How to keep your succulents satisfied

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Succulents and cacti

Succulents have grown rapidly in popularity in the past few years, thanks to not only their attractive and diverse appearance, but also their reputation of being easy to care for. However, they can be quite finicky if they’re neglected and the environment isn’t ideal. 

Their thickened, fleshy leaves are designed to store water in their natural, arid environment, but this doesn’t mean that they’ll hold out for days without nutrition, hydration or fresh air. Follow these tips to ensure that your succulent collection thrives. 

Potting a succulent 

The most important part of potting a succulent is ensuring that your pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. Succulents dislike having wet feet and will start taking strain quickly if water isn’t able to drain well. 

Succulent soil requirements 

Rich and nutritious potting soils are a no-no for succulents. They thrive in porous, sandy soils that allow food, water and air to get to the roots, and have adequate water drainage. 

The potting medium should include sand, small pebbles and vermiculite, or a mix of a low-peat planter mix and pumice (50/50), with a top dressing of granite or pea gravel. 

How to water succulents

During the warmest part of the year, succulents have an active growing period and need thorough watering once a week. Don’t water in dribs and drabs. Rather wait until the soil is completely dry and then give the plant a good drenching.

Once watered, remember to empty the saucer beneath the pot so that the roots don’t sit in excess water.

The cooler months of the year are when succulents can tolerate a little bit of neglect. During this period, they enter a dormant phase and only require watering once a month.

Fertilising succulents

For succulents, too much fertiliser can be worse than none at all. Keep a healthy balance with a low-nitrogen fertiliser at about a half to a quarter of the recommended rate.

Light requirements: less is more

Contrary to popular belief, succulents grow better when they’re not cooking in the hot midday sun. In natural environments, you will find succulents tucked under bushes, trees or other barriers that provide filtered light. Keep this in mind when choosing a space to plant your succulent. 

Outdoors, opt for areas that receive 4–5 hours of morning or afternoon sun only. Indoors, however, choose an area near a bright window that gets light most of the day.  

Airflow

Succulents struggle in stagnant air, so make sure your plants have good air circulation.

Succulent troubleshooting

If new growth on your plant is pale green and elongated, your plant needs more light.

On the contrary, if the side of your plant facing the light source is yellow, tan, red or indented, it is getting too much light.

Inspect your plant regularly for pests. Mealy bugs, in particular, love succulents. At the first sign of an infection, wipe your plant down with rubbing alcohol or spray regularly with a preventative product such as Bioneem.

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