If you’re looking to grow hardy plants that thrive on benign neglect, look no further than succulents. Succulents are plants with fleshy leaves and stems that come from all over the world. Cacti are in the succulent family, as is aloe. Succulents come in all shapes and sizes.
In warm, dry climates succulents can be used outdoors as landscaping focal points. Most succulents cannot survive a New York winter (though a few like prickly pear cacti, hens and chicks do quite well!). Because they are low maintenance and require little water succulents are perfect for container gardening. Succulent container gardens can thrive for years on end, as long as their needs—lots of light with just a little bit of water—are met.
To grow succulents in pots the first step is to purchase the right container. Head to your local garden center or nursery and take a look around. Succulents tend to spread, so you’ll want a nursery pot with plenty of space depending on how many you intend to plant. You’ll also want to make sure that your container has a hole in the bottom because a drainage hole will ensure that your succulents are never sitting in too much water.
Regular potting soil tends to be too heavy and holds too much water for succulents, so you’ll want to get a potting mix specifically made for cacti and succulents. Save the regular soil for vegetable gardening.
After you’ve filled the pot with soil you can carefully begin planting succulents. Poke a hole in the dirt not too close to the side of the pot and then gently remove the plant from its container and place the roots in the new hole and cover. Repeat with whatever plants you intend to use, but remember that they will spread and need more space eventually. When first planting you can water your succulents lightly.
Before you water again it’s important to let your plants dry out completely. Healthy succulents do not need or want to be watered too often, and excess water in the soil can easily cause root rot.
In the spring and summer months, your succulents can live happily outdoors in a sunny spot. For the first few days of the spring, you’ll want to place them in the shade so they can get used to being outside. If you put them directly in full sun they may burn.
Over the winter months indoor succulents need a lot of sun, so be sure to put them in a West or South-facing window. Succulents need even less water in the winter months. To test if a succulent needs water you can squeeze a leaf; if that leaf is firm you can leave it alone, but if it squishes a bit then it’s time to water.