Cactus · Succulent

Watering and Rotating Succulents

Welcome to the pilot blog of The Succulent Whisperer!  I am so excited you are here!    I love all things cactus and succulent, and have a YouTube channel to go with this blog.  If you want, go take a look!  Now let’s get to know each other a little bit.

I got started in succulents a couple of years ago after a trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  We visited the Botanical Gardens and saw the most beautiful plants in creation!  Wonderful colors, amazing flowers, and humming birds!  Really, there were humming birds, and lizards! So, I asked one of the horticulturists how they got the succulents to do all the gorgeous things they do, as most of the desert has brownish green succulents.  The nice man told me how they do it!  “Water, he said, water.”  That was it, water!  He also described how he potted the succulents in containers and in his own collection.  Drainage, as it turns out, is not the answer, but potting is a topic for another blog, so more on that later!  Anyway, I came back to my Midwest home and decided I wanted to get me some succulents!  We had an art day and painted mugs to repurpose into planters.  Planters for Succulents!!  Yay!  Succulents!  Then, we had a visiting the nursery day and bought 10 succulents to go into our mug planters.  Those planters were destined for a set of windows in my living room.  Of those original 10 plants, 9 are still living.  One turned out to be an annual (which I did not know were a thing in succulents) and it lived the first year.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I now have more than 200 succulents in my personal collection.  They are gorgeous!  I love them!  I also name them! And I talk to them.  (They like it.)

I am going to make a few assumptions about you.  I will assume that you are here because you like succulents and would maybe like to grow one or more.   I admit that I fail to understand why a person would not love succulents (for real, even my husband thinks I am a little weird, but, more on that later)!    I will assume that you are hoping to learn information on how to grow succulents or at the very least, keep them alive long enough to be respectable.  I can help you do that!!  I also have a few warnings, and things you should know.  I do not grow and use succulents like the bulk of the people on Pinterest and in floral shops.  If you have a truly “black” thumb, most succulents are not for you.  But, I will help you find a plant that is extremely hard to kill.  Also, you should know there is a point at which a succulent cannot be saved, but I might be able to help you save a sick succulent.  I have been extremely successful (for the most part) at growing succulent and cacti.  I have even grown some from seed. (I really would not recommend this, it is very, very slow.)  Many of my succulents have flowered, which is stunning and very exciting!  We can learn about succulents together!

Arguably, the single most important thing about a succulent is water (think back to the botanical gardens), so that is the topic today.  Watering succulents is a very debated topic.  How to, when to, and what to water are open to discussion.  If you were to search Pinterest for how to water your succulents, you will find a few options.  The first is to use a spray bottle to lightly mist your precious plants every couple of days.  In order to prepare to use a spray bottle, gently remove the plant from its pot, and throw the plant in the garbage.  This early and merciful end will save you from watching your plant die a slow and disturbing death due to both rot and dehydration.  Never use a spray bottle to water your succulents, ever!  Never!  Except propagating babies, otherwise never!  There is no mist in the desert!

Others will tell you that you don’t need to water your succulents because they absorb water from the air.  That is utter nonsense!  There is no humidity in the desert either!  Air plants actually (sort of) do this, but not really, so anyone that says they do is a liar!  You must water your succulents regularly!  But not too often!  But, often enough!

So, I will assume your succulent is planted in proper soil.  Like a dessert, it should be well draining, but able to hold water for a period of time.  The plant needs to soak up as much water as it needs, but not sit in wet soil.  I make my own succulent and cactus soil, and I will give you more information on that later.  I  water my plants with tap water.  If you want to collect rain, or purify urine or whatever, you can use that to water.  (ok, maybe not urine.)  But, water from the tap works well, and all you have to do is turn on the tap.  Anyway, the trick to watering succulents is to completely soak them (keep water off the actual plant, though, water stains are unattractive and standing water causes rot.)  And then wait for the soil to be completely dry before you water them again.  If your plant is sick, more water is almost never the answer. Watering every two weeks is a good jumping off point.  Then adjust based on the specific plant needs.  I water every 3 days to every 14 depending on the plant.  In general, cactus need less water, but not always.  Just be sure the soil has dried completely.  I use a moisture meter in some of my big pots, to be sure the soil dries completely, but you can just look at the soil and stick your finger in the soil to see if it is dry.  If it is not dry, don’t water!  If it is dry, then water.  Water thoroughly and well.  Soak it, and then put it back in its window, until the next time!  Waiting until your plant is showing signs of dehydration is not a great way to time water intervals.  Dehydration stresses these plants, and stress leads to slow growth, pests, and disease.  Disease!  So water when you should, not after or before!

One more thing.  It is often a good idea to rotate your succulents with respect to the brightest light.  Succulents will lean toward the sun, so rotate as least a quarter turn each time you water.  If you have a very fast growing sedum or other fast grower, rotate them once a week.  Then they will grow more straight and not so bendy.  Although, some of them are just bendy, and that is how they are supposed to be.

Thank you for reading!  I look forward to hearing from you with questions and comments!  See you next time!

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Succulent Propagation: How to grow new plants from your old plants!

Hello! I am so glad to see you! Thank you for reading The Succulent Whisperer. I hope you find it informative and enjoyable. Please ask any questions you may have, or leave a comment if you have a topic you would like to see in a future blog! Let’s talk about the miracle of succulent propagation! If you Google succulent propagation, you will be regaled by beautiful mandalas made from plump succulent leaves of many colors.

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Five Lies the Interwebs Will Tell You About Succulents!

1) Succulents can only be grown in containers with drainage holes. This is the most basic and half-true, but mostly false assertion your will find on the Web, if you Google “growing succulents.” This is one of those sort of true, sometimes kind of true things. If you read this blog, you know succulents can be grown in containers without drainage holes, because they have a drainage system. Both ways work, if you pay attention. But, I really love planting my beautiful succulents in silver creamers, and antique tea cups, and other containers in which there are no holes, and no way to add one. So, really the truth is do whatever works for you. This of course, brings us to our next Lie.

2) Succulents need a lot of water! This is almost completely not true. Most succulents grow in arid environments, where they get water infrequently. This is why succulents are uniquely designed to store water in their leaves and stems. So, they be

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Lies the Internet has Told You about Succulents

This instalment of The Succulent Whisperer blog is all about lies. Lies told about succulents on the internet, lies told about succulents in books, and lies told at plant stores and garden centers. Unfortunately, the misinformation about succulents leads to confusion, mistakes, and dead succulents. Dead succulents make me sad, so let’s see if we can clarify a few things.

Lie 1: Succulents can ONLY be grown in pots with drainage holes. This of course is not true. You can plant succulents in whatever vessel your heart desires. You need to put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the container to provide drainage. Then you water carefully and infrequently and you have beautiful plants in cute containers. This brings us to the next lie.

Succulents need lots of water

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Lies the Internet Tells Us About Succulents

Welcome to The Succulent Whisperer blog!  I am so glad you are here!  Let’s talk about succulent lies you can, and probably have, found on the internet.  The beauty of the internet is the access to humongous amounts of information .  The horror of the internet is that a lot of that information is not true, or is half-true. If you google “succulent care” will get a ton of conflicting information about how to care for your succulents.  Let’s take a moment to go through some of that information, and decide what is false, what is true, and what is partly true or partly false.   Let’s look at the lies the internet tells us about succulents!

1. Succulents need a lot of/no water.  This is a big one!  To start, I have a confession to make: I sometimes argue with people on the internet about succulents.  I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it!  The amount of watering information is astounding and a lot of it is wrong!  So wrong!  Let’s discuss.  One of the most prevalent untruths about watering on the internet is that Succulents should be watered with a spray bottle.  This watering method is based on another bit of false information, having to do with holes in the leaves of succulents. It is some of the most misguided  “advice” that can be found. Succulents are known to store water in their leaves and stems.  But unlike many plants, succulents cannot take water in through their leaves.  The leaves of succulents are specially designed to not exchange water. Why, you ask?  Because desert.  Succulents live in harsh conditions such as deserts, where humidity is virtually nonexistent, and high temperatures are common.  Succulents can close their stomata (holes in leaves that plants use to exchange water and oxygen) so nothing gets sucked out, and nothing can get in.  It is very true that water sitting on succulent leaves causes rot.  So, don’t spray!

This brings us to a second untruth, and another thing that you might read.  Succulents do not need any water.  This is blatantly untrue and ridiculous, everything alive needs some water! Sometimes just a tiny, infrequent amount, but it still needs water.  Which brings us to the flip side, Succulents need lots of water.  Although this may seem like a lie, it is what I would call sort of, a little bit, sometimes, kind of true.  Succulents generally don’t need a lot of water, but, some succulents, like Sedum, actually need a fair amount of water.  I water my sedums every couple of days, especially the mat forming Sedum.  That said, to clarify, all succulents need enough water.  I know, right? About as clear as mud.  Of course we don’t want to make mud, so we remember that these beautiful plants have a steep learning curve.  Watering your plants when the soil is all the way dry is a good general rule. If you are not sure, don’t water.  There is a lot more misinformation about watering, but that is for another day and another blog.  So onto the next!

2. Succulents are super easy to grow!  This is another one of the kind of true lies, if you squint.  This is commonly said with an air of, if you can’t grow succulents, you must really have black thumbs!  That is the lie part.  The true part is that some succulents are, actually, easy to grow, in the sense that you can ignore them for long periods of time, they are not picky about watering, and don’t really care about the soil.  Some are ok with low light.  Some can tolerate the random cat attack.  In reality, this is not a large group.  Really, there are two types of plants that are basically easy.  Sansevieria, most commonly known as Snake Plant, or Mother-in-law Tongue, is a wonderful plant.  It comes in many varieties and colors.  Not all the varieties are as hardy as others, but many can put up with a lot of neglect.  This group is one of my favorites.  Beautiful, showy plants that are actually hard to kill.  This is a great plant to have in your home or office. An added benefit, Snake Plants purify the air.  Air purification is also a talent of other plant that is pretty easy, the Aloe Vera.  There are many kinds of Aloe, some of which are not easy, but Aloe Vera is.  My Mother has not a green digit, her thumbs are in fact black.  But, she can grow these two plants. They are huge and impressive.  Which of course proves it.  These are the two easy succulents.  The other 3000 (or so) succulents are varying degrees of difficult.  Some more, some less.  So let’s change that to, Two Kinds of Succulents are Pretty Easy to Grow!

3. You can’t Grow Succulents Indoors:  This one is one of my favorite more lie than truth bits of information from the internet.  This bit is held near and dear to the hearts of some of the more dedicated outdoor succulent people.  But, let’s be rational, much of the United States and most other countries in the northern hemisphere are not ideal for growing succulents out-of-doors.  But, if you are in a region that is conducive to growing desert plants in your yard or garden then you can do outside succulents.  A quick interlude: I got into this whole succulent thing (obsession?) after visiting the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona.  I have never been so wildly awed and affected by plants!  So, I will admit that succulents grown in the glorious sun are amazing.  Stunning, in fact.  But, you can grow those same plants (with some limitations) in your house. So, back to the point.  I primarily own, write about, and photograph indoor succulents, but I love outdoor succulents, too.  The benefit of sun is color, astounding growth, and very large plants.  But, we lovers of indoor succulents can do amazing things inside, too!  You might read on the internet that colorful succulents cannot be grown inside.  This is a partial truth.  We often cannot get the intensity of color with indoor succulents (We will talk about artificial light sources in a later blog.), but, less color does not an ugly plant make!  The outside people will call indoor plants “etiolated.”  This means that indoor rosettes are not as tight, indoor plants have bigger spaces between the leaves than their outdoor counterparts.  The lack of light is the creator of etiolated succulents.  But, etiolated plants are completely unique.  You will have a plant that no one else has.  So, don’t be afraid to grow what ever kind of succulent you want.  Put them in a south window if possible, but any window will do.  Or, if you don’t have a window, that can be ok, too!  In the interest of full disclosure, I do not think that most Aeoniums can be grown indoors, except in large artificial grow light conditions.  They are gorgeous, but need an incredible amount of sun light.

4. You cannot grow succulents in pots without drainage holes!  This one of the things I argue most with people.  I have actually read on the internet that growing succulents without drainage holes is a “myth.”  For gosh sakes people, it not only can be done, it can be done and result in beautiful long-lived plants!  I have more than 300 plants for proof!  If you want to use planters with drainage holes, more power to you!  If you want to use drainage systems, more power also to you!  Do what works for you!  I don’t use drainage holes, I use drainage systems.  If you would like the low down on how, check out my First Pots blog.  Just do what works for you, and what you are comfortable with!  Then water appropriately.  This isn’t a competition, it is a journey.  A journey into a beautiful world filled with succulents.

5. One set of “foolproof” ways to raise succulents is all you need!  If this were true, what a simple and boring hobby this succulent thing would be!  Once you learn how to keep a succulent alive, and not just alive, but thriving, you can use what you have learned on you next succulent.  Each type of succulent has a learning curve all its own.  Sometimes, you can learn group care, like most Aloes need this, or most Haworthia need that.  There are some general rules of thumb that you need to know to get started in succulents.  But, those general things will not apply to every kind of succulent.  I have succulents I water often, and I have a few succulents that I water once every 6 months or so.  I have kept hundreds of succulents alive, but I have killed dozens.  There are a few kinds of succulents that I am still trying to figure out.  As I have said before, I do not think Aeoniums can be grown well inside.  But, some of them can do pretty well inside. “Kiwi Aeonium” for instance, can grow inside, but, it will never be the wonderfully beautiful plant it is in the sun.  I like my succulents to thrive, so I avoid losing space to Kiwi.  Of course the other thing is the difference between succulent care and more specific cactus care.  Generally speaking, cacti need less water than succulents.  But not always.  So, the take home message is, whichever kind of pot you use, you can grow succulents.  Just remember, less water is almost always the answer, whereas more water is almost never the answer.

The point of this installment is to help everyone understand that you cannot believe everything you read.  And anything you read about succulents on the internet should be critically considered, and applied to your methods only if it makes sense to you and for your plants.  Be especially wary of absolutes, such as, you cannot do this, or you must do this.  Have a wonderful time learning about these marvelous plants!  And, if you have Aeoniums that are thriving inside, I would love a picture!  Leave any comments or questions you have.  Thanks for reading!

 

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Potting Your Succulents: Part 1, First Pots

So, you have a succulent plant that you have acquired, just now, or a while ago.  You want to put your beloved flora in a pot.  To begin, let’s learn about potting new succulents that are still in the plastic nursery pots, or in an arrangement that has gotten out of hand. Let’s talk containers!  Then we will hit soil needs, and how it all goes together.  This will cover individual pots for single plants.  Arrangements or multi-plant pots will be addressed later

First, the pot.  There are many, many options when it comes to containers in which you might plant your succulent.  There are, however, a few things to think about when choosing a container for planting.  First, the pot should be approximately the same size as the nursery pot. Succulents and cacti abhor large spaces, so pick a vessel correctly sized to your succulent.  Your pot needs to be deep enough to securely anchor the plant. Your pot can have drainage, or not.  I will talk about how to plant in both.  I use pots with drainage for a few of my Succulents, but for the most part I either have no drainage holes, or I plug the holes.  If you are a traditionalist, you can plant in planters or pots, if you are not, you can plant in mugs, candle holders, finger bowls, silver sugar dishes, or plastic dinosaurs.  The possibilities are endless!  My first succulents were planted in repurposed mugs that my kids and I painted.  Those mugs are among my favorite pots to this day.  If you want to plant on a budget, repurpose a can (be careful of sharp edges) or plant in a glass, or other small container you already have.  IMG_20160821_190209882.jpg Check out GoodWill and thrift shops, find something you love on the cheap! Terra-cotta pots are also very inexpensive, and can be fancied up in a million different ways!  I included a link to terra-cotta pots on Amazon, which I have ordered and used.  Try a Pinterest or Google search of “DIY terracotta planters.” There are literally hundreds of ideas for dressing up pots.  Or, leave a pot plain, succulents and cacti look lovely in plain terra-cotta.  Oh, one more thing, if you want to repurpose a food container, be sure to clean it very well.  Use your imagination!

3 inch Terracotta pots (pack of 9)

Once you have selected a pot, we can move on to soil.  There are literally thousands of succulent soil recipes.  So, you can investigate and decide what you want to try.  I make my own soil mixture, and use it for all my pretty babies!  In the above picture you can see what it looks like, sandy dirt.  That is what it is.  I use MiracleGro succulent, cactus, and citrus soil as the base. Which I like, because it has an appropriate amount of organic material (plant) and it is lovely and loose. I buy my soil at large department stores and hardware stores.  You may be able to find it at garden stores or nurseries.   You can use whatever soil you like, but, do not use anything that says “moisture control,” those hold water, which is the opposite of what you need.  Then I add clean sand.  Your sand can be sharp (larger grit than beach or soft sand) or soft, but it needs to be new and clean.  I use a ratio of approximately 2:1.  So two parts soil and one part sand by weight.  To be truthful, I don’t weigh the soil or anything, I eyeball it.  So something between half soil and three-quarters soil (which would be half sand and one-quarter sand).  That is it.  I put the soil and sand in a food grade 3 gallon bucket and mix it together.  Do not mix your soil in a bucket that has contained chemicals, they will leach out of the plastic and poison your soil.  So, use a new bucket!  You might read in various succulent sources that you need to sterilize your soil.  You don’t! Unless you are growing from seed, there is absolutely no reason to sterilize your dirt!  Mix your soil together in you bucket. I use a large metal slotted spoon to mix soil.  Be sure to mix it completely, which will take several minutes of mixing and folding the soil and sand together.  Also, you need to cover your soil when storing it, so make sure you have a lid.  Your soil should feel a little bit dampish, but not wet or sticky.  I actually add water to my soil with a spray bottle to keep it a little bit damp for storage.  Weirdly, if your soil is very dry, it will exclude water, and not let it soak in and through.  The other reason to have dampish soil is dust control.  A quick word of caution: dust is bad for your lung and sinuses, so avoid breathing it!  There may also be fungus or bacteria in the soil that can give you an infection.  So, use a spray bottle to moisten the soil before you dump it out of you pot when repotting.  Be cautious!  I do not reuse soil, as it is usually lacking nutrients and maybe be growing mold or moss.  So I throw away the nursery soil and always use new soil when potting or repotting.  Now we have a pot, and we have soil, and we can move on to potting!!

First things, first.  I wear light gardening gloves with a nitrile surface, when I pot and repot.  I also use a large tray or box when I am potting to cover my work surface, and catch the dirt.  Take the succulent out of the nursery pot.  Do this very gently, by turning the whole thing over and gently squeezing the pot.  Pull very slightly on the plant, but be very careful not pull it out of the soil or knock off leaves.  If the succulent has any kind of spines or stickers, wear heavy-duty gardening gloves!  If it is a very spiny cactus, then this is not the blog to be reading for instructions on repotting spiny cacti.  That is a very delicate process and will be addressed in the another blog.  You can injure yourself severely with cactus spines.  So let’s talk about that process later.  Ok, so you have un-potted your plant.  Now very gently remove some of the soil from the roots.  Try not to tear off the roots.  If you do tear off some roots, it is ok, the plant will live.  You might read that you need to completely remove soil, which you do not need to do.  Bare rooting your plan is shocking to it, and may cause damage.  Do not rinse your plant’s roots!  You really just need to loosen up the roots a bit to help with rooting in the new pot.  I like to remove the ridge of soil around the base of the plant, but be careful not to damage or wound the stem.  If there are dead leaves, you can remove those.  Set the plant down carefully to wait for its new pot!

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First, let’s run through potting in a pot with a drainage hole.  So you have decided to use traditional potting and are using a pot that will drain.  I do not use draining pots, except for the most water sensitive of my succulents.  I currently am using a pot that drains for 2 of my plants, a Baby Toes and a Wooly Cotyledon, which are extremely sensitive to overwatering.  So I use draining pots about 1% of the time (2 out of approximately 200 plants).  Now, add some soil to the bottom of the pot.  You can glue a piece of screen to the bottom of the pot over the hole to keep the soil in, but still let the water out.  You don’t have to use screen, but then make sure to use a saucer or plastic drip tray under the pot.  It will be messy.  Add soil until the pot is about 1/3 full.  Then set the new plant on the soil and check for depth.  You want the bottom row of leaves on your plant to be to be level or slightly above the rim of the pot.   The final height of the soil should be slightly below the rim of the pot.  If the plant is not high enough, remove it from the pot and add more soil to the pot.  When your plant height is where you want it, back fill the pot with soil around the plant.  Pat the soil down and be sure that the plant is secure, and will not fall over.  Very heavy plants need to be potted lower than light or flat plants.  Jades are usually very top-heavy, so make sure to use a pot deep enough and heavy enough to keep your plant upright.  There!  You have planted your succulent in a pot with drainage.  Now we will look at potting in pots with no drainage.

You will need, in addition to the plant and the soil, clean gravel or small rocks, a glue gun, and aluminum foil.  You only need the glue gun and foil if your pot has drainage and you want to plug it.  If there is no drainage hole, then you are good to go.  First, carefully glue a small foil piece over the hole on the outside of the pot.  You may also glue it to the inside, so really whatever floats your boat.  Now we have the drainage hole covered.   Remember that hot glue will burn you because it is hot.  And, I am not sure why I used such a large piece of foil, you really only need enough to cover the hole with enough overhang to glue it down.

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Now you have a pot with no drainage hole.  So we will need to place a drainage system in the pot.  Place the clean gravel in the bottom of the pot, and fill the pot about 1/3 full with gravel.

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These rocks will act as a drainage system.  The excess water will drain into the gravel and out of the soil.  You might read in another source that you need to add activated charcoal or another layer of something else.  You don’t.  Rocks and soil make for a very nice growing environment for your succulent baby,  Now potting is exactly like the potting with a drainage hole.  Add a layer of soil and check the height of the plant.  Add more soil if needed, or place the plant in the center of the pot and back fill around it.  Pat the soil down and be sure to check for stability in the plant.  Fill the soil almost to the top of the pot.  Don’t water your newly potted succulents for a couple of days.  Then, water deeply and place in a bright spot.  Water again in about 2 weeks, or when the soil around the plant is completely dry.  Do not overwater!  You will kill your precious succulent if you overwater it.  Then you will be sad.  But, keep in mind that these are plants with a learning curve, so if your plant does not do well, change what you are doing and start over with a new plant or a salvaged plant.  One more thing.  The photos in this blog are of my own collection, and you might have noticed that I do not use top dressing.  You can use it if you want to use it, but be careful not to choose top dressing that holds water next to your plant.  That will result in rot.  Rot is bad.  So make good choices! Good luck!!  Feel free to ask questions or leave comments!

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Cactus · Succulent · Uncategorized

Getting Started in Succulents

Welcome to The Succulent Whisper blog!  I am so glad you are here!  This blog is meant as a companion to my YouTube channel, so check that out if you are so inclined.  For our second excursion together, I am going to write about how to get started in succulent keeping.  What you need to do, what you need to have, and where to get the stuff you will need.  You will notice that I am not too particular, except when I am.  I have a large collection so I have more stuff than you will need to get started, but I will try to reign in my enthusiasm and help you get going with succulents to love!

A few things will seem obvious.  You need succulents, for example.  You can get succulents in many places.  This is meant to be just a guide for getting started.  Specifics about what to look for in a succulent, and more importantly, what to avoid will be the next topic I will tackle.  For now, this is just a well explained list.  There are many places to buy succulents, floral and nursery shops, online stores and nurseries, big box stores, and farmer’s markets.  I have purchased succulents in all these places.  So go find some succulents!

Chances are, upon finding some succulents to love, you will need to re-pot them.  You may want to leave them in the little plastic pots or squares from the nursery, but those tend to be fairly ugly and very messy.  So, the next thing you will need is something to plant the succulent or succulents in.  There are myriad vessels in which to do succulent planting!  I have mugs, votive candle holders, gravy boats, cow shaped creamers, martini glasses, and many other containers with succulents in them.  So think outside the pot!  Find a container you love and plant a succulent in it!  I do not use pots with drainage, but you may choose to use only pots with drainage.  Using pots with drainage will not keep you from killing your succulents if you over water them.  Using pots with no drainage will allow you to kill your succulents very quickly if you overwater them.  The take home message is, find a pot you like, and do not overwater!  And now you have a succulent or two and a pot or two to go with them.

Now, onto the good stuff (just kidding, the succulents are the good stuff, this is the part about the dirt).  The soil.  You will find at any garden store, premade commercial succulent and cactus soil.  This is sufficient and will let you grow succulents, or at least keep them alive and loved.  If you want to really get into this whole succulent thing, you can mix your own soil.  I use a 1 to 1 ratio of MiracleGro Succulent and Cactus soil and sand.  Use clean (sand is often referred to as “sharp,”  I am not sure why, I will google it and find out) sand.  You really do not need to sterilize your sand by baking it.  These are plants, not babies.  (To be fair, for my most beloved succulents I do sterilize my sand, but not my soil, so it is just an odd thing I do.)  You can use clean sand and soil.  If you want to really investigate all the kinds of soil succulent people use, you can.  Everyone has a mix they like.  You can figure out what you like.  I use half sand and half soil because I do not use drainage in my pots.  I use a pebble system for drainage, and I want loose quickly draining soil.  If you want to use a pebble system like I do, then you need pebbles or gravel in addition to your soil and sand.

So you have your succulent, your pot, your soil, your sand, and your pebbles!  You are ready to re-pot your succulents!  Yay! Start by putting a good layer of pebbles in the bottom of your pot, so about a third of the way up.  Then in a large bowl mix one part sand into one part soil (by weight, not volume.  So guesstimate a pile of dirt and then a pile of sand that weighs the same as the dirt.  Less sand than dirt, cause it’s heavier.)  Then add a layer of dirt on top of the pebbles.  Now unpot your plant.  Be gentle and carefully turn your pot upside down and gently pull your plant out of its little nursery pot.  Then very gently loosen the dirt and root ball.  When sufficiently loosened, place the succulent into your new, prepared pot.  Add the soil/sand mix around the root ball, try to have the succulent  be level and centered.  Top fill soil/sand onto the root ball, and the plant should stand up on its own.  There! You have done it!  You re-potted your succulents!!  Good job!  Yay you!  Now water your succulent carefully, and place it somewhere bright.  You have successfully decorated with succulents!

Congratulations on your newly decorated living space!  Welcome to the wonderful world of succulents!  Now let’s back up a bit and talk about the actual succulent.  What makes a good succulent?  What is a good beginner succulent?  I think you should start with what ever kind of succulent your heart desires.  But, a good choice for a person of blackest thumb would be a nice aloe, or sansevieria, or a nice cactus.  These are hard to kill, tolerate overwatering a bit better than most, and can survive in lower light situations.  Cacti are very easy to grow, as a general rule.  Less is more when it comes to water.  If you are planting a cactus with spines, be very careful!  It is very hard to get the tinny barbs out of your fingers and palms!  Wear good heavy weight gloves, mine are leather, but still use care.  When picking out a succulent or cactus in the store, look for a plant that has plump leaves or body.  There should be no black spots or discoloration of the leaves or stem.  The leaves should be firmly attached, so you can gently touch one and it stays on the plant.  Pull the plant up very slightly and carefully.   It should be firmly attached to it’s roots, and it should have roots.  If it is not well attached, or is lacking roots entirely, don’t buy it.  I like to buy plants who are not seriously scarred or damaged, but sometimes lopsided plants are adorable and if it is otherwise healthy, there is no reason not to buy it if you want it.  The nice thing about small succulents and cacti are they are relatively inexpensive, so if you kill the poor little thing, you are not out a lot of money.  Save the pot.  When you are ready to try again, put new sand/soil into your pot and start over.  I reuse gravel, but I do not reuse soil.  If your plant died of a disease, then throw away  everything in the pot and run the pot through the dishwasher or hand wash in hot soapy water.  Dry it off and you are ready to go!

In review:  You need a succulent, a pot, some soil, some pebbles, gloves (if you want a cactus), water and a bright(ish) spot.  If you plan on long-term relationships with your succulents, you may want to invest in some cactus and succulent plant food.  I feed my succulents 3 times a year with 1/4 strength plant food in water.  A quick word about the water.  You might notice that people have some funky beliefs when it comes to what water to use for succulent watering.  If you google it you will learn that some people only use rain water, or distilled water, or unicorn tears, but I use tap water.  From the tap.  As a general rule, if you can drink the water, you can water your succulents with it. Do not drink the water if you have added plant food! (My husband did that once, he survived and I still laugh about it!)

When I bring home new succulents, I keep them isolated from my other plants for a week or so.  This way, if they have bugs or diseases, you will not infect your collection.  Please remember these are plants, and sometimes plants die.  So, even if you have killed houseplants in the past, there is no reason not to try again!  I have several hundred plants, and have been collecting for a couple of years, and sometimes I have plants that die.  I will write a future blog about propagation of succulents, and there will be a video up on my YouTube channel soon.  There will also be a video of re-potting, which is nice if you learn by watching.  I will see you next time!  Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you have any questions or comments!  Thanks for visiting The Succulent Whisperer!