How To Grow Succulents

Succulents make it easy to grow an abundant indoor garden—starting with a single plant.

November 29, 2016
succulents
Sabrina Rothe

One Sunday afternoon when I was in college, my friend Matt gave me a cutting from his Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’, a thick, draping plant with plump, silvery-green leaves. Slowly that stubby clipping sprouted new growth and stretched over the edge of its pot. Occasionally, a leaf would fall off onto the soil, only to sprout tiny new roots of its own. My apartment now spills over with greenery started from that one gift. It’s been easy to care for: Succulents are simple, needing minimal attention once their roots are established, and most species multiply with ease. Plus, because they’re so adaptable, they can be planted in everything from old coffee tins to seashells and even woven into stunning living decorations. Ready to start? Here’s how to give the gift of green.

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

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How to keep them alive:

Soil
Plant in porous, unglazed pots such as terra-cotta, using well-draining soil. Try Bonsai Jack cactus/succulent mix, or make your own. For fat-leaved succulents, mix equal parts lava/volcanic rock and organic potting mix; for thinner-leaved varieties, equal parts pumice and potting mix.

Light
Succulents love sunny morning light and bright shade for the rest of the day. Place them in a south- or east-facing window. Protect plants from scorching by covering windows with a sheer curtain.

Related: Why Your Bromeliad Plant Is Turning Brown

Water
Place a saucer under the pot, soak the soil, and then empty the saucer of drained water. Let soil dry out almost completely between waterings. The fleshier the succulent, the less often it will need to be watered.

Warmth
Move succulents away from heaters in winter if you want spring blooms. As the plants enter dormancy, a cool atmosphere (ideally 45°F to 55°F) helps produce buds.

Fertilizer
In spring, apply an organic fertilizer diluted by half. 

Three kinds to try:

“If there’s one thing plants want to do,” notes Debra Lee Baldwin, author of Succulents Simplified, “it’s reproduce.” Still, to maximize your chances of success, get started with one of these three easy varieties.

Crassula
These are some of the easiest succulents to propagate. Make sure several leaves remain on the original stem so the parent plant can photosynthesize and regrow. 

Graptopetalum
Graptos grow in rosettes and come in many colors. Their fat leaves contain all the nutrients needed to grow a new plant. Keep them in indirect sunlight, since they are susceptible to scorching. (Follow these step-by-step pictures to see how to easily propagate your succulents.)

Sedum
Left to their own devices, these plants’ bubble-like leaves fall off and land under the mother plant, where they grow into new plants unassisted.

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