Succulents require a different watering style and schedule from other types of houseplants. Though you can experiment with your own succulents to find out what suits yours the most, this guide will give you some quick watering tips to help you jump start your succulent care journey the right way.
CHECK THE SOIL BEFORE WATERING
You should not water your succulents too often. Generally, simply check the top of the soil, if it’s completely dry, it’s time to water. Make sure to thoroughly soak the soil until water drains out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the container. Then give the soil some time to dry out. Don’t water it again until the soil becomes completely dry. Succulents are used to the alternation between drought and heavy rain in their natural habitats. Therefore, leaving the soil completely dry for an extended amount of time resembles that drought period in arid desert areas. On the other hand, these succulents are also conditioned to expect occasional heavy rain, which we imitate by soaking the soil thoroughly every now and then.
It’s always better to underwater than overwater. Therefore, for beginners, we recommend that you water once every 2 weeks at first, then observe your succulents’ reactions and adjust the watering schedule accordingly. Learning to tell if your succulents are overwatered or underwatered might seem daunting but it can be done.
IS MY SUCCULENT OVERWATERED OR UNDERWATERED?
When the plant is overwatered, the leaves would start to look translucent, discolor (yellow), feel soggy to the touch, and fall off easily. There will also be black spots on the leaves or stem. On Echeverias, which is one of the most sensitive succulents, the color of the center would get much lighter.
Dry leaves are often caused by underwatering. They are softer to the touch than when fully hydrated, but don’t look translucent and soggy like overwatered leaves. As the moisture pressure inside the tissue of the leaves and stems reduces, there will be wrinkles on the skin, and the leaves will look droopy with sagging tips.
Popular succulent plants come in a wide range of sizes, leaf shapes and colors, flowers, and unique features. Native to seasonally-arid climates such as deserts, mountainsides, or high limbs of tropical jungle trees, they developed fleshy leaves or stems capable of storing moisture.
In mild-winter climates, these tough plants are used as landscape specimen, foundation plantings, groundcovers, and lawn substitutes. But in nearly any part of the country they can be planted in all sorts of containers, indoors or out, including wreaths and wall hangings.
How to Grow Succulents
These tough plants are easy to grow, with minimum care. Though they need occasional watering, they will quickly rot if not planted in a well-drained garden or potting soil. Heavy garden soils need to be fluffed up with organic matter such as compost or bark; however, these usually break down as they decompose.
Whether planting in garden soil or containers, seasoned growers also add coarse sand, crushed granite, pumice, chicken grit, or the heat-expanded clay used to improve aeration and compaction in turf fields. Any of these will dramatically increase drainage and won’t break down as the organic material slowly decomposes.
Some need protection from hot mid-day sun, but all thrive with at least a few hours of sun either in the garden or near an east, west, or south-facing window or with very bright artificial light. Many are frost-tender, while others can tolerate light freezes or even very deep freezes.
Grow Your Own
Growing succulents from seed requires patience, and can take six months or a year or longer just to sprout. Press lightly into well-drained potting soil and cover barely with sand; cover with clear food wrap to conserve moisture and humidity (remove temporarily if the wrap gets too steamy), and place the container in bright but indirect light. Avoid displacing seeds by placing the container in a tray of water to soak; water from the bottom as needed until seedlings sprout.
Most gardeners start with mature plants, but you can easily grow some such as Aeoniums and Crassulas from stem cuttings that are allowed to dry a few days before planting, or by cutting or twisting off leaves of Graptopetalum and many Crassulas and placing them stem-side down in potting mix. Sempervivum, Agave, Aloe, Yucca, and others can be propagated from offsets called “pups” growing from their base.
How to Plant Succulents
Most succulents have fragile, shallow roots that are easy to damage, so be very careful when digging or removing from containers. Gently shake off excess soil, or use your fingers to loosen potting soil.
When planting succulents, set them into prepared soil (using gloves for spiny types), and sift soil around their bases, gently tamping down as you go. Cover the soil surface with coarse sand, gravel, or other inorganic mulch, and water very gently to settle soil around roots and plant bases.
Allow plants to dry between soakings. Fertilize lightly with an all-purpose slow-release plant food once a year, allowing plants to rest in the winter.
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Growing succulents and cacti from seeds is a great way to acquire some species that are too expensive or too hard to find in stores! It takes a long time, but the pay off is totally worth it.
Veteran gardeners and enthusiastic beginners alike often come to the idea of growing succulents from seeds. After all, that is how we get most of our other plants!
Unfortunately, getting succulent seeds to germinate is a bit more difficult than it is with other plants, and it can be a long time before the seedlings are ready to be repotted.
If you’re up for the challenge, though, we’re up for telling you how! First, we’ll tell you where to find seeds, and then how to grow them!
Where to buy succulent seeds
As with most plant products, succulent and cacti seeds can often be found in brick-and-mortar stores. Try your local plant nursery, and if that fails, a big-box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
A recent trend in these chains is the selling of a miniature grow-your-own-cactus kit. They often come with a tiny pot, seeds, and soil.
Of all your online options, CactusPlaza has the widest variety of seeds. They have many species that are difficult to find or ship as mature plants.
They also sell full plants and cuttings, as well as some intriguing hybrids. Check out their discount rewards system!
Succuland is an online store that sells solely seeds and specializes in those of the Echeveria genus. The prices are very affordable and they are generous with seeds. Shipping is usually quite prompt.
Searching for anything on here can be daunting, but a simple search for succulent seeds will get you started.
The availability of species fluctuates due to the nature of the online marketplace, but there is always a large selection. Be aware that many of the seeds ship from Asia, and may take a while to arrive (although the price will make it worth the wait!)
Much like Amazon, Etsy’s selection is dependent on what the sellers are offering. It appears to be fairly reliable in that regard though.
Etsy is a capricious beast, however, and prices could be dirt-cheap or quite expensive – especially if you’re looking for those designer brand succulents.
How to grow succulents from seeds
Succulents and cacti are an enormously varied family, and so it stands to reason that the methods for growing their seeds can be different. What follows is a general guide that should serve you for all but the most finicky of fat plants!
Get a planting tray
First things first, ya gotta have somewhere to put your seeds. Most people like to germinate seedlings in a planting tray because it provides an ideal environment – plenty of space, access to sun, appropriate drainage, and a moisture-retaining dome.
That part is important – you’ll definitely want a tray that comes with a dome. Use a shower cap as a substitute if you don’t have a dome. As always, make sure your container has drainage holes (if it doesn’t, make your own holes).
Fill in your growing medium
The medium in which you will grow your seeds is variable, but most agree that it is best to do it in the sand of some sort. Horticultural sand or builder’s sand from a hardware store is both pretty good. The idea is to have sand with large particle size.
Depending on where you got the sand, you may want to sterilize it by baking it in a convection oven on a low heat for a few hours.
This will help prevent fungi or parasites from infesting your baby succulents. Finally, fill your planting tray with this sand to about 1/2 of an inch below the rim.
Sow your succulent seeds
Here’s a nifty trick: Lightly dampen the surface of the sand with a spray bottle. This will help prevent the seeds from moving about when you are sowing them.
Most succulent seeds are absolutely tiny, so if you’re sowing them into a tray with cells you will want to pour them into your hand and then distribute 1 or 2 per cell. If in a large tray, scatter them evenly around the surface.
There’s no need to bury or cover the seeds of most succulents.
Make your seeds comfy
Gently shake the tray to settle the seeds. They can tell when they are in contact with the ground and they use it as a signal to begin growth, so you’ll want to make sure they have enough surface area touching the sand.
Finally, put the dome on. It’s important that the seeds have a certain degree of humidity to begin growth. The temperature should remain around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once they sprout, it could be anywhere from days to months, you need to remove the dome immediately.
Too much humidity could cause the seedlings to rot. However, it will be best to keep them moist for a while until they are grown.
Use your best judgment and monitor carefully, but a week of continued wet is probably sufficient.
Then, let them dry out and treat them like any other succulent! Water once a week or so when the soil is completely dry!
When to replant succulent seeds
Generally, you want to wait until the succulent or cacti is of sufficient size that it won’t be damaged by transplanting. This varies by succulent species of course.
For Echeverias it might be when their rosette is an inch across. For Sedum it might be when they are an inch long. If your seedlings are the size of the small succulents they sell in stores, they are probably ready.
Don’t be too hasty though! They are absolutely fragile at this point in their life. Once you’ve decided they are grown up, care for them as you would the rest of your fat plants.
If you need a reminder, check out some of our other guides like this one about succulent care, this one about succulent soils, or this one about repotting succulents.
That’s about it! Have you had success planting from succulent seeds before? Do you have any tips? Tell us below!
About Patrick Grubbs
Just a college kid sharing everything he learns on the path to transcendence via succulents.
When you plant succulents, you dress outdoor spaces with living sculptures. Succulents are the camels of the plant world, bearing thick, fleshy leaves that store water. These textural beauties hail from regions as diverse as tropical Mexico and cooler Europe.
This tabletop succulent container is a great project for summer because succulents are so hardy and easy to grow. This dish garden can sit atop an outdoor ledge or patio table in the summer and can overwinter indoors as a houseplant. What better way to celebrate the beautiful colors and textures of plants that practically take care of themselves?
To begin this project, you’ll first need to pick a planter. A wide but shallow dish, bowl, or plate works, but you’ll want it to have a drainage hole. If you have a dish that you really want to use but that doesn’t have a drainage hole, you’ll need to (carefully!) tip out the excess water when the garden is watered or after it sits in the rain to drain excess moisture.
To begin, add a layer of pebbles—this is crucial to ensure that your succulents have proper drainage. You’ll also want to use a soil mix that has aerating agents, such as sand or peat moss. Add a few inches of soil to your dish, but be sure to leave space at the top for plants.
It’s a good idea to start by planting whichever succulent you want to be the focal point of your garden. We used echeveria, which often comes in different colors and patterns. Be careful when handling your succulents—because their leaves are so thick and filled with water, they can snap easily. But if a stem snaps off, no worries! Just poke it into the soil and it’ll grow into a beautiful new succulent. (The same goes for the pups, or the small offsets that grow off the mother plant.)
When you pull the succulent plants out of their containers, you’ll see the roots. Gently massage the roots to tell the plant that it’s outside its pot and ready for a larger space. When adding succulents to your planter, don’t plant them too deep—they’ll like the extra drainage given when they’re rooted slightly above the soil.
Once you’ve planted your succulent garden, the care is the easy part. Water your dish garden every five days if it’s sitting outside in the hot sun. If your succulents are acting as houseplants, watering every two weeks will do the trick. The best way to tell if a succulent needs a drink is by sticking half of your finger into the soil. If the soil is dry as a bone, it’s time to water. If the soil is moist at all, hold off on watering for now.
Once your succulents are planted, they make a beautiful presentation, looking almost like a mini landscape. Feel free to also add elements like stones or pebbles to make the garden more desert-like.
Think of a shallow container as a canvas you can decorate with plants, then let your imagination take over.
One of the best things about succulents is the huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors (there are even clear types). Plus they’re pretty easy to grow, so they can be arranged in some amazingly creative ways. For example, a few years ago, the #succiepotinapot hashtag had a moment on Instagram and showcased succulents arranged to look like they were growing out of mini pots. Those designs are just as cute as ever (and there are almost 6,000 posts with the hashtag), but it’s not your only option for creating a cute succulent dish garden. Use these tips to get creative and try making a one-of-a-kind piece of living succulent art.
How to Plant a Succulent Arrangement
The key to a successful mini succulent garden is good drainage. Most succulents can go at least a few weeks without water, but they won’t tolerate overwatering or wet soil for long. If it’s possible, find a shallow dish with a drainage hole for your plants, or drill one; that way, any extra water can run out of the container. Add a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the dish to help excess moisture drain away from the plants’ roots, then fill the dish with a fast-draining potting mix (look for a potting soil made especially for succulents and cacti).
Next, make a rough sketch of the design you’d like to make, and figure out which succulents can bring it to life. If you want to create a tiny succulent bouquet, start by half-burying a small pot, cup, or bowl on its side in the soil, then arrange succulents at the top to look like they’re growing or spilling out of it. To make a succulent tree, place a small piece of wood or a twig on top of the soil to act as a trunk, then plant succulents around it to look like leaves. Or arrange the succulents in a shape, such as a heart or a sun.
Try using different shapes and colors of succulents too. A red or pink succulent could look almost like a flower paired with mostly green varieties. Just double-check that all of the plants you use have similar water and light needs.
Once you’ve chosen your succulents, plant them in the soil in the arrangement you want. If you’re using an extra element, like a half-buried mini pot, place it in your dish first before you start planting. After adding the plants, be sure to water your succulents well.
Then, it’s time to add a few finishing touches. One option is to cover the exposed soil with small rocks. Using one color like white or black will make your plants stand out, or try arranging different colors in stripes or rows to create a patterned background. Fine sand could also work for a beach theme.
How to Care for a Succulent Arrangement
Taking care of your succulent arrangement is even easier than designing it. Place it in a spot, indoors or out, that gets plenty of bright light. Then keep an eye on how moist the soil is in your mini garden. Succulents are more sensitive to overwatering than underwatering, so let the soil dry out completely before giving them another drink. If your dish garden is in direct sun, it’ll dry out quicker than it will in a spot that only gets light for part of the day.
The best way to know if it’s time to water is to stick your finger down at least an inch into the soil. If you feel any dampness, wait to water. If it’s completely dry, it’s time to give your plants a drink.
Succulents grow slowly, so your arrangement will probably look the same for quite a while. When they do outgrow your design, you can always swap out plants with smaller ones. Or you can completely rearrange your dish garden and repot larger succulents elsewhere.
Making a Zen garden with succulents is another way home gardeners are growing these plants inside the home. A mini Zen garden with just a couple of plants leaves plenty of room for sand in which to doodle and create a basic design. Read on to learn more about growing Zen succulents.
About Zen Succulent Arrangements
Zen succulent gardens are meant to represent an aerial view of the sea and shore, and whatever lies between. Some Zen gardens are designed with small pebbles, keeping sand to a minimum. Stones represent islands, mountains, and large rocks in the landscape. Sand represents water and the designs you make are ripples or waves.
If you don’t like the design you’ve created, use a small houseplant rake to smooth it out and try again. Use a tool from your houseplant kit for doodling, or even a chopstick. Some people seem to enjoy this simple process and say it calms them. If you find this a way of relaxing your mind and utilizing your creativity, make one for yourself.
Crafting Your Zen Succulents
A succulent Zen garden usually has only one or two plants and a few decorative rocks or other pieces, with most of the container devoted to sand for doodling. Choose sand or rocks as your primary element, depending how much space you want for doodling. Colored sand and various stones are available in many craft aisles or craft stores.
Find a shallow bowl that coordinates with other pieces around the spot you want to keep your mini garden. A morning sun area will help keep your plants healthy.
When planting this type of arrangement, the plants are normally kept in small containers or other makeshift holders. However, to keep your plant healthy and growing, plant it in a mix of fast-draining cactus soil in a portion of the bowl and divide the planting area with floral foam. Cover the roots with soil and then cover with sand or pebbles as you do the rest of the bowl.
Your plant roots will be planted in soil, still allowing the same amount of top space for creating your Zen designs. In a few months you’ll likely see growth, which can be trimmed back if it interferes with the concept of your garden.
Use low light plants such as Haworthia, Gasteria, Gollum Jade, or String of Buttons. These thrive in bright light or morning sun as well. You may also use low-maintenance air plants or even artificial plants. Ferns are a possibility for a shaded area as well.
Enjoy doodling when you have the urge. Even if that is limited, enjoy your mini Zen garden as an interesting addition to your indoor décor.
Fairy gardens give us a way of expressing ourselves while releasing our inner child. Even adults can get inspired by a fairy garden. Many of the ideas involve a small area of the outdoor garden, but the notion can also translate to container and indoor plantings.
Mini succulent gardens are a fun, easy, and low maintenance way of developing a fairy garden. A fairy garden with succulents is also an innovative and creative way to introduce plants and their care to children or beginner gardeners.
Succulent Fairy Garden Ideas
Remember reading a favorite story book as a child and the magical feeling that swirled around you as you imagined strange new worlds and fantastic beings? You can get a smaller version of that sentiment by using inspired succulent fairy garden ideas. Succulents in a fairy garden should be as inventive as your imagination. The whole idea is to create a mini world that is based on your vision.
Think back to your childhood, then relax and have fun with a succulent fairy garden. There are no rules, so you can’t do anything wrong; just remember to combine plants with the same cultivation needs in the concept.
Start with choosing your container. It could be a dish garden, terrarium, or a quaint basket model. Maybe even a tiered garden or one in a teacup. Use what you have on hand to express yourself and create a tiny world that evokes storybook concepts. Now comes the fun part…selecting plants that are playful with fun personality and then decorating the garden with pieces that complete the story.
Succulents in a Fairy Garden
The succulents in a fairy garden should be miniature to complete the tale and bring magic into your garden idea. Avoid succulents that will become too large and try to stick with plants that will not overtake the garden. This is so you still have room for the decorative touches that captivate and enchant. Some cute selections include:
- Sedum – There are so many colors and varieties of sedum from which to choose, plus they look like miniature roses.
- Burro’s tail – A funny, trailing succulent with opalescent green color, burro’s tail makes an interesting addition to fairy gardens.
- Jade plant – It will eventually get big but is slow growing, and young jade plants make perfect stand-ins for tiny trees.
- Panda plant – Fuzzy and almost white, panda plant adds softness and a unique feel to the fairy dish garden.
- Hens and chicks – The name says it all. Hens and chicks are filled with fanciful delight.
- Echeveria – Like sedum, there are many sizes and varieties of echeveria, with different tones etched along the leaves.
- Lithops – Lithops look a bit like living rocks but bloom and have unique hues.
A few other types of plants available for mini succulent gardens include:
You have your container and your plants set. Now you want to introduce items that complete the dream. There are many sellers of fairy décor, or you can make your own. You can also use dollhouse items. Go to your local craft or thrift store and see what tiny items you can find to finish your fairyland.
You may include things such as furniture, bird houses, mushrooms, trees, figurines or anything else that captivates the imagination. This is the truly fun part. You could retell a classic or create one of your own; this is where your creative imagination and inner child can really shine.
Succulents and cacti are some of my favourite things, there is just something very soothing about them. One of the things that make succulents the perfect house or office plant is that it needs little care, these desert plants love to be, deserted (see what i did there). When it comes to watering, these plants really don’t ask for much, just once every 2/3 weeks depending on the weather/climate. If you life in a warmer climate you water them once every two weeks, but during cold days they can stay a long time without any water.
I find that creating beautiful little succulent gardens is such a relaxing activity, and rewarding cause you are left with an amazing decoration for your house or office space. Did you know that studies have shown that being around plants boosts your productivity, concentration and memory retention? Let me show you how i make my little succulent gardens.
I always start by looking for a nice container i’d like to put my plants in.
If your container doesn’t have a hole for drainage then add pebbles or stones to the bottom so it can catch any excess water you might give your plants. Succulents really don’t like to sit in wet soil, cause this will greatly increase the risk of the plants catching disease. When you’re picking out your favourite succulents and/or cacti also make sure to pick up a cactus soil mix.
Before you start planting the plants in container decide how you want them positioned, do this by putting them in the soil and moving them around until your happy with the positioning. At this point it it time to get your hands dirty and construct your own mini garden Now when remove the pants from their original container make sure to loosen up the roots with your fingers, and don’t worry about hurting the plants, they are very forgiving. When you’ve loosened up the roots dig a hole and its time to plant your succulent.
Ok i don’t really know what i was thinking at this moment, but this is not how you pick up a spiky cactus! Learn from my mistakes and use tongs or a thick fabric that wont be penetrated by the needles.
When you’ve planted all of your plants you can finish it off by placing some rock on the soil. All thats left is to find a nice place to put your new mini succulent garden and feel relaxed every time you look at your own creation. Let me know if you are interested in other posts like this.