Foolproof Ways to Keep Your Succulents Alive & Thriving

Apr 24, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/Design: Kenzie Mastroe/SheKnows

ICYMI, succulents are enjoying a major moment right now. If you spend any amount of time on Instagram and Pinterest — and, honestly, who doesn’t? — you’ve likely swooned over all the beautifully appointed spaces dotted with these trendy plants.

It’s only natural that you might be thinking about potting a few to prettify your own pad. However, like all plants, succulents have specific care requirements. Diving into the endeavor without learning these requirements (or knowing them and ignoring them) means a succulent graveyard could be in your near future.

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Now that you’re sufficiently freaked out, though, take a breath. Not only can you keep succulents in your home, but you should. Those care requirements are actually a lot easier to manage than the requirements for many plants. Succulents are popular for many reasons, and the main two are how easy and beautiful they are.

But before we sent you into the world of succulent ownership half-cocked, we thought it might be best to ask an expert for foolproof tips on not killing your new plant friends. As president of FormLA Landscaping, a high-end, optimally sustainable firm based in Los Angeles, Cassy Aoyagi knows a thing or two about keeping succulents alive and thriving. Here’s her take.

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Pick authentic or native succulents

Not every succulent will be suitable for every climate. Some don’t do well indoors at all. Pick a variety of succulents that can be found in nature as close as possible to your geographic area. If there are no succulents occurring naturally nearby, choose those that come from a similar climate. For example, says Aoyagi, “California native Coast Dudleya thrives in [LA’s] hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters, whereas South American echeveria wants warm rain and a cold dry season and Arizona native succulents want more dry heat than LA’s coastal cities offer.”

Protect succulents from abundant rain (and don’t over-water them)

While it may seem logical to keep your succulents on your outdoor patio — plants like the great outdoors, right? — it can be the kiss of death for succulents if you aren’t careful. “Desert succulents like agave and aloe need protection from Mediterranean climates,” Aoyagi tells SheKnows. “If they are in a planted space, have them on a separate, lower water irrigation hydro-zone to avoid root-rot. Cover them on cool nights and in rain to avoid burns on their broad leaves.”

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Because succulents store water in their fleshy leaves, they don’t like to be watered as often as other indoor plants... but they do like to be watered, nevertheless. The key to making indoor succulents happy is to soak the roots (albeit less frequently than other indoor plants) and let the soil dry between watering. Once the soil has been dry a few days, then you can water again.

Contain them

Aoyagi says that the best place for nonnative succulents is in a container garden that you can easily move or adjust to protect and care for your plants. The good news is that succulents respond well to the humidity and warmth in most homes and, although they like light, they can adapt to lower-light environments. So, hey, you’re already off to a good start. Follow Aoyagi’s tips and you’ll have a succulent-specific green thumb in no time.

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