Succulent Care

Succulent Care

Succulent Plants—also known as Succulents—have enjoyed a massive spike in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Native to desert regions, these unusual plants display dazzling foliage and flowers while being relatively easy to care for. They store water in their leaves and stems, causing their characteristic plump shape and enabling them to go long periods of time—sometimes weeks—without water. With dozens of genuses and species producing Succulent varieties, countless types are available, each with its own beautiful appearance. Some common Succulents include Aloe, Kalanchoe, Agave, and Haworthia, and all Cacti.

How to Care For Succulents


When planting Succulents, purchase a high-quality potting mix formulated for Cacti that contains sand, perlite, and/or pebbles to aid in drainage.

Select a pot about 2–3” larger than the plant’s existing pot. While any pot with adequate drainage holes will suffice, a terracotta pot makes an excellent option for a Succulent plant, as it absorbs moisture from the soil, which in turn can help prevent over-watering.

Fill the container ⅔ with potting soil, insert the plant, and then lightly fill it with additional potting mix. Water your freshly potted plant thoroughly, allowing excess moisture to run through the drainage holes.


Most Succulent varieties require at least 6 hours of direct light each day. If you plan to grow your Succulents indoors, place them in the brightest part of your home—often this is near a south-facing window—to ensure they receive sufficient sunlight. Those with red, orange, or purple foliage generally require more light than those with green foliage; brightly colored Succulents may need to be grown outdoors in warmer weather in order to receive adequate sunlight.

Note that these plants perform better with warm daytime temperatures, but are also tolerant of lower nighttime temperatures (as in the desert).

When caring for Succulents indoors, rotate them regularly to ensure they receive light on all sides. Failure to rotate your plants will cause them to lean toward the light source and to grow unevenly. A good way to remember is to rotate them one-quarter turn each time you water them.


While Succulents are drought tolerant, they require adequate hydration to thrive and maintain their plump appearance. On the other hand, over-watering is one of the primary causes for issues with these plants, so take special care to know when and how much to water them.

To water your Succulents, thoroughly soak the soil, allowing water to run through the drainage holes. Never allow water to pool around your plants or to accumulate on the leaves, as this will cause rot, which can be fatal. Instead, provide water directly to the soil around the plant and always empty the plant’s saucer, when applicable.

Succulents thrive when allowed to dry out completely between watering. Every few days, insert a finger at least 2” into the soil to check for moisture. If it is still moist, wait a few days and check again. The plants can survive if the soil remains completely dry for 2–3 days, though waiting too long can cause the plants to become dehydrated.

During autumn and winter when plants go dormant, they typically require less frequent watering. Some may go up to three weeks between watering, so always check the soil regularly to ensure you don’t over- or under-water your Succulents.


Fertilize Succulents no more than once a month from spring through summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer mixed at ½ strength.


Many Succulents can remain in the same pot for a long time—even years—as they can tolerate being rootbound. (Succulents grow more slowly indoors than outdoors due to limited light and heat.) If roots become visible at the top of the soil or through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container, your Succulent may be rootbound and should be repotted. To repot, select a new container at least 2–3” larger in diameter than the previous container. Avoid excessively deep containers that prevent the soil from drying out. Shallow pots are best for Succulents. You can use a deeper container if you partially fill them with stones or gravel.

Gently remove the plant from its pot, being careful not to damage the delicate leaves, and place it in the new container with a potting mix formulated for Cacti.


If your Succulent’s soil is moist for too long, it may attract gnats. Follow proper watering procedures and allow the plant to dry out completely between watering to deter gnats and to keep your plant healthy.

Another common household plant pest is the mealybug, a small white bug that sucks the juices from the plant. They often leave white webbing on the leaves or stems of plants. If you encounter mealybugs, wait until the plant is not in flower and spray (drown) them with tepid water using the sprayer in a kitchen sink. Make sure not to soak the soil too much.

If that doesn’t work, plunge the foliage in a bucket of soapy water, using liquid soap, not detergent. If this fails, try mixing 2 ounces of rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons Ivory Liquid Soap and enough water to make a quart. Apply with a sprayer that can produce a strong spray to dislodge the critters, taking care to hit the underside of the leaves and the growing tips.

Commercial houseplant sprays are available if severe infestations occur. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially since most tropical houseplants are extremely sensitive to horticultural oil and pesticides, and it is never a good idea to spray pesticides in your living space.

Growing Succulents Outdoors

If you want to grow Succulents outdoors, choose a variety suited to your USDA Hardiness Zone. Many varieties can survive outdoors easily in Zones 9–10, while a select few, such as Stonecrop Sedum and Sempervivum, are frost hardy and can survive outdoors through freezing temperatures. While most Succulents require bright, direct sunlight when grown indoors, they may do better with some afternoon shade if grown outdoors in a hotter climate. Once established, water your Succulents only when the weather is dry. During the growing season (April to September), fertilize them monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer (20-20-20) mixed at ½ the recommended strength.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cacti Succulents?

Yes, all Cacti are Succulents (though not all Succulents are Cacti). Follow the care instructions for Succulents when caring for your Cactus.

Why Is my Succulent turning yellow?

Succulents turn yellow and translucent when overwatered. If your plant is yellowing, ensure it has adequate drainage. Immediately stop watering the plant and wait until the soil is completely dry before watering it again.

Why Is my Succulent turning brown?

It’s normal for the lower leaves on your Succulent to turn brown as they die off. If this is the case, pinch off any brown leaves. But brown leaves where new growth is forming on the upper areas of the plant may indicate it is too dry. Water the soil thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain away from the plant, and then check the soil regularly to determine when to water again.

Why Is my Succulent leggy or leaning?

If your Succulent is leaning, it is not receiving light evenly. Rotate the plant regularly to ensure it receives adequate light on all sides, and the plant will grow straight. If your Succulent is leggy and its color is lighter than usual, it may not be getting enough sunlight. Move it to a new location or install an LED grow light near the plant to supplement the natural light.