Jessie Clark, Master Gardener Trainee
Succulents change drastically with the slightest of environmental change. This can include going from nursery to your kitchen windowsill. Succulents are survivors by nature and will adapt, which you will notice as it changes in shape and color in response. To keep it as similar as possible to its original look, mimic its natural environment as much as possible. Here are some tips for succulent care:
Pick a Healthy Plant
It's important to buy a plant that is healthy at point of sale. Look for mature plants that have a strong root system. Succulent leaves are often telling, as they will pucker when thirsty and ooze water or look swollen and yellow when overwatered. Choose plants that haven’t been manhandled as much, so their leaves are in tact and their powdery film finish is still there.
Find the Perfect Spot
Succulents appreciate bright light. There are some succulents that burn in full sun, such as aloe (ironically) and there are succulents that stretch when too far from light (some varieties of echeveria and sedum). Some succulents do well in low light (panda, zebra and snake plants), however most thrive and flower better in bright light. If outside during the summer, a shade screen can help prevent burn marks.
Containers Make a Difference
Keep in mind that it's important to consider the functionality in your interiorscape, as well as decor. For succulents, clay planters are ideal as the clay absorbs some of the water so that the soil is less likely to retain too much water. Vertical gardens can be excellent homes for succulents, as they typically have excellent drainage and display succulents in a very unique way. For planters without a drainage hole, you can either drill a whole into the bottom to allow more drainage or create a drainage plan (such as drainage pebbles).
Use Cactus Soil
Make sure your succulents are planted in well-draining soil, specifically for cacti & succulents. Other types of soil retain moisture, which may lead to root rot for your succulents.
Water Like a Boss
Give your new succulent some time to adjust to its new environment before watering. A week should do. After that, water when the soil is dry. Be sure to check below the surface with your finger or a moisture tester. If it's feeling or measuring moist an inch or two below the surface, hold off a bit longer on watering. Add some plant food to the water at least once a month in its growing season to promote growth and flowering.
And finally, remember that even the most avid of gardeners kill plants from time to time. When that happens, note your lessons learned, consider composting the dead one, and go buy yourself another one!
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.eduand westtexasgardening.org.