(785) 864-4073  cco@ku.edu

Caring for Succulents

Looking for a rewarding plant that requires low maintenance, but is a perfect way to spruce up your indoors? If so, the succulent is IT for you!

First things first, what exactly is a succulent?

  • It’s any plant with thick, freshly water storage organs.
  • Succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots.
  • Nearly indestructible, succulents have adapted to survive in arid conditions throughout the world!
  • Thanks to this adaptive mechanism, this plant has resulted in an incredible variety of leaf forms, and plant shapes. 

Fact: Being some of the MOST common plants, succulents include; aloe and agave, and cacti being a unique subset. 

General rules for TOP quality and healthy succulents: 

  • Give them the center of attention, in bright light (south-facing window)
  • Watch the plant, it will let you know if it is getting too much sun by turning brown or white on the leaves as the plant bleaches out, and the soft tissues become destroyed. 
  • Finding that perfect medium is important, giving your succulent not enough light will cause them to stretch, causing the condition known as etiolation. If this occurs, provide better light and it will reform back to its healthy self.
  • Specific temperatures for growing succulents:
    • The most ideal temps during the daytime are between 70 and about 85 °F
    • The preferred nighttime temps are between 50 and 55 °F
  • Watering your succulent:
    • During the summer – water generously, while allowing the potting mix to dry between watering’s but don’t underwater!
    • For the winter – reduce watering to once every other month, since the plant is dormant
    • NEVER allow your succulent to sit in water, it causes discoloration 
      • Like turning yellow or white, and could be beyond saving
      • If this occurs, check the roots and see if it is repairable 
    • An UNDERWATERED plant could stop growing and shed leaves
  • Choosing potting soil and fertilizer:
    • Succulents require a fast-draining mixture that is used specifically for cacti and succulents
    • If you don’t have access to this particular mixture, look into modifying the normal potting mix with an inorganic agent such as perlite to increase aeration and drainage
    • Why? Succulents have shallow roots that form dense mats just under the surface of the soil. 
    • During the summer season, fertilize like you would your other house plants but during the winter stop fertilizing altogether. 

Hints for growing your succulent outdoors:

  • Don’t overwater them, it causes root rotting.
  • Don’t neglect them, although their watering needs are less than most plants, they are still thirsty plants!
  • Helpful hint: plant them with other plants of similar water needs, so you can avoid overwatering. 
  • The right soil is so important, take time to learn about the soil in your garden and add amendments as necessary to give them the best chance of a healthy life. 
  • Allow proper sunlight in the summer and avoid frost in the winter!
  • Don’t forget, they are known as indoor plants but don’t fear planting them in the ground! They can be forgiving, and they make for a beautiful landscape.

I hope this helps you when considering a succulent as a plant choice! It’s a great low-maintenance option while providing a perfect touch to the indoors and outdoors of your home. 

If you would like to share your succulent’s success, please feel free to send pictures at mcmeennoelle@ku.edu. I would love to see your pot and ground gardens!

You can always send your succulent care questions, and I will do my best to answer any of your inquiries!

Yours in conversation, 

Noelle McMeen