7 Steps to Make Your Succulents 'Succ' Less

Succulents: the trendy desert plants that have taken the world by storm. These sturdy little plants make the best companions for a busy semester. They require little water, lots of sunlight—and make for a whole bunch of artsy Snapchats. The best part about caring for these little guys? No green thumb required! Let's take a look at how to care for your hardy friends.

Step 1: Choose your succulent

Although this may seem like a simple and almost intuitive step, it's a very important one. Upon first visiting the garden section of a hardware store or the local plant nursery, you may be inclined to just pick the plant you find to be the most attractive. However, it's important to look at the labels on the different plants to determine the amount of sunlight they require and their expected growth. These are important factors in determining which type of succulent is best suited for your room and the amount of space it requires to grow. A few different genuses of succulents that are tried and true include echeveria, sedevaria, and graptopetalum hybrids.

Step 2: Pick a container

After choosing your ideal succulent, it's time to select its new home. This is my favorite part of the planting process and it’s also the most creative step. Before getting carried away with the different and unique ways to plant your succulents, there are a few things to keep in mind. When choosing a container, make sure that it has proper drainage (a small hole in the bottom). Succulents don't require a lot of water and too much can actually harm them. Try to find a container with proper drainage, however there are ways to create mini drainage networks, if necessary. While it's important to keep in mind the size and expected growth of your succulent, feel free to expand your horizons beyond the common flower pot. Consider using patterned bowls, old mugs, teacups, glass votives, mason jars, geometric terrariums, and polyhedron containers to hold your new plants! Experiment with different containers and try to envision the completed look of your succulent, this will help you visualize what you would like to accomplish by the end of this how-to article.

Step 3: Select supplies

After selecting your succulent and its container, you have an idea of the scale you are working on (small or large) Some other supplies you may consider purchasing include soil, pebbles, and decorations. Succulents are acclimated to arid conditions, which means that they are adapted to very dry and sandy soil. In order to keep your succulent happy, you will want to invest in some succulent soil. This soil can be found in the garden section of many hardware stores. Succulent soil (aka cactus soil) is a solid investment when it comes to planting succulents. Pebbles or small rocks are also a necessity when planting succulents - especially when your container is lacking proper drainage. A layer of sand between the soil and pebble layer can also help create a drainage system. You can also choose some decorative stones or crystals to place on top of the soil. These stones and crystals are more than just decorations, they can help your freshly potted succulent to stay in place while its adjusts to its new environment.

Step 4: Get dirty

Now that you have your succulent, container, and supplies - it’s time to get a little dirty. For this step, I suggest moving your supplies outside or laying down a few sheets of newspaper before you begin. Once you have your succulent, container, soil, and decorations all laid out it’s time to begin. Carefully remove the succulent from the plastic pot that it was purchased in. Holding the succulent over the newspaper, gently begin to remove clumps of soil and find the roots of the plant. You can accomplish this by gently moving your fingers into the soil or massaging the soil between your hands. The soil should gradually fall away until you have the succulent and it’s main roots exposed. Once the succulent is free of extra soil, you can lie it down on a clean section of newspaper.

Step 5: Prep the container

Now that your succulent is ready for planting, it’s time to prepare its new home. Next, take some pebbles and pour them into your container of choice. Make sure that you pour an even amount, enough to cover the entire bottom of the container. Now that the first layer is laid down, take a handful of sand and evenly disperse it over the layer of pebbles. Make sure that the pebbles are completely covered by sand. Next, add a thin layer of succulent soil. You don’t want to add too much because you still have to add the plant. Leave ample room for the roots, but be sure that the top part of your succulent will not be too far down in the container. The top of the succulent needs to be able to receive lots of sunlight so keep this in mind when planting.  

Step 6: Repot the succulent

It’s time to give your succulent a new home. Gently pick up your succulent from the newspaper and situate its roots into the new layer of soil. Holding the succulent upright in the container, scoop up a handful of succulent soil and pour it over the roots. Repeat this process, as you hold the plant upright, until all off the roots are covered and the plant is able to stand upright on its own. If find your plant tilting to one side, it may require some additional support. Try adding a few decorative stones on top of the soil and situate them close to the base of the plant in order to keep it upright until its roots adjust to the new soil. Feel free to decorate the top layer of soil with a thin layer of crushed pebbles or flat stones. These accents add a nice touch and allow you to really personalize your succulent.

Step 7: Water and care

Succulents are xerophytes, which is a species of plant that has evolved to survive with very minimum amounts of water. If succulents receive too much water, it can cause them major (possibly irreversible) damage to the roots. Be wary of the amount of water you give your succulents. My personal rule of thumb is to water once every three weeks. Be sure to water in small amounts, no more than two ounces is necessary. I like to use a water bottle cap to measure out the amount of water my plants need. I don’t use more than two capfuls per container. Another rule of thumb is to avoid touching or handling the leaves. Succulents tend to be sturdy but delicate plants and their leaves can easily fall off. You also want to avoid touching their leaves in order to preserve the natural wax they produce to hold in water. Aside from watering techniques, succulents are hardy plants to have and are not very easy to kill.

Succulents are a great plant to have in college. They are easy to maintain, don’t require much attention, and add a whole new dimension to your living space. These hardy little plants  survive on little water and thrive on neglect. Be sure to check up on them now and then to make sure they’re soaking up the sunlight and the good vibes. I hope you thoroughly enjoy your freshly potted succulents and the charm they bring to your everyday life.

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About The Author

Katherine McGuinness is a third year at the University of Florida pursuing an undergraduate degree in public relations. She is passionate about sustainability, art, and literature. She enjoys spending time in nature, studying at her favorite coffee shop, and attending the local farmers market.