Want to know why your succulents keep dying? Need tips for healthy succulents? Read on for how to keep your succulents alive and well with this expert post.
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Wildflowers, this is a guest post written by an expert gardener because I am a dismal gardener. You know me as a canning enthusiast, probably, and as such, most people assume that I also garden. I don’t. I struggle to keep the pot of mint (which essentially is an invasive weed, if given enough water) by my steps alive. I can, however, grow a fantastic jar of sprouts (read how here) I had so many readers ask questions about gardening I thought I needed to ask for some expert advice. My friend Emma from Fixtures and Flowers shares her best tips for keeping succulents alive and identifying why yours aren’t. Read on for 7 tips for keeping your succulents alive and thriving, Wildflowers!
Human beings have an innate desire to nurture and make things grow. This primary drive applies to loved ones, pets and yes especially to the indoor plants and flowers in the backyard garden as well.
For experienced but busy gardeners that still want to make something grow, most peers would recommend growing succulents. They always look beautiful, have a wide variety to choose from and are supposedly easy to take care of. Its common knowledge that succulents don’t need as much water as regular plants.
With everyone saying succulents are very easy to maintain, its a wonder when they end up dying for one reason or another. Killing a succulent can become a severe blow to the ego of a gardener. These are the reasons why the plant died, so all one needs to do is avoid making the same mistake twice, and the next succulents will thrive.
7 Reasons Why Your Succulents Keep Dying
Granted that succulents are supposed to be the easiest plants to care for, almost every gardener has made the mistake of nearly killing or accidentally killing their first succulents.
Too much water can be the death of any succulent which is often the case. When gardeners see any plant, it is pure instinct to water that plant every day. Some catch themselves about to water their succulents a day or two after they watered them and are able to stop themselves.
Most people ignore the reminders of their peers to not water succulents too frequently. Succulents are cacti, but they do look exotic and beautiful, unlike spiky cactuses.
It can be somewhat confusing so watering these eye-catching plants becomes natural and is the most notorious culprit for the death of many succulents.
There are ways on how to save overwatered succulents. The first sign of an overwatered succulent plant is falling leaves. When one notices that a slight bump to the plant results in leaves just dropping to the ground, then that means the plant has been overwatered.
The simplest and most effective way to know the right time to water a succulent is by touching the soil. If the topsoil feels damp then it’s too soon to water the plant again.
One can go a step further to check the moisture in the ground by using a stick or even a finger to push down into about an inch of the soil to review its internal moisture level. There really is no set number of days when one should water succulents.
Pro Tip: Some say every three days should be fine but sometimes even a week later the soil is still moist. It really depends on just how wet the soil is to know the right time to water.
If the succulent has already turned black, don’t worry, one can still save the plant and salvage the situation. Take a pair of shears or scissors and cut out the blackened parts. It is essential to cut the rot from the rest of the healthy plant before it spreads.
In case the succulent is also a cactus, meaning it has thorns, make sure to use gardening gloves before handling the plant.
Removing all the rot from the plant should be enough to save it. The decay is a result of too much watering. Use the tap, stick or finger method to gauge the moisture level of the soil before watering again.
Lack of Water
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some succulents die from being completely ignored. That may work if the plant is located outdoors. If the plant is positioned on an elevated level away from the garden sprinklers, the moisture in the air, morning dew will help water the plant.
If the plant is indoors then ignoring it, could prove to be a death sentence for it. When the leaves of the succulent start to develop wrinkles, then that would mean that the plant is starved for water. Life can be too hectic even to pay attention to a plant but when one notices wrinkles on their succulents make sure to give them a proper watering.
A wrinkly succulent can get back into shape after a couple of watering cycles. Be careful with over watering as that can be more damaging to the plant then under watering it.
The Container Has No Drainage
Some plant containers that come with store-bought succulents don’t have any drainage holes. Drainage holes allow water to flow through the soil and out of the pot. Too much water can cause the succulent plant to rot, so it is also essential to use potting soil that drains well.
For drainage holes, it is a simple matter to create drainage holes under the container. If one is growing the succulent indoors then putting a net or screen on the bottom part of the pot will prevent soil from escaping.
Succulents need good drainage, the right soil and a container that drains well, without these the plant will end up going black, rotting and will eventually die. Using gravel in your garden can help create a soil mix that drains well.
The Pot is Too Tiny
Some homemakers love the exotic look of succulents, so they buy some and bring them home. The container that the plants come in is usually too small for the plant to grow properly.
After a few months in the same container and when the plant itself seems to have expanded beyond the circumference of the pot then it is time to re-pot the plant.
Succulents that are watered correctly will thrive, but their growth will be limited to the space they are given. Tiny containers will prevent the plant from receiving enough nutrition.
This succulent pot isn’t tiny AND has great drainage.
Most succulents become dormant during the winter months. They do not need to be watered during this time. Some make the mistake of watering them while they are dormant and end up killing their plant.
Watering succulents during winter will cause their roots to rot which will then spread throughout the plant. In case the plants are located outside bring them indoors to protect them from the frost.
The same thing needs to be done in case the area is experiencing a lot of rains, and the succulents are outside, bring them inside the house.
If the succulents are planted into the garden and not in containers, then one can protect them by covering them with a cloth or a plastic bag. It is best to plant them under large trees which can also protect them from the elements.
The Soil Lacks Nutrients
It is ideal to use a good quality potting mix when growing succulents indoors. Since plants derive all the nutrition they need from the surrounding soil, it is essential to provide them with what they need.
High-quality potting mix is a favorite among gardeners since the soil mixture has been optimized to grow plants to their full potential.
Add some compost, natural fertilizers, or slow release fertilizer to the soil, and the plant will be as healthy as can be. Ignore their nutritional needs, and they become prone to disease or even pests.
Try this potting soil for happy succulents!
It is The Wrong Temperature
Succulents just like any other plant need the right dose of light and darkness. Too much of either and the plant will not grow properly. Too little of both and the succulent’s growth may become stunted.
There are many varieties of succulents, and each kind has their own set of light or shade requirements. Succulents that are green or yellow in color usually prefer the shade. While succulents that are orange or reddish prefer to bask in the sun.
For best results research the light requirements of the succulent or to be safe provide them with equal amounts of sun and shade.
If you’re not sure about the soil’s temperature, try this soil-specific thermometer!
Accidentally killing a succulent is not the end of the world. One just needs to evolve and practice the methods above to maintain healthy plants. Always be aware of the correct watering cycle to avoid over or under watering the plant. Protect them from frost and stop watering during the winter. Save dying plants by cutting out the parts that have decayed.
About the guest author
Emma is a part-time property developer, part-time home improvements and gardening blogger at Fixtures and Flowers, and full-time Mum. Given her background, Emma has a lot of advice, tips, and tricks that she loves sharing on her blog.