New to plant parenthood? Just got your first succulent or cactus? Keep reading to find out how to keep your new friend happy and thriving in its forever home.
In our experience, over-watering is the most common cause of death for succulents and cacti houseplants. Getting the right amount of water can be tough, especially if you are accustomed to caring for tropical houseplants that thrive on the 'ol H2O and high humidity.
A general rule of plant care is to replicate as best you can the natural environment of your plant. Succulents and cacti come from arid, desert like habitats - this is why they store water in their trunks and leaves a la episode of Hoarders. So they don't need a lot of watering from you. A thorough watering of the soil once a month during hot and sunny months (gasp! we know...sounds crazy) will keep most succulents and cacti very happy. In the winter, once every two or three months is enough.
Did you notice we mentioned only watering the soil? Yes, that's right, only the soil. You don't need to mist or shower your succulents. They don't like to sit in water, as it can cause serious problems like root rot and bacterial infections.
That brings us to having the right kind of soil for your succies and cacti. A well-draining cactus mix is highly recommended. A regular potting mix will work as well, but you'll have to be extra careful with drainage.
Soil drainage is very important for succulents and cacti because as mentioned, sitting in water is not good for them. Not only do you want to make sure your soil provides good drainage, you also want to be sure the drained water has somewhere to go. We suggest pots with holes to let water pass. If you don't have a pot with holes handy or you're building a terrarium, put rocks or pebbles in the bottom of your container to collect excess water from the soil.
Who doesn't like food? While plants don't need us to supply them with their primary source of nutrition (they make that themselves), it is helpful to provide their soil with nutrients that help them grow. Sort of like plant vitamins. You can learn more about how fertilizer works in our article on the subject here. You can also purchase our favorite succulent and cactus food in-store or online.
You only need to feed your succulents and cacti during their active growing season. Many species go dormant in the winter months, so feeding is not necessary.
All plants need light (calm down plant nerds, there are some weird exceptions). When they don't get the light they need, they essentially starve or become a very strange vegetable known as white asparagus.
Most succulents and cacti come from particularly sunny habitats, like deserts or dry, deciduous forests without a lot of shade. Thus, your succulents and cacti need a sunny spot, preferably in an east or south facing window. Don't know which part of your home is east or south? Most smartphones have a compass.
Your moment of ZEN science: Plants are unique in that they have the ability to make their own food from sunlight. This process is called photosynthesis and results in chlorophyll, which is what makes plants green. Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of our planet, Earth. Plants are a-mah-zing!
In summary, here are your green rules of thumb for succulent and cacti care:
- Water only when soil is completely dry and let water drain adequately from soil. Water less in winter when there is less light and warmth.
- Use a cactus soil mix in a pot with adequate drainage for best results.
- Feed only during active growth season.
- Bright indirect or direct light is best, in a sunny window.