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Everything to Know About Growing and Maintaining Succulents

This Old House landscaping contractor Jenn Nawada visits a local greenhouse to discuss everything you need to know about caring for succulents.

Landscaping contractor Jenn Nawada heads to a local greenhouse to talk about succulents with the greenhouse manager. After discussing what makes these plants so popular, the two discuss the different varieties, which are beginner-friendly, and how much water each plant needs.

Why Are Succulents Growing in Popularity?

Succulents are becoming very popular. They’re gracing window sills across the globe, and since they’re low maintenance, colorful, and affordable, it’s no wonder so many folks are flocking to them. There are a lot of questions about these plants, but would-be gardeners shouldn’t worry; they’re easy to care for.

Two Types of Succulents

There are two types of succulents: desert-type succulents like jade and echeveria and succulents that grow in trees in jungles, and this variety has larger leaves that pour out from the sides of the plant.

These plants have different needs, so it’s best to plant them in their same families. Desert succulents can handle sunlight and south-facing windows, whereas the tree-growing varieties require shadier conditions.

Start with the Basics

Folks that are new to succulents will find that certain varieties are beginner-friendly:

Echeveria
Echeveria
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  • Echeveria is very popular. They come in lots of species and look great in a solo pot.
mistletoe cactus
Mistletoe cactus
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  • Rhipsalis is known as the mistletoe cactus, but it’s not a prickly plant. While many folks believe these plants love direct sunlight, they’ll do better in a shady spot near a bright window.
  • Jade plants are commonly believed to bring good luck. They have beautiful green leaves and make excellent gifts.
Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe
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  • Kalanchoe plants are beautiful, cactus-like plants that like warm spots in the house.
string of pearls
String of pearls
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  • String of Pearls are unique, vining succulents that are easy to spot with their pearl-shaped leaves. The leaves grow on trailing stems that spill over the sides of planters.

Keep Watering to a Minimum

Succulents don’t need nearly as much water as most other plants. In fact, small succulents require no more than an ounce of water every two weeks. For slightly larger succulents, like those in a 4-inch pot, 2.5 ounces will do the trick every two weeks. For jungle-type varieties, a light watering once a week is ideal.

Be sure to let the desert-type succulents dry out between waterings, checking the top of the soil before watering. Also, water the soil directly to keep the leaves from becoming moldy. Remove any browning or yellowing leaves, as well.

How to Transplant a Succulent

Don’t overthink transplanting. Succulents have small root systems, so transplanting them to a pot that is just slightly bigger than the one they came in is fine.

  • Start by covering the draining hole in the bottom with a piece of broken terracotta pot or a rock, and fill the bottom of the pot with cactus soil.
  • Place the plant into the new pot so the top of its soil is slightly below the pot’s rim, and tamp down the soil.
  • Next, remove the plant from the old pot, but avoid touching anything other than the soil.

The process for transplanting several succulents into larger arrangements is the same:

  • Plant the top of the plant’s soil slightly below the rim of the pot and dress between the plants with rocks, driftwood, and mosses.

Tips on How to Water Succulents

  • Measure out the water to avoid overwatering
  • Let plants dry out in between watering, so you know it is time to water when the top inch of the soil feels dry.
  • Water the soil directly—do not mist succulents with a spray bottle, that could cause moldy leaves.
  • When you are watering, also remove any browning or yellowing leaves to keep the plant looking healthy.

Resources

Jenn and Sara Barrios, the Assistant Greenhouse Manager at Weston Nurseries, do a deep dive into different kinds of succulents and how to care for them.