Growing Succulents Indoors

Nearly anyone wondering how to grow succulents indoors can look no farther than their own grandmother’s windowsill, which probably boasted at least one.
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Nearly anyone wondering how to grow succulents indoors can look no farther than their own grandmother’s windowsill, which probably boasted at least one.

Because of their incredible shapes and forms, and tolerance of moderate light, low humidity, and weeks of neglect, succulent house plants such as a mother-in-law tongue or snake plant (Sansevieria) or florist’s Kalanchoe have graced many a living room corner or kitchen window, or a gifted Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) that simply won’t die. And most are very easy to propagate from stem cuttings, dividing small plants, and rooting leaves.

Old-hand gardeners know that indoor succulent plants require a certain amount of neglect.  

In their arid or seasonally-dry native lands, they developed the ability to store their own water supplies within fleshy leaves, stems, or roots.

How to Plant Succulents Indoors

Planting succulents indoors is not done much different from other plants in pots. Make sure pots have drainage holes, or plan to lay them on their sides after watering to allow excess water to drain out.

When first planting succulents in pots, choose a well-drained potting soil such as a ready-made cactus mix, but for a really good succulent potting mix that won’t stay too wet, add extra pumice, sharp sand, grit, or perlite (available at garden centers) to help drainage without breaking down with time.

When first learning how to pot succulents, you will notice how shallow and brittle their roots are. Gently loosen other soil, and sift new soil around the roots, using your fingers or blunt end of a pencil to tamp it lightly as you go. Cover the surface with sand or gravel or grit, and allow the plants to dry a few days before watering.

Growing Succulents Indoors  

Caring for succulents indoors means not coddling them as you would, say. African violets or ferns.

Indoor succulents grow best in bright light. Though many including Sempervivum and

Pedilanthus develop their best foliage colors with at least a few hours of direct sun, and get Portulacaria, Sedums, and others get very leggy and weak if not given bright light, exceptions such as Sansevieria and Hoya tolerate fairly low light levels.

Still, a very successful indoor succulent garden will be in or near an east, south, or west window that gets a few hours of direct sun. For those whose leaves scorch in direct sun, provide shade with a sheer curtain if grown in a south- or west-facing window.

Water often enough to keep plants from shriveling, and avoid a buildup of harmful dissolved minerals and fertilizer residue by using distilled or rain water, and at least once a year flush out the soil with a good soaking.

Because many grow slowly indoors, especially in the cooler, darker winter months, they don’t need much if any fertilizer other than a light feeding in the spring or summer.

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Our expert shares her secrets for growing and selecting succulents.

Next Up

Growing Succulents Outdoors

Create the right conditions for growing exotic-looking hardy succulents outdoors in an garden, anywhere in the country.

Aloe Succulents

Aloe is a large group of succulent plants with rosettes of thick, juicy leaves and bloom spires topped with beautiful clusters of mostly red or yellow hummingbird-attracting flowers. Many popular Aloes tolerate frost or short freezes.

Succulent Plants

Succulent plants are those with juicy leaves or stems for holding water through long periods of drought. They come in a vast array of shapes, colors, sizes, unique features, and temperature tolerance, are suitable for growing in dry garden areas or in containers both indoors and out.

Hen and Chicks Succulents

Forget proper Latin names of plants; this never-ending debate among horticulturists and botanists gets thrown out the window when it comes to common or local names for plants. Case in point: Hens and chicks succulents.

Rare and Unusual Succulents

Succulent plants are strange enough, but some go way beyond the same old, same old kinds grown in gardens and containers around the country.

Best Soil for Succulents

No two gardeners use the same potting mix for succulents, but they all start with similar basic ingredients that help plants hold a little moisture and fertilizer while allowing extra water to drain away very quickly.

How to Plant Succulents

Succulents are easy to grow, but should be planted properly to get the most out of their versatility.

What is a Succulent Plant

Succulent plants, from tropical to cold hardy, come in astounding variety of sometimes bizarre shapes, colors, and unique features; they have fleshy leaves or stems which help them store water for weeks or months.

Succulent Gardens

Succulent gardens, both indoors and out, are interesting, low maintenance, and easy, and contain a variety of sometimes-bizarre plants in many shapes, sizes, colors, and features. The most crucial things they need are bright light, and well-drained soils that never stay wet.

Pruning and Trimming Succulents

Succulent plants often need pruning to remove unruly or overgrown growth, and their dead or dying stems, leaves, and flower stems trimmed.

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