Nobody wants to spend money on plants that will die in a month. What’s more, we live in a fast-paced era. Everyone is super busy, and unless you are retired, you probably cannot afford to spend an hour a day taking care of your plants. The thing most of us want is to have beautiful plants that are easy to keep alive and care for, plants we will not lose making a single mistake. But are succulents such plants, or do you have to look elsewhere?
Before we dive into details, and look at some facts & some myths about growing succulents, let me give you a quick answer to the question: Succulents are easy to keep alive, as long as you do not over-water them. Root rot and eventual death of a plant is the most prevalent reason why people lose their succulents. And over-watering causes root rot. But what about other problems, and myths surrounding succulent growing? Let’s have a look at them now.
Many succulents thrive in absolute neglect
In order to understand what any plant needs, we should imagine it in its natural habitat. Vast majority of succulents come from semi-desert and desert areas of Africa, Latin America, and Middle East. In many of these places the rainy season is super short–if rain comes at all, and the soil is anything but rich in nutrients. Yet succulents not only grow there–they thrive, flower, and some (for example a barrel cactus, or my favorite desert rose) can live for centuries.
Knowing this, you can envision it is pretty easy to keep succulents alive. And you are right, to some extent. Most succulents die because people care too much for them, not too little. They pay too much attention, water the plants too often (which is a bad practice), fertilize them (which most succulents do not really need, and it can cause more harm and good), try to protect them from the sun (some succulents need protection such as shade cloth, but many love as much sun as they can get), etc. It seems the more we care, the easier it actually is to lose a succulent..
Right initial setup plays a pivotal role in your success with any succulent
Castles built on sand rarely last long. Succulents are generally quite easy to keep alive, but it is pivotal to have good initial setup in place, to do things right at the beginning. What does it mean? Good “setup” (or whatever we call it) consists in several things. Having the right pot for your plant, choosing a good soil mix for succulents (commercially sold soil mixes are decent but it is ideal improving them a bit), good placement for the new member of your plant family, and last but not least, also choosing a succulent that can thrive in the environment where you live. Let me give you a brief description to each:
- Good pot. Regardless of what they say on various websites, you should always choose a pot with a drainage hole. Succulents hate staying in wet soil, and the last thing you want to see is your succulent rotting from bottom up, until you have only one option left–throwing your plant away.
- Good soil. You should always go for a gritty mix, like this one on Amazon for example, a combination of organic and inorganic material, with inorganic material prevailing. Having said that, not all commercially sold soil mixes branded as “succulent soil mixes” are really that good for succulents, so you should do your due diligence before purchasing.
- Right placement. Some succulents prefer indirect light, but most succulents love full sun, at least for few hours a day. It is pivotal placing your plant in fitting location, that means a sunny spot with a (relatively) dry air. Avoid placements in offices with no windows, bathrooms, or other humid areas of your house. It is also important knowing when you should bring your succulents indoors for winter.
- Choosing a right succulent. You may not believe it, but we know more than 10,000 succulent species in the world. If you live in a dry arid area, a majority of them will be a great fit for your place. If you live in some colder zone, or a humid area, however, you should choose more carefully. Succulents are hardy plants and they can survive a lot. In order to see your plants thrive and flower, however, you should pick plants fitting for weather conditions in your area.
Not all succulents are easy to keep alive
As I’ve already said, we know more than 10,000 succulents species in the world. This includes many succulents that do not occur in wild nature, succulents that were cross-bred for commercial reasons, such as the famous Korean Succulents. These plants have often intriguing colors and shapes, and it isn’t unheard of paying $100 for a single plant. As a rule of a thumb, the more you pay for a young succulent, the harder it is to keep it alive. It is harder for commercial growers as well, hence the high price tag…
Cross-bred succulents are generally more prone to all sorts of problems, such as pests infestations, and they also generally live shorter. This is just logical because when man plays God, trying to improve the perfection we find in nature, it never really works. And it never will. Having said that, it still makes sense buying these succulents and having them at home, for the colors and shapes. You should just count with a possibility of losing them quite early.
When compared-to other plant families, succulents are definitely easier to keep alive. They thrive in neglect, most of them aren’t prone to pests such as aphids or mealybugs, and as long as you give them a good growing medium and sunny spot, they will be fine, and won’t die. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that most people manage to have their succulents for decades. We make mistakes, over-water the plants, or unwittingly kill them in another way. Reading this blog, however, I believe you will minimize the number of such mistakes and will achieve great results with your plants. Good luck!
May also interest you: Can succulents die of old age?