How to grow and care for Succulents

Nathan James Dodd has always enjoyed growing the vast and varied group of plants known as succulents and cacti. As he explains, their attempts to master a range of often hostile conditions, has resulted in the development of a fantastic array of interesting and appealing shapes, colours and textures.

Created by Nathan James Dodd on Wednesday, 26th of August, 2015.
Updated on Tuesday, 1st of November, 2016.


Succulents are plants that store water in their plump leaves, stems and roots. This handy tactic allows them to survive in many different environments especially where there is a lack of rainfall.

Most like the dry, warm conditions that homes offer and it's not the end of the world if you forget to water them for a while. That makes them particularly attractive as houseplants, since most are quite hard to kill.

A Vast Range to Choose From

Well known succulents and cacti include Aloe barbadensis aka Aloe vera, a popular ingredient in skin care products, and the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), a seasonal favourite with dark pink and white flowers on the end of its flat stems during the winter. 

The Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) has clusters of tiny yellow flowers contained within red bracts during the spring, while the Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) has tall upright leaves and is virtually indestructible.

Agave parryi, is a rosette shaped plant with attractive grey/green spiked leaves and creamy yellow flowers. Notocactus rutilans is a further eye-catching plant with  pink and yellow flowers above a spiny ribbed column.

So the choice and variety is massive, but when you get one home from the garden centre, how do you care for them?

The Best Way to Care for Them

It's best to remember that 'one size doesn't fit all' and not all succulents should be treated in exactly the same way but there are certain ground rules to ensure some growing success most of the time.

Succulents should be grown preferably in clay pots using a sandy, free draining, alkaline growing medium (specialist cactus compost is available) that won't get waterlogged, however the Christmas Cactus and Orchid Cacti in particular prefer more organic matter and less dry conditions. Most prefer bright light, perhaps not direct sunlight, but can survive in semi-shade. 

Although they prefer temperatures around 24C, quite wide variations in temperature will not harm the plants. If you want to encourage flowers, move them to cooler (15C) conditions for a while. 

It's correct to assume that succulents survive better in dry rather than wet conditions, but during the summer they need to be watered well when the soil dries out. Remember not to leave standing water and in the autumn start to reduce watering. During the winter dormant period water very sparingly or else you will encourage the plant to rot. 

Starting with a diluted solution in the spring, begin to feed fortnightly with a houseplant fertilizer during the summer.

Once you have one plant, propagation is relatively easy. Select the top of a shoot and, with about 2ins of clean stem, push into potting gritty compost that should be kept moist. For other succulents, take off lower leaves and bury the stems. It's really that easy!

Related Articles

HTA Plant Show 2016

HTA Plant Show 2016

As GardenSIte's plant specialist I always keenly anticipate the HTA National Plant Show. This is my chance to visit nurseries, find out what's trending in the horticultural world and source new stock, all from under one roof.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Friday, 24th of June, 2016.

What To See At This Year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

What To See At This Year's Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show takes place next month and Nathan James Dodd looks forward to what you'll discover at the largest annual show of its kind.

Author: Nathan James Dodd

Written by Nathan James Dodd.
Published on Monday, 20th of June, 2016.

How Thrive's Accessible Gardening Changes Lives

How Thrive's Accessible Gardening Changes Lives

The Society for Horticultural Therapy is an organisation generally known as Thrive, and David Coton recently learnt more about their projects, training and consultancy.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Thursday, 16th of June, 2016.

New Report Wants NHS To Prescribe Gardening

New Report Wants NHS To Prescribe Gardening

Once again a report has been published linking the benefits of gardening with healthy minds and bodies. The King's Fund findings are outlined by Nathan James Dodd, and they include recommendations that gardening should be promoted as a way of improving health.

Author: Nathan James Dodd

Written by Nathan James Dodd.
Published on Monday, 30th of May, 2016.

comments powered by Disqus

RSS

View RSS Feed

Author

Nathan James Dodd Nathan James Dodd

Garden Designer

View Profile

Follow Us!

Recent Articles

How To Heat Your Greenhouse

How To Heat Your Greenhouse

Heating will be a deciding factor on the variety of plants you are able to grow in a greenhouse and the number of plants that can be kept over winter. Here, Robert Hall goes through the pros and cons of the different types of heating that are available.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Monday, 16th of January, 2017.

Grange Announce New Timber Products For 2017

Grange Announce New Timber Products For 2017

Grange are introducing several new fence panels and gates in 2017 and Andy Taylor has been looking at these fresh additions to their already impressive collection of timber products.

Author: Andrew Taylor

Written by Andrew Taylor.
Published on Friday, 13th of January, 2017.

Safe and Secure Shopping on GardenSite

Safe and Secure Shopping on GardenSite

With the security of online purchases and protection of personal information a priority for our customers, David Coton is pleased to announce that gardensite.co.uk is now fully secure across the whole site.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Tuesday, 10th of January, 2017.

Palmako Timber Garden Houses Now Available

Palmako Timber Garden Houses Now Available

Palmako are one of Europe's leading manufacturers of garden buildings using high quality Nordic timber, and David Coton is pleased that GardenSite can now offer their new range of versatile and beautifully constructed garden buildings.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Tuesday, 10th of January, 2017.