How to care for your succulent

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Succulents are some of the easiest plants to care for, which is why they are a popular choice especially for those who do not possess a green thumb. Succulents are very hardy, require very little maintenance and can grow just about anywhere. However there are certain things you can do to ensure that they look their best all year round. If you’re just starting out, listed below you will find the top care tips for beginners to help your succulent thrive!

1. Sun

How much light do succulents need?

Depending on the type of succulent you have, the level of sunlight required may vary. A lot of succulents need a decent amount of sunlight to look their best, however there are a few that perform very well in partial shade too.

Most echeveria tend to perform their best when they are in full sun (that’s at least 4 hours of direct sun each day). Succulents such as the Agave are able to thrive well in part shade conditions.

2. Soil

What type of soil is best for succulents?

The most important thing to remember when caring for your succulents is to use well draining soil. Generally a bag of Succulent & Cacti Potting Mix from Bunnings is a good choice. You can ensure proper draining by mixing in 1/3 of coarse sand.

Although succulents do not like to be overwatered, it is important to ensure that you do not allow the soil to completely dry out either as this can potentially cause fine hair roots to desiccate.

Additional Resources:

Read our guide “The Best Soil For Your Succulents

3. Water

How much water do succulents need?

Different types of succulents can sustain different levels of neglect when it comes to watering. The amount of water required will depend on the type of succulent. This can also vary depending on the season, but it is important to ensure that you never let your succulent sit in very damp soil for too long as the roots are not able to handle excess water and as a result this can lead to root rot.

How often do succulents need to be watered?

Generally the plumper the succulent, the more water it is able to store and the less water it needs. During the summer succulents are a lot more thirsty so I tend to water them every couple of days to weekly, and during winter I water them once every two or three weeks.

Additional Resources:

Read our guide “How To Water Succulents

4. Fertilisation

Do succulents need to be fertilised?

Like any other plant, succulents need the proper nutrients to grow and flourish. If your succulents live in planters, then this is especially important as over time watering can flush out a lot of the nutrients from the soil. Be careful not to over-fertilise your succulent. Fertilisers will show an NPK reading on the label (nitrogen:phosphorus:potassium) and choose one with a low nitrogen reading, such as the African Violet fertiliser. Bunnings also sell a brand called Osmocote with a range specifically for succulents.

When is the best time to fertilise succulents?

The best time to fertilise your succulent is at the beginning of their growing season. Avoid fertilising succulents outside of this season while they are dormant, as this can lead to root rot.

5. Pests

There are different methods of protection against succulent pests. Listed below are a few common pests and some pest control tips:

Aphids:

This is the most common and persistent type of pest that forms in groups and sucks sap from plant tissue resulting in wilting, growth distortion and bud drop. Aphid feeding activity is often followed by outbreaks of sooty mould. There are suitable sprays available to control aphid pest issues.

Slugs and Snails:

These pests can particularly be an issue during the wetter seasons in Australia or after a period of heavy downfall. Slugs and Snails can be very destructive of plants with soft, fleshy growth. To avoid an issue with this pest you can buy snail pellets from your local Bunnings store.

Birds:

On a few occasions I’ve lost or seen extensive damage to some of my succulents from birds. It is devastating when this happens. Recently I lost a large number of succulents to some sulfur crested cockatoos who absolutely ripped my collection to shreds. The bird pest sprays did not work, neither did the shiny silver scare tape or the fake owl and rubber snake. I’ve read that sulfur crested cockatoos tend to stick around until they have completely exhausted a food source, and then they move on so your best bet is to keep your succulents protected until the cockatoos have moved on.

bird damage

Bird damage on a Graptopetalum Pentadrum

6. Planters

How to choose the best pot for succulents

With such a large variety of succulents to choose from, selecting the right pot for your succulent can be really challenging. The most important thing to remember is to choose a well-draining pot. Succulents have shallow growing roots, so they can even grow well in a bonsai pot, planter bowl or dish. However it’s best to allow at least 2cm of soil between the roots and the edges of the pot to ensure that your succulent has room to grow.

Another consideration for choosing a planter is that often a well draining pot will mean that soil leaks through the drainage holes, leaving unsightly marks on your floor. To avoid this from happening you can either buy a dish to go underneath the pot, use a planter tray or alternatively you can buy a pot filter which is essentially a liner that you can place inside your pot to act as a liner and prevent soil from leaking out and staining your floor or deck.

Choosing Which Succulents To Grow

This will depend on the environmental conditions of where you are located, as well as how much time and effort you are willing to put into maintenance. Some easy succulents to start off with include: Aeonium Haworthii, Agave Attenuata, Cotyledon Orbiculata, Kalanchoe Tormentosa, Sedum Burrito, all of which are readily available from your local Bunnings store. Some of the less common types of succulents, particularly various types of Echeverias can sometimes be harder to find in Sydney and you may have to visit a private nursery.

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