Succulents seem to have taken over the world -- or at least every design, wedding, and lifestyle site in your feed! These delightful blooms have seen a rise in popularity in recent years, and with good reason. Succulents are a great way to ease into gardening, even if you think your green thumb is closer to black. They’re also a way to add some color and visual interest to both your indoor and outdoor spaces.
As with any growing thing, however, succulents also need a little bit of attention and TLC to keep them thriving and green. For example, one often overlooked step is to use worm tea to add microbial diversity to your succulent plant soil, such as Hello Succulents:
The first step in ensuring that your succulents live a long, green life is doing your research! Different types of succulents need different levels of care. Some love sunshine, while others prefer a more shady spot. Some common varieties might only need watering once a month, while others need more frequent attention. The best way to ensure you know exactly how to care for your succulent is asking lots of questions at the garden store or nursery; their trained staff are sure to know the varieties’ needs well.
Most succulents do well in a porous soil that allows for good drainage and airflow. Succulents store water efficiently, so over-watering the soil is likely to cause rotting. You need a soil depth of about 6 inches for most succulents, but if you allow up to 12 inches, it provides even more space for the roots to spread.
Compost tea. Worm castings. Worm tea. Worm poop. Vermicompost tea extract. These are just a few of the ways to describe an effective and eco-friendly approach to succulent joy! We know what it means to experience succulent-nirvana, and hope you will too. It’s a state in which your succulents prosper. An overabundance of succulent growth for your porch, backyard, or for your wedding table, or restaurant table—whatever your needs might be. In short, in addition to properly fertilizing your succulents, we recommend using worm tea to add microbes to the soil of your succulent plants. Think of it as vitamins for your succulents. This often overlooked step can make all the difference between mediocre succulents and succulents that flourish. Worm tea helps your succulents thrive by injecting the soil with a healthy dose of microbes, which, among other benefits, forms a complex symbiotic relationship with roots.
Mulch helps protect your succulents against weeds, balances evaporation, and makes your garden more aesthetically pleasing. With succulents, commonly used mulches include gravel, decorative rocks and glass, or ground wood chips. Think about what will most help your succulents pop; consider a mulch in a contrasting color or interesting texture, and make sure that you cover the soil with about 1-3 inches of mulch.
When you’ve selected your soil, your plants, and your mulch, it’s time to plant your succulents! Keep a few things in mind as you begin this process: make sure that you choose the right spot, considering the area’s climate and sun exposure. Keep in mind how the sun moves across the space, and how much daily sun your garden is likely to receive. Northern exposures tend to be better for shade-loving succulents, while southern exposures are a treat for those that love the sun. Most varieties of succulents prefer some exposure to direct sun, but also require a lot of shade. Make sure you choose a spot with about three hours of direct sun per day.
Before you begin digging, play around with different placements while the succulents are still in their nursery container. Keep in mind, too, that many succulents look wonderful when planted close together, allowing some of the blooms to overlap. Make sure that you start with the largest plants, and work your way down to the smaller ones. Dig your holes to be just slightly larger and deeper than the nursery containers, since the plant will settle into its hole.
Universally speaking, daily watering of succulents is the quickest way to kill them! Make sure that the soil is never more than damp. Using a misting bottle to lightly spray the leaves of your succulent is a good way to keep them damp, but be careful not to overdo it. Keep a close eye on your blooms--leaves that are shriveled or brown mean the plant doesn’t have enough moisture. If you’re in doubt, check the dampness of the soil 2 inches down from the surface; if the soil is dry, you’ll need to water more frequently. And most importantly, try to water your succulents in the morning, before the sun is hot.
Most general purpose fertilizers are just fine to use on succulents. You should feed your plants monthly during the growing season. When your plants have reached a size that you’re happy with, you can feed them even less frequently--every two-three months is plenty. If you have only a few succulents, you can mix the fertilizer directly into the watering can based on your specific fertilizer’s instructions. As with watering, morning is the best time to feed your blooms.
If your succulent has dry or damaged leaves, if you want to encourage branching, or if you just want to reduce your plant’s size, you’ll need to prune your plant. Make sure that you prune during the growing season for the particular succulent, and not during its resting stage! Use a narrow, pointed clipper and cut the branches at an angle. You can remove older lower leaves, too, to help improve your plant’s appearance.
One of the most important considerations with dividing your succulents when they have grown too clustered is making sure you do it when there’s plenty of growing season left for the plants to take healthy root in their new home. When you divide plants, you’ll need to do so carefully, making sure not to damage the root. The bonus to this exercise is having extra cuttings to plant in other areas of your garden or having plenty to give away as gifts!
As we’ve already mentioned, succulents are pretty darn resilient. You should definitely take steps, however, to protect them from the harshest weather: wind, harsh sun, hail and thunderstorms, and extreme frost. To protect taller plants from the wind, try placing a few rocks around the base. Help your plants toughen up to the sun by protecting them with a shade cloth during the sunniest parts of the day, and removing the cloth during the shady times. And during cold snaps, cover your succulents with frost blankets, which help to insulate the delicate roots.
Many succulents do a lot of their growing in the fall and spring months, growing dormant and resting during the warm summer months. Others, however, are just the opposite; their dormant season is during the winter. Make sure that you do your research about your specific varietals to understand their growing period. During their resting period, you should water your succulents only very lightly to prevent the leaves from burning. Make sure you don’t soak the soil! You should also not fertilize your succulents during their dormant period.
Much research has been done over the years to demonstrate that gardening is good for mind, body, and spirit. More recently, we’ve learned first hand how gardening, when done right, is also beneficial to the world around us and the environment we cherish. So why not give planting a few succulents in your home a try? There’s little to lose, and so much to gain.
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