They’re kinky, they’re seductive, and they look like something out of Sci-Fi. You’ve always wanted a succulent, right? Well, we’re going to help you make it happen. But first, let’s dispel a few myths because succulents aren’t as high maintenance as you might think. In fact, they are among the easiest houseplants to host—you just need to find the right match and give it some benign neglect.
Picking the Right Roommate
Let’s start by eliminating the major barrier between succulents and you. Many indoor gardeners assume that succulents demand a whole lot of light. Wrong. Although most succulents are sun worshippers, many willingly chug along despite less bountiful sunbeams. They are perfectly capable of growing, proliferating, and performing their stunts in the average fairly bright south, east, or west-facing window. On the other hand, a north window probably will not provide sufficient light to make a succulent shine, so that could put a crimp in your dreams if north is the only option in your immediate stratosphere. If you are housing your succulent in a situation that is not radiantly sunny, go for a kalanchoe, aloes, echeveria, gasteria, sedum, sempervivum, or haworthia. They tend to tolerate less-than-ideal situations. But do your best to compensate when light levels are low by growing the plant as close as possible to your light source. And if a bright, sunny window isn’t part of your picture, avoid most euphorbias, cacti, epiphyllums, and cereus.
Also consider your family when finding the right succulent for you. If your house is bouncing with energetic kids and pets who tend to interact with everything, you might consider steering clear of thorny succulents or cacti with spines. Even if your home is a fairly quiet and staid affair, keep spiked succulents such as agaves, cacti, crown of thorns, etc out of everyone’s way. Got windows that require opening and shutting often? Not a great spot to place a thorny succulent. Ditto for routes you might take in the dark, keep them clear of armed plants. In other words, consider the ouch factor when selecting a succulent roommate.
The Underground Story
To bust a common myth: The real trick to growing succulents that will knock everyone’s socks off has more to do with potting soil rather than light quality. Give a succulent soil that is gritty and well-drained like Coast of Maine Mount Desert Island Blend Organic Cactus & Succulent Mix, and your plant is going to perform wonders. Keep in mind that most succulents are slow-growing, so success might not happen by leaps and bounds. But slowly, your succulent will do its gig – and sometimes that means flowers!
Container size is key for succulents. Growing in the right soil is important, but still, you don’t want your succulent to be swimming in an oversized “shoe.” Your container should be just slightly larger than the root system. When repotting a newly purchased plant, check the root system and if the roots have filled the container and are visibly winding around the rootball, graduate the plant by one pot size, definitely not more than 2 inches on all sides. Save your generosity for other plants—succulents don’t need a whole lot of TLC.
Choose the right container. Succulents dote on great drainage and detest soggy roots. Your Coast of Maine Cactus & Succulent Mix is going to work hard to keep those roots happy and healthy, but if the container has no drainage hole or insufficient drainage, harmony will be an uphill battle. Also consider the shape of the pot. Pedestal containers, tall and deep pots, funnel-shaped containers are primo for succulents.
Hold the Drinks
In tandem with the right soil, good light, and a fitting container, treat your succulents like they come from an arid climate—because that’s usually their native habitat. Succulents need to dry out between waterings. They also require little or no fertilizer beyond the good stuff included in Coast of Maine’s mix. You don’t want to go for total neglect, but don’t drown those babies or overfeed them. If you’re the nurturing type who tends to kill with kindness, succulents might not be a good fit. Or just buy something else, grow it alongside your succulent, and channel your inner caregiver to fussing over a plant that appreciates your overflowing acts of compassion. Of course, while you’re fussing, you can always look over at your succulent and admire its beauty. Play your cards right and you can do a whole lot better than Succulents Without Tears. Go straight for Succulents with a Proud Smile.
Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin. Photos also taken by Tovah Martin. Find her books and more information on her website: tovahmartin.com.