Succulents and Cacti; the low maintenance plants that you can’t kill. Heard that line before and then found yourself binning your overpriced cactus only a few months after purchase? Well, don’t worry, you’re not the first. Countless enthusiasts have been sold on the “no care required”, only to discover their new found romance with succulents is short lived. The truth is, succulents and cacti do require little care, but only in the right conditions. In order for your fleshy friend to survive and flourish, like all plants, three ingredients are key:
Soil + Sun + Water
The difference between a happy succulent and unhappy one, is the balance and amount of each element you are providing.
Not one cacti or succulent likes to their feet wet. Unlike most plants, their roots do not absorb water from direct contact. Instead, they take it in from water molecules in the air. So, you need to ensure you are providing them with well-drained soil, something that does not allow the water to sit in the pot or soil for too long. This means a potting mix would not be suitable, as they are designed to retain water, not allowing for adequate flow through the soil. You can buy Cacti and succulent soil mixes’, that ensure there is a higher level of sand. Wet soil can often lead to rotting, which is the most common reason why succulents and cacti fail.
These plants love the sun, in fact, they really can’t get enough. So, whatever you do, don’t put them in a shady location in your garden or home. That is most certainly another reason why your succulent will look sad and eventually pass on. We advise a full sun position on your balcony, garden, or indoors. Do this and you will find your succulent thriving. When given a full sun space to design and plant select, we always turn to cacti or succulents, as they often prosper where other plants won’t grow. For fully exposed areas, too much wind or sun for that matter, these suitable succulents will do wonders.
Another common reason for succulents not to survive is due to overwatering. People often get excited about their newest addition and water excessively. When I say excessively, I mean 2-3 times per week. If this is you, it’s not too late. These plants have an incredible ability to bounce back. Just refrain from watering for 7-10 days and allow the soil to dry out. When the soil is dry to touch, lightly water your plant. This only needs to be done 1 time per week and no more. If it’s been raining, they are happy to rely on the rain, so skip your watering. And if you miss a week or two, don’t worry, your succulent might thank you for it, because as you were always told, they thrive on neglect, (only if you have considered the soil and location of course.)
What are they telling you
If your plant looks like its heading South rapidly, before giving up on it, assess the damage and try to salvage what’s left. Your plant will often tell you what it's lacking:
Squishy or yellowing leaves: This means the soil is too wet and you are overwatering, leading the plant to rot. Stop watering for 1-2 weeks and allow the soil to dry out. Then return to watering 1 time per week.
Thin & wrinkling: Have you noticed your succulent is looking a little flat and dare I say, wrinkly? This means it is not receiving enough water. If you are completely neglecting your plant and not watering at all, then step it up, (but not too much,) 1 time per week should be enough to perk him up again.
Solid but yellow: If your leaves are not squishy, but yellowing, this means your plant would like more sunlight. Move him to a sunnier spot and you will be sure to see healthier colour soon enough.