What are Succulents?
Plants that store water in their fleshy, thickened leaves and/or swollen stems are succulents. From the Latin word sucus, which means juice or sap, comes the word succulent. The succulents are able to thrive even in periods of drought, since they can survive on limited water resources, as well as dew and mist. The succulent plant family has many species and cultivars, which belong to several different plant families, including the cactus family, the Cactaceae. Keep in mind, however, that while all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.
Best Succulents to Grow Indoors
- Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
- Christmas kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
- Mother-in-law tongue or snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Crown of thorns (Eurphorbia milii)
- Medicine plant (Aloe vera)
- Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
- Zebra cactus (Haworthia fasciata)
- Panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
- String of bananas (Senecio radicans)
- String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
- Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum or Echeveria elegans)
- Pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)
- Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum)
- Pebble plant or living stone (Lithops)
How to Grow Succulents Indoors
Because succulents have a special ability to retain water, they tend to thrive in warm, dry climates, and don’t mind being neglected. The low maintenance aspect of these plants makes them well suited for indoor growing to satisfy those who wish for a low-maintenance plant. You can care for your new succulents successfully if you follow these steps when choosing one for the first time.
Choose an appropriate succulent for your indoor conditions.
While most succulents prefer direct sunlight, if you only have a shady spot at home, you should choose low-light-tolerant plants such as mother-in-law tongue. The string of bananas variety is a great choice if you plan to plant your succulent in a hanging planter. Always read the label on your plants to determine how much sunlight they need, how big they are, and how wide they spread.
Provide a very well-draining potting medium.
As soon as you get your succulent home, you’ll want to repot it because nurseries always plant their succulents in soil that’s too rich and keeps too much moisture. It is best to start with a coarse potting mix that has good drainage and aeration. There are cactus and succulent mix varieties you can find at your local nursery, or even African violet mix. Adding perlite or pumice to your cactus or African violet mix will help prevent compaction as well as improve drainage (up to 50% of the total potting mix depending on your particular succulent’s moisture requirements). If you want to ensure your mix is evenly moist, wet it before you use it.
Choose your container.
You should repot your plants into a container that has a drainage hole and is one to two inches bigger than their nursery container. As a long-term potting solution, you should avoid using glass containers (such as mason jars or terrariums) since they provide little room for roots to breathe and can lead to root rot. Fill up the bottom one-third of the container with premoistened potting mix and then place your plant inside. Backfill with more premoistened potting mix.
Place the potted succulent in a sunny location.
You should keep succulents near south- or east-facing windows, as they need at least six hours of sun per day. If you don’t give your succulents enough sun, you may notice they become spindly or swell outward.
Allow the potting mix to dry out between waterings.
Almost everyone overwaters succulents, and that’s the most common error they make. The best thing to do is to water less frequently, but more often. The potting mix should be soaked thoroughly (while making sure that the water drains properly out of the drainage hole) but slightly dried out before watering again. If the plant is consistently drenched every day in the potting mixture, eventually the plant will die.
Fertilize your succulents at least once a year.
The best time to fertilize plants is in the spring (when the days are longer and new growth begins), and in the late summer as well. If possible, fertilize with a water-soluble, balanced, all-purpose fertilizer (such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10) diluted to half the strength recommended on the package. During the winter months when succulents are semi-dormant, their nutrient requirements are minimal because they are not actively growing. Utilities are not needed when they’re semi-dormant.
Additional Succulent Care Tips
Can you use sand to plant succulents?
Out in the wild, it seems as though succulents thrive in sand, but they prefer loose and rocky soil. Furthermore, they require nutrients to grow. As a standalone material, sand has a tendency to compact over time, resulting in too much water retention in a container. The best potting medium for succulents is one that is specifically formulated to grow cacti and succulents, or a mix of potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite/pumice.
Can you start succulents from seeds?
The answer is yes. The seeds of succulents can be started indoors in a light, moist soil (much like other plants seeds), but they tend to grow more slowly and generally do not reach the pot for transplant until six to a year after germination.
Why are my succulent’s leaves falling off?
Like many plants, the lower leaves on the stem (those closest to the potting mix) will eventually shrivel up and fall off. There is no need to be concerned about this. When leaves at the top of the plant are dying, this could be indicative of overwatering, pests, or diseases.
When you grow succulents indoors, you’ll generally be able to enjoy their beauty for several weeks even if you’re “succulent killing”. You should be better informed about how to maintain succulents indoors now, but hopefully you feel more prepared! Try not to let the situation get too stressful. After all, succulent gardening is meant to be relaxing and therapeutic.
Growing succulents indoors is such a rewarding experience! If you follow the guidelines you’ve learned here, you’re on your way to success. You might want to share this post with someone who is getting into succulents so that they can ensure their own succulents thrive as well!