The Foolproof Guide to Growing Succulents and Cacti

Guide to Growing Succulents and Cacti, various small succulents lying unpotted on a white background
via Unsplash

Find out how to grow succulents and cacti the easy way!

What You Need To Know About Succulents and Cacti

Succulents and cacti are popular plants that come in shapes and sizes and can be so darn cute. When it comes to growing them, however, many people find that something with is off. Check out this foolproof guide to growing succulents and cacti because, while it may seem really easy to grow them, there are actually quite a few tricks when it comes to growing succulents and cacti. Once you learn how to successfully grow them, you can also learn how to propagate your succulents using leaves, cuttings and seeds you already have!

1. Pick the Right Pot for Your Plant

Imagine about a dozen long tendrils of donkey tail spilling out of an old teapot. It sounds really cute, right? The problem is that, without some modification, those donkey tail probably aren't going to live very long. Being desert plants, both succulents and cacti need to potted in something with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom or the roots will rot. That means if you want to use a unique vessel, you're going to be drilling some holes into it yourself. Crowding is also a big concern. It's popular to crowd succulents together for a certain aesthetic, but this will only encourage mold growth, insect infestations, and means the plants will be forced to fight over nutrients.

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2. Make Sure You Use the Right Soil

The soil you use for your succulents and cacti is critical to the overall well-being of your plants. Cacti and succulents won't do well in regular soil because it holds too much moisture and will eventually cause them roots to rot. Many gardening stores actually sell soil that is perfect for them. It's much lighter, more porous, and allows water to drain through it. You can also make your own soil mix for your succulents and cacti if you want. Some common ingredients include coir, pumice, perlite, crushed granite, top soil, course sand, potting soil, turfice, pine bark, and pumice.

3. Don't Water Them Too Much. Or Not Enough!

You're probably tired of hearing about rotting succulents and cacti already, but how much you water them affects if they rot no matter what container or soil you use! It's a good rule of thumb to wait until the soil of your succulents and cacti has become bone dry before you water them again, just often enough to keep them from shriveling up. Then you want to water the plant enough that you can actually see water come out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot and stop.

If you're someone that tends to overwater their plants, Portularcaria afra, Crassula arborescens undulatifolia, and Aeonium zwartkop need to be watered more often than other succulents due to thinner leaves. Using pumice in your soil with also help the water drain better and keep the roots from rotting. On the other hand, if you forget to water your plants, succulents like Sansevierias, Aloe brevifolia, and Graptoveria and cacti like Mammillaria rhodantha and Mammillaria gracilis fragilis are pretty drought-resistant. Using coir will help the soil retain water.

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4. Give Your Plants Enough Light

Your succulents and cacti likely live indoors at least part of the year and thrive on direct light with at least a few hours of direct light a day. If your place doesn't get much natural lighting, there's a good chance your plants won't do very well and will get leggy before too long as they stretch for sunlight. Succulents like Hoya and Sansevieria seem to be the exception and often do well with less natural light. Windowsills are a great place to keep small succulents as long as their leaves don't burn in direct sunlight - make sure to read the tag!

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