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Keeping your succulents alive

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Succulents are harder to keep as indoor plants than many realize. The most common predicament is how to water a succulent, and which soil to plant them in. So let’s clear it up. Starting at the roots. If you remember only one thing from this post, remember this: Your goal when watering all plants is to let soil dry out enough so oxygen gets to the roots. 

Now, take a look at one of your hair follicles, look at how thin and fragile it is. Succulent roots are the exact same.

Succulent rootsBelow is an example of what roots from the an echeveria stalk look like.  And to the left, roots from a propagated echeveria leaf. 
succulent-roots-echeveria

The thinness of these roots make them very sensitive to over watering, which is the most common problem for indoor succulents. Too much water soaks the roots and they can’t absorb essential oxygen to stay alive. And then your succulent looks like these sad guys:

over watered succulent over watered succulent

Considering the fragility of the roots helps to hold back from too much watering. It’s helpful to think about the fact that most succulents grow in hot, dry climates, where they usually get water from condensation in the air – via clouds – versus lots of water at once from rain or runoff.

Here’s how to avoid over watering:

  1. Avoid pouring water directly onto the foliage of your succulents.
  2. Avoid planting your succulents in moisture retaining soil. Succulents should be planted in porous soil (see below).
  3. Water your succulent in sips – pour a little onto the soil, watch it absorb. Pour another sip, watch it absorb, until water drips from the bottom of your planter. You succulent should be in a planter with a drainage hole.
  4. Fill your sink with an inch or two of water, place your succulent (in it’s planter), into the sink, drainage hole down. Let it sit for 2-5 minutes to allow the soil to absorb the water from below. This is a great way to avoid over watering and force the roots to seek out the water.
  5. For those who live through cold seasons, decrease watering in the winter months. The soil needs longer to dry out.
  6. In the summer, succulents in sunny, hot windows need more water because their soil will dry out faster.

A good rule of thumb: it’s always better to under water succulents, than over water.

Pictured below, is what a succulent looks like when it is thirsty. The foliage starts to wrinkle, from the tips and travels inward. Succulents that are under watered are much easier to bring back to life than those pictured above. This echeveria could use a good watering, slowly pour sips of water directly into the soil versus misting from the spray bottle.dry succulent

And lastly, succulents thrive best in  in porous soil that drains really well. Mix gravel or bark chips into the soil. We call these soil additives and they look like this:

best soil for succulentsWhen your soil is porous, water never sits and soaks the roots and oxygen flows easily through.

Succulents planted in moisture retaining soils take longer to dry out which makes it harder for oxygen to reach the roots. Root rot then occurs leading to the eventual succulent death.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.