Succulents have taken over the world, West Coast Gardeners. Not content to only be in beautifully styled pinterest and instagram photos anymore, they have infiltrated grocery, corner, home decor, furniture and clothing stores. With their “see it to believe it” variety of shapes and colours, it’s no wonder they seem like visitors from another galaxy taking over our planet. (Although I don’t think any of us mind at all!)
We’re here to give you our best tips and care tricks to keep your succulents healthy and happy. After all, West Coast Garden nurseries are the largest growers of succulents in North America. We parent 300,000 plants at one time with personal TLC before shipping them across the continent. (We don’t do interstellar delivery quite yet.) Read on to learn about caring for your plants.
Variety is the spice of life...in any galaxy
There are an estimated 100 billion planets in the Milky Way, and it seems there’s as many different kinds of succulents to choose from for your garden and home. Every single plant is just a little bit different, from the colour and shape of the leaves to the way it grows.
How on Earth do you choose? Just take home the ones you like! If you’re really concerned about your plant parenting abilities, then pick one with larger plumper leaves as those are hardier than the succulents with thin delicate leaves.
Explorers at heart, ready for anything!
Earth may be unsuitable for inhabitants used to the freezing cold temperatures of Mars or the ammonia clouds of Jupiter, but succulents are hardy creatures. In fact the reason succulents look the way they do is because they are all about water storage, their name even comes from the latin word “sucus” which means juice or sap. This makes them drought tolerant and low maintenance, two things to look for in an easy addition to the garden or patio.
You can easily create larger planters for your bigger patios at home. Or create small mini arrangements for condo and apartment living in the city spaces of Vancouver, Gastown and West Van.
A hospitable environment for your succulent
The first thing to think about, when replanting your succulent, is the drainage. These plants need to be able to dry out in between waterings and hate having soggy roots. Using a container with a drainage hole (or being very careful not to give it too much water) is important for the health of your plant. (Sort of like making sure that ET doesn’t chow down on too many Reese’s Pieces.)
Of course using creative containers like drift wood, landscape stone, bundt pans and mugs are part of the fun of playing with succulents.
If you can drill or punch holes in the bottom of your metal containers that will help with drainage. Otherwise just check your soil’s moistness before adding more water. (For cool ideas take a look at our succulent pinterest board.)
Our driftwood planter for succulents doesn't have drainage holes, which means you have to water sparingly and wait until the soil is dry before adding any more.
Watch our easy DIY video and make your own!
Just add water...but how much?
Just like adding too much water to freeze-dried macaroni and cheese can be a disaster, so can being too liberal with the water for our succulents. Unfortunately more plants are killed by overwatering than by under-watering and sometimes patience is a virtue we need to practice.
As drought tolerant plants, succulents are prepared to wait for their water. It may not speak our language, but your succulent will give you clues to its needs.
When the leaves get thin, wrinkly or start falling off then it is time to break out the watering can and soak that soil. If you see squishy, pale or brown leaves that’s a sure sign you’ve been a bit too liberal with the H2O and need to let them dry out.
In the garden your succulents won’t need more than one watering every week or two. If they are in pots or containers then you’ll have to be the one to decide. Is the pot big or small? Is it in sunlight for much of the day, or shade? What season is it? You don’t need to join SETI to experiment with watering schedules and field test results for your succulents.
Third planet from the sun
Unless your succulent is from Mercury, chances are they won’t want to be too close to the sun. These arid plants need some shade during the day and do well in dappled shady spots outdoors. If you have indoor succulents then keeping them close to a sunny window is important, as it’s hard to get enough sunlight from indoor spots - preferably not direct sunlight ALL day as the poor little guys don’t like that.
Don’t worry, interpreting your succulent’s sun needs isn’t as hard as deciphering crop-circles. Look for brown, black or white scorch marks on the leaves of your succulent to tell you it’s getting a bit sunburned and needs a home with more shade (Saturn is nice this time of year).
If you’re usually little green plant suddenly becomes red or yellow, sadly that also means that it’s getting too much sun, even though it may look great. Alternately, your succulent may need some suntanning time if you see it “stretching” itself out into a tall and lanky version, with widely spaced leaves and thin stem. (It should resemble Yoda, not Spock.)
It’s cold in space
Once the warmer summer months are done, succulents need a change of scenery. Since a holiday on a warmer planet isn’t doable, we have to move our plants into a covered or indoors area, one with a window is best.
There are a few species such as Sedum and Sempervivum that enjoy the cold weather and can simply be moved to a covered location under the eaves or patio. In the spring remove the brown and dry leaves, add some soil and sun, then watch your succulent come back to life.