Succulents have fleshy leaves and stems that store water. They developed these characteristics to ensure their survival in areas with limited water supplies. Succulent plants are very popular in gardens and potted indoors. Their attraction lies in their range of color and texture.
Many people confuse succulents with cacti. Cactus is a form of succulent but succulents cover a much broader spectrum of plants. Unlike most succulents, cactus have few if any leaves. Cacti have modified buds called areoles, from which spring the spines that characterize the cactus.
Growing succulents indoors starts with choosing the right plants. Most succulents need full sun and outdoor conditions.
Succulents need light
Succulents thrive in warm, dry conditions. They grow naturally in areas where there is plenty of sunlight and scarce water resources. They are low maintenance so they make ideal indoor plants. Most succulents need plenty of light.
No less than six hours a day will do so south or east-facing windows offer the best locations for your plants. Don’t forget to regularly turn your succulent pot to encourage even growth.
Succulents that don’t get enough sunlight will become lanky and they won’t look as good as they did when you first bought them. If your plants become leggy, you’ll have to move them to a sunnier spot.
Alternatively, you can use the artificial light provided by LED or fluorescent lights to encourage even growth. Artificial light isn’t as strong as sunlight so you will have to leave the lights on for 12 to 14 hours a day. Attach a simple timer to switch the lights on and off.
Choosing a pot
Succulents need dry feet. Plant your succulent in a pot with a drainage hole and when you water it ensures that the water runs through the base into the tray. If you’re using an unconventional pot like a teapot or tin can, drill holes in the base before you plant your succulent.
Succulents thrive in unglazed terra cotta pots. Clay pots are porous, helping the soil to quickly dry and keeping the roots ventilated. Despite this, succulents are often sold in glass planters. This may look good, but glass is the worst material to use for a succulent pot because it won’t drain.
When it comes to pots, succulent like a snug fit so when it’s time to repot your plant, choose a pot just one size bigger.
The best soil for succulents
Your succulents need soil that drains well. If their roots are constantly immersed in water, they will weaken and die. Pot your succulents in a coarse potting mix. Most nurseries sell succulent and cactus mix. Alternatively, buy regular soil and make a 50/50 mix with pumice or perlite to aerate the soil.
How to kill your succulent (or not)
Indoors, the single biggest cause of succulent death is too much water. Succulents like a good soak, but they need the water to quickly drain off. The soil should stay dry for a few days until it is soaked again. During the cooler months, succulents go into a dormant stage and they need even less water.
Succulents store water in their leaves and stems so they can go for weeks without it. It is unlikely that your succulents will need water more often than once a fortnight in summer and once a month in the winter. The top two inches of soil should be dry before you water your succulents again.
Pest control for succulents
Succulents can attract pests. The most common are scales, spider mites, and mealybugs. Inspect your plants from time to time. Control mealybugs and scales by applying rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball. You’ll need insecticidal soap for the control of spider mites.
If your succulent has grown leggy, you may want to regrow parts of it. Cut a piece off the succulent. Allow the cut piece to dry out for two days. Plant the cut piece and water it. After a few weeks, your cutting will have grown roots and will start to grow. Be patient succulents are slow-growing plants.
Best succulents to grow indoors
The secret to successfully growing succulents indoors is to choose a plant with a proven track record of successful indoor growth. There is a lovely variety of easy-to-grow succulent plants. We’ve chosen a few as listed below.
A trailing succulent, commonly called Donkey’s Tail, Burro’s Tail grows long stems that cascade down to the ground. The stems, covered in beautiful light green leaves can grow as long as three feet. This plant looks great in a hanging planter. Burro’s Tail is quite delicate with tiny leaves that may drop when touched. It is native to Mexico.
Look after your Jade Plant and it will last a lifetime. These plants, indigenous to South Africa, are often passed from generation to generation. Jade looks like a small tree so this is a very popular succulent. The leaves are green with a reddish edge.
Plant Jade in a sturdy pot that is moderately deep as these plants tend to get top-heavy and could fall over. Don’t water your plant for a few days after potting it as any broken roots will tend to rot.
Well known for its medicinal benefits, Aloe Vera makes a lovely indoor plant. The long upward curving leaves, edged with soft spikes give the plant shape and structure. The leaves are light green with white spots.
While Aloe Vera grows tall yellow and orange blooms in spring and summer, it is unlikely to bloom indoors. Brown leaf tips indicate a lack of water and black spots on the leaves too much.
Native to Asia and Africa, Snake Plants look almost artificial. They have beautiful upward curved leaves in variegated shades of green. Often called Mother-in-laws tongue, Snake Plants are said to filter the air. The leaf sap is mildly toxic so keep the plant away from nibbling pets and small children.
A Ponytail Palm is not a palm at all. It’s a succulent. Native to Mexico, the plant is part of the Agave family. It has a wide grey base that tapers into a thinner stem topped with fine green leaves. These plants tolerate dry ambient conditions making them a perfect choice for indoor planting.
This small and dainty succulent is a perfect trial succulent for beginners. It grows to about eight inches tall. The dark green leaves are covered with raised white lines. The Zebra Plant is far more tolerant of low light than most other succulents. They don’t like direct sunlight which makes the leaves change color but they must have some light
Growing succulents indoors
There are hundreds of succulent varieties in different shapes and forms. They are very popular indoor plants and if you make the right choices, they are quite forgiving. If you forget to water a succulent, it has a backup plan.
As long as you can find a warm enough space in your home with enough light, your indoor succulent will offer you years of pleasure.