A succulent is a plant that has developed large, fleshy roots, stems or leaves for the purpose of storing water. Succulents can be found all over the world, from hot tropical jungles to cold snowy mountains. Cacti, a specific type of succulent, are only found in the Americas. Although their range of habitat is expansive, cultural requirements for succulents are quite specific.
Much of the care that a succulent requires will depend on how it is planted and what type of pot it is in. A coarse, well-draining soil, and a pot with a drainage hole are needed to keep excess water from rotting the roots. Plants in smaller pots will need to be watered more frequently than plants in larger pots. Clay pots will always dry out faster than plastic pots.
Most succulents require some amount of direct sun. Many cacti are desert succulents that prefer 6 hours or more of direct sun per day. Aloe, on the other hand, can burn if exposed to hot afternoon sun. If red coloring appears on leaves and stem, your plant may be getting a sun burn. If this happens, move the succulent a short distance away from the window to prevent damage. Regardless of the type of succulent, always avoid low or medium light. Lower light levels will cause the plant to stretch out and become leggy and weak.
Succulents store water to survive drought conditions. During times of drought, the water held in the leaves, stems and roots is slowly used to keep the plant alive. A succulent in a pot does not have the deep, expansive root system it would have in the wild. Potted succulents should be thoroughly watered from top to bottom, then allowed to dry. Check the soil for moisture using a soil probe or the tip of a wooden pencil. If the soil is dry, half way down the pot, it is time to water again. Don’t ever let any type of succulent stand in water. After watering, drip trays or saucers should be emptied of any excess water.
Cooler winter temperatures encourage spring blossoming. Plants kept between 45F and 55F degrees during the winter months have a better chance of flowering than plants kept at constant temperatures.
Succulents have adapted to life in relatively poor soil. To encourage blooming, or during periods of active growth, fertilize every two or three months with a low dose all purpose fertilizer.