Succulent Care Guides
General Care Guide:
Are you curious about succulents? Have you dabbled before but it didn’t go to plan? Do you have some now that seemingly aren’t thriving? I wanted to write a simple care guide for anyone who’s looking for some basics.
Just for some background on me, I started collecting succulents in late 2019 but the addiction took hold rapidly! Since learning the basics I wanted to help others have their plants thrive too.
The biggest issue when buying succulents from main stream supermarkets or shops is the substrate they are potted in is unsuitable. Often it is coco coir or something very lightweight to make them lighter and cheaper to ship. It’s often very water retentive and the opposite to what the plant needs.
Tip 1: If you buy a plant ready potted succulent or cacti, repot it as soon as you get it home
Next is what substrate should you repot into? Now there’s a huge variety of opinions on this and each person has their own preferred mixture, I will give my personal mixtures that I use for my own plants. I like to use John Innes number 2 for the organic part, some people also like to add fertiliser such as worm castings. For the inorganic part I use a mix of horticultural grit, pumice and sharp sand (not normal sand). Other options include lava rock, pon, perlite or fine aquarium gravel.
Tip 2: Repot into roughly any of the following mixtures:
Cacti – 75% inorganic and 25% organic
Succulents – 60% inorganic and 40% organic
Lithops – 90% inorganic and 10% organic
Then we move to the big question, when do you water? Contrary to what people say both cacti and succulents do require watering to survive, the key is to not over water. Plants tell us when they need a drink, leaves will start to droop or shrivel. One other way you can check is to see if the substrate is bone dry, to do this ideally use a probe as it will give a more accurate reading, failing that you can use your pinky! Once watered then allow the soil to totally dry out again.
Tip 3: Only water your plants when they tell you they need it
Moving lastly onto light. This is one area which varies hugely depending on the species of plant. Generally speaking most succulents need quite a lot of light, failure to provide this will cause them to become a different colour and sometime stretch and disfigure. The worst offender for stretching are Echeveria, they need a lot of light! To prevent this happening a lot of succulent owners keep their plants in a greenhouse or cold frame, that way the plant can maximise use of the daylight regardless of the season. If you plan to keep your plants indoors then the assistance of grow lights will dramatically help your plants gain enough light to thrive.
On the flip side there are multiple succulents which can cope with lower light levels, a few examples of these are Sansevieria, Aloe, Haworthia & Gasteria.
Tip 4: Consider where you will house your plant and how you can provide it with sufficient light levels.
I hope this gives you some helpful hints and tips to care for your succulents!
Leaf Propagation Guide:
To start, select the succulent species carefully, some varieties rarely or never grow from just a leaf. This applies to Aeonium, Cotyledon, Agave, Sempervivum, Haworthia and Senecio.
Variegated leaves have next to no chance of producing a variegated plantlet, avoid buying these leaves. They’re often being seen for sale on multiple selling platforms and are a waste of money. A cutting is the minimum you would require to guarantee propagating a variegated plant.
Kalanchoe are another genus that propagate in a variety of different ways unique to them. Some propagate by producing pups on the outer fringes of the leaves, one example of this is Mother of Thousands aka Kalanchoe Daigremontiana.
When removing the leaf make sure it is fully plump and not dehydrated or wrinkled, this ensures the best chance of it propagating. Removal of a leaf is easy most of the time. A gentle wiggle side to side or slight and gentle rotation can help. The growth point quite often is a different colour, normally pink. Be careful not to damage this as the leaf is unlikely to propagate if this happens.
After removal leave leaves flat and wait. Some leaves grow roots first, some pup (small plantlet) first and some produce both together. Generally I leave mine on racks in the greenhouse but not in direct sunlight, they don’t need too much light nor do they need any water at this stage.
If leaf goes translucent, black or withers away dispose of it, it’s failed. Not all leaves are guaranteed to prop, remember this when buying unrooted leaves, it can be money down the drain. When trading, selling or buying leaves I tend to make sure they are showing some signs of progress no matter how slight.
Personally I do not move my leaves until they have a good size pup and roots, or the mother leaf is significantly depleted. At this point I then transfer to celled trays, potted into gritty substrate and begin to sparingly water. My celled trays are in a fairly bright location of the greenhouse.
From this to the final stage is another waiting game, once the mother leaf has shrivelled and the pup is looking like an established plantlet then I move it into a small pot of its own. At this point I move them into bright sunlight with all my other succulents. At this stage I treat them like my adult plants, deep and infrequent watering and plenty of light.
Please be aware that young and forming plantlets can be succeptible to multiple pests, especially the dreaded mealy bugs! Do check under developing leaves (if you can) as they love to hide in tiny gaps! If you do find any mealies spray with isopropyl alcohol.
One slight difference with Adromischus is the mother leaf doesn’t always wither, sometimes it swells and becomes part of the new plantlet that forms. Sometimes this mother leaf can be used again to propagate another plantlet! Sometimes they can root and never produce anything further, in this case it has failed.
The process at times from start to finish can take 2+ years. Sometimes it pays just to buy an established plant to begin with. Personally I enjoy watching and documenting how these plants propagate, it’s a really fun and satisfying thing to do!
I hope this was informative and can help you propagate your succulent leaves successfully!