Succulent Cultivation

Most succulents are very hardy and, unlike many other plants, thrive on neglect! They require minimal care and, by following just a few simple guidelines, will do well.

Light

Succulents can be grown either inside or outside but, like other plants, they need plenty of light. Most require either filtered sun most of the day or 1 to 2 hours of direct sun each day. Many will survive quite well in full sun, but in summer you will need to introduce them in stages: 1-2 hours the first week, 3-4 hours the next week, then all day. Some species just require good light, for example: Aloe, Scilla, Gasteria, Haworthia.

Water

The amount of water required depends on many factors: type of container (terracotta dries out faster than other pots), size of container, height of container, time of year, position, heat, humidity etc.

During the warmer months water thoroughly then let the soil go dry before rewatering. Put your finger a couple of centimetres down into the soil and feel if the soil is moist. When in doubt it is safer to underwater than to overdo it. Succulents store water in their stems and leaves and can tolerate periods of dryness without harm.

During the cooler months, water less frequently and less deeply. Try to water in the morning when a sunny day is expected so that any excess will evaporate in the sunlight.

Most succulents have shallow root systems. When grown in a tall pot, you will need to take care how much you water them, as their roots do not reach to the bottom of the pot. Any excess water in the base may cause fungal disease. Try just half a cup each watering. You could try putting polystyrene balls in the base to about one-third the height to help prevent this and to assist drainage.

If you have purchased a small plant it will, in most cases, be a baby, and require a little more care. It will dry out fairly quickly in summer and will need watering more often until its roots are fully grown.

If you are unsure as to how often to water your new plant, leave it until the plant starts to shrivel slightly or go limp, then water well. Repeat this process. You will soon learn the pattern.

Fertilser

Although these plants generally need less and not as often, feeding is necessary for vigorous and healthy growth. All commercial fertilisers have an NPK reading (nitrogen:phosphorus:potassium). Look for one with a low nitrogen reading like African Violet or flowering houseplant fertiliser. Use only half the recommended dosage at the beginning of the growing season, usually spring.

Pests and Diseases

Many succulents are prone to Mealy Bug (appearing as small white fluffy balls on the leaves towards the inside of the plant) and Aphids (tiny black insects, often on the flowers). A regular spraying with Confidor during the warmer months will prevent insect damage.