Succulents are a group of plants that have the ability to store water in their leaves and stems. Because of this, succulents are one of the easiest group of plants to care for. They come in an array of eye-catching and unusual shapes and colours, making them extremely common in gardens and homes today.
Succulents originate from dry, arid areas such as deserts and places with long dry periods. They generally come from Africa, South Africa, Central America, South America and the European Alps. Because of where they originate from, succulents typically need full-sun or bright light to thrive, although, there are some succulents that need little light and can make great indoor plants. When purchasing succulents, it is important to know how much sunlight that specific species needs to flourish. Succulents that aren’t receiving enough sunlight can lose their nice shape and colour, in turn, succulents that are receiving too much direct sunlight can burn, both can result in your plant dying so be sure to know the individual requirements of your succulent. Generally, this information will come on a tag when purchasing.
Succulents that require full-sun should be positioned outside where they can receive full direct sunlight all day long. Succulents that require part shade should be placed in an area where they receive both direct sunlight and shade throughout the day. Succulents that require bright light or indirect sunlight should be placed in an area such as a verandah where the sun provides light but does not come in direct contact with them. Most full-sun succulents can also thrive while living in bright light/indirect sunlight, however, they may not reach their full colour potential and will often stay green when they would turn colours such as red or orange when placed in full-sun.
As well as sunlight, drainage is one of the most important factors when it comes to growing succulents. Not having adequate drainage can lead to an excess amount of water stored which can result in root rot. There are soils that are specifically made for succulents and cacti (all cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti) that are designed for drainage. Mixing a regular soil mix with substances such as pumice, perlite or small gravel will improve the drainage, making the soil adequate to use for succulents. As well as the soil used, drainage can be maintained in pots by using pots with a hole in the bottom or adding one yourself. To stop the soil from coming out of this hole a small piece of fly screen, shade cloth or anything that will allow the water to flow through can be placed over the hole. It is extremely important that succulents do not sit in a dish of water. If you choose to place your pots in a holder/dish, make sure to tip out any excess water that has accumulated during watering.
Just like any plant, succulents need water to thrive. Although, not as much water as most plants, over watering can lead to your succulent dying. Always try to remember, when in doubt, water less, not more. It is a general rule that the soil should almost completely dry out between each watering. In South Australia I tend to water my plants about every three days in the summer and once a week in the winter, this will vary depending on where you live, the climate you endure and the specific plant itself. It is necessary to watch your plants in order to get to know and understand their individual needs.
When it comes to fertiliser, it is suggested to do so sparingly. Succulents tend to do just fine when in the right conditions and will grow fairly quickly, especially in the summer. In their natural state they do not receive fertiliser as they come from areas that do not usually have organic fertiliser, such as manure.
So, at the end of the day, if your succulents have adequate sunlight, drainage and water you are on the right track to growing big, bright and beautiful succulents. Good luck!