In-depth Succulent Guide

Here you will find various learning material we have compiled through our own trials and tribulations with growing succulents.

We have been lucky to experience gardening with these beautiful plants in multiple backyards and greenhouse settings, so we hope to share as much as we can with you!

Interested in joining a group of fellow succulent and cacti lovers in the PNW?

Check out the Cascade Cactus and Succulent Society! 

If there is something missing from this guide or you want us to add more information about a specific topic, let us know!

Potting up your Succulents

Succulents need to be potted into a well-draining soil/media. A few days out of soil will not harm them, but if the weather gets too hot or cold, it will start to harm the overall health of the plant. Be sure that you are providing a good support to your plant by starting with the best soil mix you can find. (We offer our own cactus soil mix in the shop.)

For beginners: Choose a pot that has drain holes at the bottom so that you do not have to worry about drowning the plant. If your succulents are outside, do not keep a tray under the pot- this will retain the moisture and may cause your plant to rot. 

Intermediate/Advanced: Use gravel at the bottom of a pot that does not drain to allow for space in the pot for water to collect, instead of drowning out the roots. Be sure to water much less- and use a water meter stick to see how much moisture is in the pot before you water next.

Watering your succulents

Although succulents require low water amounts they still need water to survive. Possibly every couple of days, sometimes as long as a week in between drinks. Water your succulents as soon as the top inch of media feels dry to the touch. Dry to the touch means no soil sticks to your fingers when you touch it. If the soil is moist, small pieces will stick to your finger.  In the winter you may not need to water your plants at all. You should never allow your succulents to sit in water. Given you have well-draining soil– see media/soil section to learn more, you can water your plants every day– I do… And I see great growth, but you have to be cautious of over-watering– any of my pots that do not have drain holes are watered lesser and that is important, succulents can literally die overnight if they have too much water. Unless you live in a dry, warm or tropical environment, you will need to worry about Fall/Winter weather affecting your succulents. Be sure to plan to bring them inside for these seasons so they do not become waterlogged or worse, frozen.

Media/soil for your succulents

Succulents need to be potted into a well-draining soil/media. Your succulents roots need relatively fluffy soil to grow in, if you have only dirt, you will see your succulent can still grow, but why not provide a great growing environment for your plants… Perlite, worm castings, compost, mulch, stones, sand, and even moss are great examples of items to combine together to make a well-draining soil for your succulents.

Growing your succulents for years to come

It all starts with figuring out where you are going to grow your succulents– inside or outside. Naturally, all plants will grow better when exposed to sunlight as opposed to a dark room, so put some thought into where you stick your new friend. A note– too much sun will burn and kill your succulent.

Place your plants to grow in an area where they will receive sunlight at least 6 hours/day. A windowsill indoors that gets direct light will work well, just lightly mist the plants every couple of days to make sure they don’t dry out too much. If you grow your succulents indoors not by a window– it will require more light exposure to keep growing- try leaving it in an area where you have your lights on, often. If your plants start to look sad (you’ll know what I mean when you see it) be sure to give the plant more light and probably more water. If you grow outside- be sure to not expose your plant to too much sun- monitor for browning or burnt leaf tips- if you see these, your plant is getting too much direct sunlight and needs to be moved immediately!

When to cut back your succulents

If you are wondering if you should cut your succulent back, it is probably time to. Succulents that are ready to cut are ones that have started to grow really large, or have a lot of pups that have grown off the sides. Removing growth from your succulent is very natural and overall healthy for the plant. Doing this will help you grow a more compact and less leggy plant. To cut:: Use clean sharp scissors and cut directly below the tallest height you want to leave your plant, this is highly dependent on what type of succulent you have.

Is your plant healthy?

Is it growing? Are the leaves plump? If your succulent looks like it has started to rot, it is not healthy- try to get it out of the water it is sitting in and revive it in some sunlight. Your succulent is healthy if it looks plump and is continuing to grow from the top and shed leaves at the bottom. However, if the succulent is growing more stem than leaves, also known as “reaching”, it needs more light to grow compact.

Sun and your Succulents

Our succulents get a lot of sunlight– they are blushing as a result– I personally love seeing more intricate colorings come out in my plants. Of course, if your plant is exposed to direct sunlight all day- it will likely burn, (shown by brown spots or shrivelling of leaves) especially if it is not used to that location. Most of our plants are trained to love all the sunlight they get- many get up to 16 hours of light/day. I have noticed, as long as I am keeping up with water, the plants in the sun grow much more hardy than the plants that get about 6 hours/day of light. With our focus on growing large hardy plants, it makes the most sense for me to expose my plants to lots of light and sun– maybe for you it does not– if you want to maintain a smaller plant then expose it to less light and less sun. Remember- your succulent ALWAYS needs some sunlight and water to survive.

Fertilizing your succulents

As with all other plant species, succulents also benefit from a regular fertilization schedule. Be sure to know what strength to use for your particular varieties before applying most commercial fertilizers. When in doubt, it is best to start with a 1/8 or 1/4 strength mix and test how your plants respond to the potency. We prefer to use natural fertilizers when possible, a couple of our favorites are bunny gold and worm castings, produced on-site and applied in various stages of the plant’s lifecycle. 

Pest & Fungi Control

We suggest using as many natural methods to reduce bugs before resorting to commercial chemical pest control sprays. Any bugs that are found on our plants are initially pulled off by hand. if a problem like mildew or mealy bugs form, we will spray the plants with Safer soap or a combination of Neem oil and squid based fertilizer. The backyard smells like some bad calamari a short time after spraying but the plants really seem to love it and it dramatically reduces the number of pests.

How our succulents are grown

We grow our succulents mainly in our backyard– some are lucky enough to come inside and are grown in our window sills- which get amazing light. We have a greenhouse set-up for our propagating succulents, but once they are hardy enough, about 5 inches large or more, they are moved outside to weather the climate. We firmly believe that exposing your plant to the natural elements grows a more hearty, healthy plant that will thrive and produce flowers for many years! To note- there are some succulents that will not do okay with the direct sunlight our backyard offers– these are the plants that after trial and error of their best placement, usually end up indoors on the window sills or turned into various indoor plant projects. In winter we bring our succulents inside and grow with a light as they do not enjoy, and many cannot survive, freezing temperatures.

How we water our succulents

We water everything almost on the daily basis- the humidity we experience here leaves our soil to dry out quickly and since we do not add any chemical fertilizers, we mainly use our rabbit and worm droppings, I notice that our waterings are required more often in summer and less often in fall and winter. Make sure your succulents are planted in a pot that has the ability to drain. If it is sitting in water for longer than a day, you are going to rot the plant. As with all plant care, use your best judgment on when and how much to water; a 4-foot aloe plant will require much more water than a 2″ Echeverria but on a less frequent basis.

We are working on our very own Succu-opedia; a compiled guide to Succulents! Stay tuned for this exciting release filled with pictures and information about things succulents.

2 thoughts on “In-depth Succulent Guide

  1. Where is your shop? I found the hours for visiting, but no address. Also, will you be carrying a selection of pretty pots for succulents? I mistakenly though I knew what I was doing, planted in the wrong kind of pot (no drainage) and killed my new succulents! I’m having trouble finding pots with drainage.

    1. Hello Phyllis! Thank you for reaching out. We are located in Vancouver, WA in the Orchards area. Our address is 10515 NE 71st St.

      We do have a large selection of pots- many with and many without holes. 🙂

      My suggestion for your a pot with no drainage issue, plant your succulents into a smaller pot inside that pot. These pots with no holes are called decorative pots and are just meant to cover the outside of the nursery pot. Utilizing this inner pot, you can remove the plants to be watered, allowing for excess water to drain through; once the water drains, you can place your nursery pot back inside of the decorative pot!

      Happy to have you come by any of our open hours and explain more or answer any questions. Bring your succulents and we can see what’s able to be salvaged. 🙂
      ~Adriane @SuburbanSucculents

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