Succulents are booming in popularity for two simple reasons: they are beautiful and nearly indestructible. Technically, a succulent is any plant with thick, fleshy (succulent) water storage organs. Succulents store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. Cacti are a unique subset of the succulent group. Succulents make excellent display plants in dish gardens. No matter what kind of succulent you’re growing, the rules are pretty similar between the different species. Here are the general rules for growing top-quality succulents:
Light: Succulents prefer bright light, such as found on a south-facing window. Full sun outdoors in spring and summer are also preferred, but you must slowly acclimate your plant to full outdoor conditions.
Temperature: Succulents are much more cold-tolerant than many people assume. As in the desert, where there is often a marked contrast between night and day, succulents thrive in colder nights, down to even 40ºF. Ideally, succulents prefer daytime temperatures between 70ºF and about 90ºF and nighttime temperatures between 50ºF and 55ºF.
Water: Succulents should be watered generously in the summer. The potting mix should be allowed to dry between waterings, but do not underwater. During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every other month. Overwatering and ensuing plant rot is the single most common cause of plant failure. Be aware, though, that an overwatered succulent might at first plump up and look very healthy. However, the cause of death may have already set in underground, with rot spreading upward from the root system. A succulent should never be allowed to sit in water. The following are signs of under- or overwatering:
Overwatering: Overwatered plants are soft and discolored. The leaves may be yellow or white and lose their color. A plant in this condition may be beyond repair, but you can still remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and rotted, cut away dead roots and repot into drier potting media, or take a cutting and propagate the parent plant.
Underwatering: Succulents prefer generous water during the growing season (spring and summer). An underwatered plant will first stop growing, then begin to shed leaves. Alternatively, the plant may develop brown spots on the leaves.
Potting Soils: Succulents should be potted in a fast-draining mixture that’s designed for cacti and succulents.
Fertilizer: During the summer growing season, fertilizer as you would with other houseplants. Stop fertilizing entirely during the winter.