Succulents: Straight Talk

I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks due to succulents so I say all of this with love and with the hope that it helps you avoid the same mistakes and upsets.

‘You can never have too many succulents!’ 

Yes. Yes, you can. For those new to succulents, the urge to collect them all can be almost addicting. But without taking the time to research their care needs and make sure you can provide them with the proper light, soil, pots, and protection from inclement weather, you run the risk of finding yourself overwhelmed. 

Succulents shouldn’t cause more stress than joy, so I recommend you find a reliable source of information (like The Succulent Manual, wink wink!) and really dig into understanding how your climate and growing set-up are vital to keeping your plants happy and thriving. 

Rather than blindly seeking advice in Facebook groups or websites that only offer general care tips, seek out specific answers based on YOUR particular situation. I promise that the extra time you put into educating yourself not only helps to satiate that little voice that nags you to buy all the succulents, you’ll also become more confidant in your ability to care for a larger collection. I do offer Custom Care Consultations and can help guide you in the right direction, should you ever need one-on-one assistance.

‘It’s okay to use pots without drainage holes if you put rocks in the bottom.’  

If you ever come across this advice, please erase it from your memory and run far, far away. The only time a holeless container is acceptable is if it is really small – like those wee thimble-sized pots – or if you’re not planning on keeping your plants in the pot long enough to need to water them. 

Here’s why: Soil acts as a wick, drawing the water up and to the surface of the pot, allowing it to evaporate. Water collects at the bottom of the soil, much like a wet sponge. This area where the water concentrates is called a ‘perched water table.’ Adding rocks to the bottom of the pot raises the table level closer to the plants’ roots, and succulents really do not like soggy roots.

Excess water will stay down in the rocks since it doesn’t have contact with the soil and therefore no way to travel up to the surface. This creates an environment perfect for bacteria and fungi—the number one causes of root and stem rot.

Even if your pots do have drainage holes, filling the bottom with rocks will still create a perched water table, so it’s best to just use a faster draining soil all the way down. 

‘Trendy plants don’t always mean friendly plants’

I do not want to discourage you from trying to grow any plant that really catches your eye, but there are several popular varieties that are notoriously difficult to keep happy in climates they’re not adapted to, particularly those that flourish in arid regions with low humidity and mild temperatures.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to acclimate them to other climates, but just gently warning you to start with a smaller investment should you decide to purchase them. 

A few to be wary of: String of Pearls, String of Hearts, Aeoniums, Greenovias, Echeveria ‘Compton Carousel,’ Senecio rubrotinctum ‘Jelly Beans,’ Albuca spiralis, Cotyledon tomentosa ‘Bear Paws,’ Senecio haworthii ‘Cocoon Plant/Woolly Senecio,’ Aloe/Kumara plicatilis ‘Fan Aloe,’ Echeveria shaviana ‘Pink Frills,’ Pachyphytum oviferum ‘Moonstones,’ Orostachys iwarenge ‘Chinese Dunce Cap.’  

Try these instead: String of Dolphins, Tears, Raindrops and Bananas, Echeveria ‘Neon Breakers,’ Echeveria lilacina, Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Panda Ears,’ Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Fang,‘ Sanseviera cyclindrica, Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Ghost Plant,’ Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata ‘Sunrise,Graptoveria ‘Debbi,’ Ledebouria socialis ‘Silver Squill.’ 

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