A Guide to Growing Succulents

Growing these plants that come in all forms, colors, and sizes has become all the rage. They have even entered the world of fashion and trendy knick-knacks, pervading well beyond Home & Garden Magazine. (Succulent bouquets for prom, anyone?) The catch is, they take a little more effort to keep alive than one would think. Here are some tips to grow all those irresistible little succulents you may have accumulated, from start to flourish!

  1. So you’re picking out a succulent – which one should you get? Truthfully, you can pick whichever one you like. Most can live both indoors and out as long as they receive plenty of sunlight! However, you can always ask a worker if you are at a garden center or nursery what would work best for your given space. 
  2. When it comes to planting in a pot, unless you are using a sort of terrarium, choose something with holes on the bottom for drainage. Succulent roots do not like to be in pools of water. It is also good to put a layer of rocks in the bottom of the pot in order to help the water drain. (​DIY: Take things like old tea tins and drill holes in the bottom for a cute succulent home!)
  3. Although places like Home Depot sell succulent soil, in my experience, that is really not necessary. As long as you monitor how frequently you are watering, general potting soil will do just fine. You can also place a succulent in the ground, but most do better in a pot where you can control moisture. 
  4. Many succulents like these that started as teeny little guys expand to the space allotted, so give them room to grow!
  5. Now listen up, because this is the way I’ve killed many-a-succulent – watering. When you water, give the plant a good soak to where water is draining from the bottom, showing that all of the soil is getting wet. I often go through a few cups of water, letting it drain in-between. Repeat the process again in a week or two once the soil is completely dry. You can also tell a succulent needs water when the leaves feel thinner than normal, signifying the plant has lost water. 
  6. If a succulent is outside and getting a lot of heat and sun, be sure to water it more!
  7. Although I do not know much about propagating succulents by using leaves, a lot of succulents are able to be broken into pieces to re-plant and get more, for free! Be patient, and wait for the plant to grow large enough so there is a clear stem from which to break it off. 
  8. If you are at a nursery, also look for “hens and chicks” succulents like these which spread out endlessly. At this point, we have made multiple large pots from one starter piece. 
  9. Terrarium tips: If you are trying to grow a succulent in a terrarium or container that does not drain, be careful not to over-water. I typically tilt the terrarium to let the water out. Also look for hearty succulents (basic and bright green), and be sure to give the container air. It cannot be a closed space.
  10. When it comes to succulents, there are lots of fun DIYs you can do. You can make wooden succulent boxes, turn jars and glasses into terrariums, or plant them in cute coffee mugs. As you get used to growing them, the opportunities are endless. 

Now, go out and help your little plants grow!

All photos taken by author, Dakota Allen.