This post shares my top tips for taking care of succulents indoors. They are easy to care for, but a few pointers on how to help them grow and thrive won’t hurt!
Taking Care of Succulents Indoors: 6 Tips for Plant Killers
Hey, plant killers! Yes, I’m talking to you. I used to be one of you. But now I am feeding a hefty plant addiction in my house. Yesterday I counted 47 living plants (to be fair, some are teeny tiny, so 47 isn’t that bad) in my bedroom alone. And guess what? All it took to keep my plants alive was a little homework on my part.
Today I am going to share some tips about growing and taking care of succulents indoors. Many succulents are relatively hardy and difficult to kill, so they can make great plants for those of you who want to develop a green thumb. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need love, too!
(Note: There are many different types of succulents, so these are general tips. If your plant isn’t labeled, try a reverse Google image search to see if you can find what kind it is. Then look it up for any specific care concerns. However, a lot of succulent care tips are very similar!
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1. Best Pots for Succulent Plants
Drainage is critical for maintaining healthy succulents. It’s usually best to plant in something with a hole in the bottom like a terracotta pot or a glazed planter. They also do well in planters with drainage compartments built in to the bottom.
I have read that you shouldn’t paint or seal terracotta pots and then plant succulents in them because the paint prevents the pot from “breathing.” However, I’ve painted nearly all of my pots, and I’ve never had a problem. Additionally, glazed pots are breathable, and succulents do well in them. The key is drainage around the roots.
If you’d like to plant a succulent in a container that doesn’t have a hole, you can build your own drainage system by lining the bottom of the container with small rocks or something like perlite. I have many indoor succulents in planters that don’t have holes in the bottom. They do very well, and many are even thriving.
If you’re looking for planter ideas for your succulents, check out my cute little succulent terrarium, my stainless steel bowl hanging planter DIY, my old candle holder upcycled into a planter post, and this roundup of 15 of my indoor planter DIYs to help you decorate with plants.
Also make sure to read my quick tip about adding drainage into planters without hole. I just have to take extra care to not to over-water them since the water won’t have anywhere to go and could kill the plant!
2. Soil for Succulents Indoors
You can pick up a bag of soil specifically designed for succulents at your local garden center or buy an organic cactus and succulent soil mix online. Succulents love well-draining soil, so it’s best to use a soil specifically formulated for their needs. Any soil for succulents or cactus will do just fine. Succulent soil is different from regular houseplant soil in that it has more materials added to encourage drainage: perlite and sand, for example. But there are many soil additives that help encourage healthy drainage. You can also DIY your succulent soil by mixing potting soil, sand, and perlite. I do this when I don’t have a bag of succulent mix on hand. It’s very cost-effective if you want to plant a lot of succulents, and the perlite is fantastic to have on hand for those pots without holes!
3. Watering Succulents Indoors
Watering is a critical part of taking care of succulents indoors. You might have heard that succulents are easy starter plants because you can forget to water them and they’ll be fine. Or, you might assume that succulents need about the same amount of water as a tomato plant, so you overwater them (really, I had no idea when I first started buying houseplants!).
Yellowing, cracking, and rotting are signs of over-watering, as is a dying plant or a pest infestation like fungus gnats. The plant “slimming down” and not being as generally full as it once was is a sign of under-watering. Succulents can sometimes look wrinkly when they need water, too, but by that point they are very deprived.
Generally, it’s best to water your succulents when the soil dries out. For me, that’s about once a week when the air is very dry. In my well-draining pots, I soak the soil and let the excess water drain completely. In my containers with rock drainage, I give them a bit less water.
4. How much sunlight do succulents need?
Succulents like bright indirect or direct light. Most of my plants are in windowsills, on tables near windows, or in rooms that generally get decent sun on a sunny day. Lack of light will kill a succulent or prevent it from growing to its full potential.
You’ll know when your plants aren’t getting enough light because they will start to look very sad and crappy. Many succulents will also get “leggy,” which means that they are stretching up and toward the sun. They are crying out for more sun, so don’t ignore them! Snip the plant down and give it some more light.
Likewise, if your plants aren’t getting leggy but seem to be bending toward the sun, you can rotate their pots occasionally to make sure they grow straight. However, many varieties of succulents can be beautiful when they drape to one side and spill over a pot!
5. How to keep succulents free from pests
The idea of pests in your house is gross, I know. But it’s important to know how to prevent, spot, and get rid of them when taking care of succulents indoors. I never thought about pests…until one plant developed them. Here are two issues I’ve encountered and what I did.
Mealybugs: I opted against a photo of these nasty little creatures. They eat new growth on succulents and tend to develop from over-watering. You’ll usually find them in a web-like little nest under leaves, or if they’re root Mealybugs, in the roots.
They are jerks, but you can kill them with a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol. If the infestation is bad, pour some alcohol and water directly into the soil.
Fungus gnats: Gross! You know the type. A lot like fruit flies, buzzing around and generally being annoying. They lay eggs in the soil and the larvae feeds on the roots. They tend to be a result of over-watering.
When some of my plants developed a bad fungus gnat infestation, I gently cleaned the roots and surrounding soil with a diluted dish soap solution. Then I repotted them to incorporate better drainage and put a little layer of sand on the top of the soil.
The sand was to help deter any lingering adult gnats from laying their eggs. I’ve also sprinkled cinnamon on the surface of my soil—there is something about the smell they don’t like. However, since learning how to properly water my succulents, I haven’t had any pest issues.
6. How do I propagate succulents?
Did you know that you can propagate succulents by pulling pieces off and letting them grow into their own plants? Propagating succulents is a post (or even a book) in itself. I am in the middle of propagating my first bunch, and let me tell you what, it is cool.
The variety you are propagating will determine whether you use a leaf, cutting, or stem to propagate. I’m propagating via leaves right now; I put the leaves into an empty cardboard egg carton on top of a layer of soil, then I lightly misted them until they started sprouting new growth. Yay! I will do a more detailed post about my experience when I’m done.