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How To Grow Succulents

By Julie Bawden-Davis ; Updated May 04, 2018
How To Grow Succulents

With their stunning good looks and drought tolerance, succulents make attractive, easy-to-grow additions to the outdoor and indoor garden. Native to arid regions, succulents have specific growing requirements. Treat succulents with care, and they’ll thrive for years to come.

Where to Grow Succulents

If you wish to grow succulents outdoors, you can do so in most areas of the country. There are hardy succulents that grow in USDA zones three to nine. In warmer areas of the country, you can also grow tropical succulents. Succulents can be grown indoors anywhere in the country.

Gardeners in colder climates will have luck growing succulents outdoors during spring and summer and indoors during fall and winter.

Lighting for Succulents

Succulents require bright light to flourish. Outdoors, put the plants in an area that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Indoors, place succulents in a sunny southern, eastern or western window. If your home is dim, grow succulents under full-spectrum lighting, which replicates daylight. Keep the lights on for 12 to 14 hours a day.

Soil for Succulents

In their native habitats, succulents generally grow in sandy, fast-draining soil. It is important to grow succulents in a similar soil that keeps the roots on the dry side. A good choice is a cactus and succulent mix that also contains horticultural sand.

If succulents grow in soil that isn’t fast-draining, the roots will become waterlogged. This will cause the plants to quickly succumb to fungal infections and fall victim to deadly root rot.

Watering Succulents

Arid regions of the world tend to have infrequent rain. This means that the soil remains on the dry side most of the year. When you grow succulents in your yard or indoors, it’s important to only water when the top two inches of soil has dried out. Soak the succulent well with warm water, and then let the soil dry out again. When in doubt whether a succulent needs water, wait another day.

Fertilizing Succulents

Succulents require regular feeding during the warm months in order to thrive. Feed succulents monthly March through September. Use a well-balanced fertilizer designed for cacti and succulents, following package directions carefully. Over-fertilizing succulents can burn their roots and damage the plant.

Repotting Succulents

Succulents rarely require repotting, because they tend to be slow growers and prefer to be root bound. You’ll know it’s time to repot when roots have overtaken the soil and water rushes through the pot when you water.

Repot in a terracotta pot that is no more than one size larger than the existing pot. When you’re done planting, the cactus should constitute two-thirds of the plant-pot combination. Repotting in too big of a pot will lead to excessively wet soil and root rot.

Pruning Succulents

Most succulents are slow-growing and require very little in the way of pruning. If a plant does become rangy, prune it back to shape, which will cause it to become bushier. Also, prune any dead areas.


About the Author


Julie Bawden-Davis is an accomplished writer, who specializes in home and garden. Since 1985, she’s written for a wide variety of publications, including “Organic Gardening,” "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Parents," "Family Circle" and "The Los Angeles Times." Her books include "Fairy Gardening" and "Reader's Digest Flower Gardening." Bawden-Davis holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a certified master gardener.