Most people think “cactus” when they hear about succulent plants. But this diverse group of plants includes much more.

Most succulents are easy to care for and maintain. Succulents have special tissues that hold and store water, so they survive in environments that are too dry for other plants.  They also survive for busy or forgetful gardeners who may not water as often as they should.

Light

Succulents prefer bright light indoors and full sun outdoors. Watch the leaves for indications that the light level is correct. Some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. The leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed.

Alternatively, an underlit succulent will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves. The solution is to provide better light and prune the plant back to its original shape. Many kinds of succulents will thrive outdoors in the summer.

Temperature

Succulents are much more cold-tolerant than many people assume. As in the desert, where there is often a marked contrast between night and day, succulents thrive in colder nights, down to even 40ºF. Ideally, succulents prefer daytime temperatures between 70ºF and about 85ºF and nighttime temperatures between 50ºF and 55ºF.

Water

Easy on the water! The potting mix should be allowed to dry between waterings, but do not under water.

In winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every month. Overwatering causes the plant to rot and is the single most common cause of plant failure. Be aware, though, that an overwatered succulent might at first look be plump and look very healthy. However, the cause of death may have already set in underground, with rot spreading upward from the root system. A succulent should never be allowed to sit in water.

Signs of under- or overwatering

Overwatering: Overwatered plants are soft and discolored. The leaves may be yellow or white and lose their color. A plant in this condition may be beyond repair. Remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and rotted, cut away dead roots and repot into drier potting media, or take a cutting and propagate the parent plant.

Underwatering: Succulents prefer generous water during the growing season (spring and summer). An underwatered plant will stop growing, then begin to shed leaves. Alternatively, the plant may develop brown spots on the leaves.

Potting soils

Succulents should be potted in a fast-draining mixture that’s designed for cacti and succulents. If you don’t have access to a specialized mix, regular potting soil will work, but you must be extra careful to not overwater your plants. These plants generally have shallow roots that form a dense mat just under the soil surface.

Tonkadale carries both regular potting soil and a cactus mix that is suitable for succulents.  We recommend Espoma’s Organic Cactus Mix.

Fertilizer

During the summer growing season, fertilize as you would with other houseplants. Stop fertilizing entirely during the winter.