it doesn’t want.
Rule #1 for how to keep succulents alive: Know their dormancy season, summer or winter.
Rule #2 – Manage Light Availability
Succulent plants thrive when they have enough sunlight. Indoor plants often don’t get enough light, especially in a room with a north-facing window.
In summer, midday outdoor light is about 10 000 light candles (107 639 lux). As soon as there is a filter like clear fiberglass, levels drop to a tenth of the outside value, exactly what is needed to help succulents thrive.
Light intensity drops as we move from its direct sunlight path. Also, outside light conditions affect the quality of light available indoors. Because the constant direct sun is often impractical, most succulents indoors do better with some light substitution.
Artificial light is an option, and a wide variety offers the full spectrum of select light spectrums. Most are remotely adjustable, on a timer, and can give as much (or little) light as your succulent needs to thrive.
If the room has enough sun, then be sure to monitor water needs, especially if they’re right next to the brightest window in direct sunlight. Photosynthesis uses light, water, and carbon dioxide, so it stands to reason that the full sun will require more water, especially indoors where humidity levels can be low.
A few succulents do well in darker conditions – consider the string of pearls (Curio rowleyanus).
Rule #2 for how to keep succulents alive: Give them the light they need, realizing that different succulents need different light conditions.
Rule # 3 – Use the Best Potting Soil and Appropriate Pots
Good soil is a mix of organic and inorganic materials that keep your succulents alive and helps them thrive. It should freely drain excess water while still retaining some.
Indoor succulents need soil that offers good anchorage and good drainage and will prevent rot. The right soil is a mix of organic matter of differing densities and inert materials. Organic matter boosts water retention and nutrient availability, while inorganic materials help ensure proper drainage.
Organic matter shouldn’t be more than half (50%) of the total succulent potting mix, depending on which organic materials you choose, I would tend to a 40/60 split with succulents and 30/40 for cactus soil.
Organic materials that provide aeration are hardwood compost and different barks. Nutrition retention can be boosted with vermicompost or cured compost. Adding coarser cured compost to the soil mix can help create well-draining soil.
The benefit of organic matter is its cation exchange capacity, an ability to attract positively charged ions, and this helps ensure nutrients and moisture are available for longer.
Regular potting soil may perform well with newly planted succulents but will decay and collapse in a few months, causing your succulent plant roots to be oxygen starved.
This is one of the disadvantages of organic matter – it breaks down over time, causing the soil to compact. This is less of a problem in garden beds as microorganisms help create aggregates filled with micropores that help manage water and nutrient availability without compaction.
Organic components of a healthy potting soil:
Tree bark pieces
Materials such as perlite, pumice, vermiculite, expanded shale, or LECA should constitute at least half of your potting mixes. These materials are stable for extended periods, ensuring gaps that allow better drainage and aeration.
Helpful Tips for Potted Plants
Never plant plants in containers that do not have drainage holes, whether succulent or tropical plants.
The right pot drains well, is made of an absorbing material like terracotta, and never stands in water for more than a few minutes.
A single-container indoor succulent garden should have companion plants complement each other in their needs, color, forms, and textures. Drainage holes remain essential.
Do not block a drainage hole with a pebble to prevent soil leakage.
Let the soil dry in the top third of the pot before you water the
succulents. This will ensure your plant continues to have healthy roots.
Bring balcony succulents indoors in winter months or extreme temperatures.
Do not continuously relocate your indoor succulent plants. It takes them a while to acclimatize to changing humidity, temperature, and light conditions.
While succulents need minimal care, it is inaccurate that they do well even when neglected. Just because they’re not demanding doesn’t mean they do better with some tender loving care.
Rule #3 for how to keep succulents alive: Keep their roots mostly dry by using a good soil mix and pots that drain well. Growing succulents indoors allows USDA hardiness zones lower than ten to create a succulent home.
Keeping Outdoor Succulents Alive and Healthy
An excellent low-maintenance gardening alternative is a xeric garden using succulents. A xeric garden’s objective is to completely eliminate the need for additional water in a particular landscape by utilizing a variety of drought-resistant plants.
Most plants are adapted to the particular temperatures or environments in which they will be planted. They will have sufficient water storage to prevent runoff and water waste. But they will have access to enough water without needing more.
Below is a short list of succulent plants that can be grown outdoors and the hardiness zones.
|9 – 11
|10 – 12
|11 – 12
|9 – 11
|9 – 11
|10a – 10b
|9 – 12
|3 – 9
|9 – 11
|4 – 8
|9 – 12
Whether indoors or outdoors, succulents are one of the easiest plants to care for. They ask that you don’t grow them in wet soil, that you care for their fleshy leaves and love them.