How to Plant Succulents

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

Simple Succulents 03:34

Our expert shares her secrets for growing and selecting succulents.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Growing Succulents Outdoors

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

Transplanting and Propagating Succulents

Succulent plants are very easy to transplant into different garden settings, and are perhaps the easiest plants of all to grow from cuttings, division, stem cutting, and rooted leaves.

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