'Succulent' describes any plant with a swollen leaf, stem, or root that holds water. In general, most succulents come from arid regions requiring them to store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots to survive dry periods.
While succulents are easy to grow and are relatively low in maintenance, they do come from different plant families, so it's important to read the plant tag for each plant’s specific requirements.
Succulents grow best in indirect light as the leaves burn easily. In particular, succulents should be sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. With too little sun they become leggy, but too much sun can cause scorched leaves.
Since overwatering can be a problem, succulents should only be watered when the soil is dry to the touch and the plant’s leaves appear wrinkly. If the soil is pulling away from the sides of the pot, you have waited too long to water.
Good drainage in the planter is essential, and it’s important to select a planter in which the water drains freely. Standing water in the pot can cause your succulents to rot.
Succulents identified as Sedum and Sempervivum can tolerate winter cold in containers, but others, such as Echeverias, Aeoniums, Pachyphytums, and Graptopetalums, may need to be brought indoors for the winter. The plant label should provide information on the cold tolerance of a particular succulent.
If the plant label is incomplete, do some online research to determine whether your succulents need to move indoors for the winter. Remember that the Eastern North Carolina growing zone is zone 8.
You can purchase potting soil developed for cacti and succulents, or you can create a quick-draining blend by mixing 50 percent sand or perlite with 50 percent potting soil.
When first planting the succulents, give them a thorough watering, allowing them to become dry to the touch before watering again. Since succulents grow slowly, only fertilize once a month during the summer growing season by using a regular house plant fertilizer at half strength. No fertilizer is needed in the winter when the plants are dormant.
While diseases are rare in succulents, be alert for mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects, which can be removed with a swab of rubbing alcohol or a spray of Safer Soap.
Let your imagination take over as you enjoy creating color low-maintenance summer planters with the unusual foliage and beautiful colors of succulents.