Ive been a succulent serial killer, especially indoor succulents, but a killer with an experience. In my short stint with these amazing ornamental plants, I have learned that succulents are not inside plants, which of course, has a lot to do with the conditions.
But don't get me wrong, I still do it anyway, although at times end up with etiolated plants that are stretched and discolored. A little lesser than before though.
Hence it's not entirely impossible to spice interiors with succulent, a prospect that would be utterly tragic for firm enthusiasts like me.
That said, if you love them as much as I do, you’ll grow them anyway! And you should!
In my brief episode of trying to keep succulents alive, I have gathered few valuable insights which I'm willing to share. Below are lessons learned from experience and information gathered both from research and advice received.
Try Out Different Succulents
Most succulents do best outside in dry, warm and sunny weather even in arid regions with overly cold nights. Indoor spaces are frequently dry and warm but lack sunlights especially in basement apartments which poses a unique challenge. Hence try different succulent to find out which ones will do in low light conditions
Generally green and lightly colored succulents should survive in poorly lit homes and apartments. Succulents with vibrant colors require more light to keep the shades popping.
Second, plants with natural spaces between leaves also make good indoors options. In low light conditions, succulents tend to stretch and loose shape which happens more in compact types. Lastly, opt for slow-growing succulents which like the naturally spaced type get minimal shape distortion in instances where they stretch.
For true indoor low light succulents, there aren’t many choices. The classic one would have to be the Sansevieria, sometimes called snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue. Its a genus of about seventy species native to Africa and Southern Asia.
Other options to consider are Aloe, Haworthia, Crassula, Kalanchoe Tomentosa and Gasteria. I also have an Echeveria plant doing fine, but my space is not completely blacked out and gets some considerable sunlight during the day.
Succulents are Delightful When the Sun Shines
Succulents require modest fertilizer and water needs but abundant light. Where succulents are grown indoors it's often hard for them to get six hours of light which in general is considered sufficient. Plants should be placed in bright sunny windows with natural light, lack of which should be augmented with artificial illumination.
When you'll want to keep plants close to the window be careful not to let them get sunburned especially new plants on hot sills. Most succulents will, however, stand intense sunlight of temperature below 95F above which leaves heat up and plants dry out.
Place succulents on windows that get sufficient light most of the day, areas getting sun in the morning are perfect options as afternoon sun is at times too hot. In the Northern Hemisphere south facing windows generally, receive more rays but these amounts are mostly harsh to your succulents.
Succulents right up against East facing windows tend to do very well. But if your home is on a hill or you have a hill to the East or West foggy mornings tend to shorten your sun hours hence West facing windows are better since by afternoon the fog will have burned out.
Finally consider the elevation, higher floors get more sun because they see more of the sky. However the position of the sun changes between regions and seasons, it's better to learn the details in your local area to best track the best location.
Using Artificial Light to Grow Succulents is Absolutely Fine
Using artificial light to grow plants is absolutely fine. Specialized grow lights are designed to give most of the energy output needed by plants. Grow lights are most efficient since they don't put out light that plants don't use effectively. The downside is these lights are highly specialized and using them to grow succulents only is a little overkill
When your only need is to grow succulents in a dimly lit room your better of using a white light system. Flouresents are probably the cheapest to purchase in terms of Lumens but they use more power. In general, you will need 70-80W fluorescent lighting-6000 to 7000 Lumens- per square foot.
If you need more efficiency for lower electricity bills especially when you need a lot of light get a decent white LED light from a reputable manufacturer. Use one 10W LED four inches above the plants in a one square foot area.
Whether using specialized gro light or a white light source, but your plants still look etiolated, that may suggest that the light is not bright enough which can be fixed by using more powerful bulbs.
However it's important to distinguish between low light indoors and low light outdoor. Low light outdoors refers to shade and falls between 500-7500 footcandles. This range in indoors specification falls under medium to high light. Lowlight indoors is between 25-200 footcandles.
The Quickest Way to Kill Succulents is Too Much Water
The easiest and quickest way to kill succulents is too much water. Overwatering can cause more damage than underwatering and is harder to correct. A good rule of thumb is to water only when the soil is dry.
Check if your soil is completely dry by pushing a wood chopstick or skewer down into the center of the pot and lookout for dampness. Another important resource is your fingers. Use them to feel the soil to access the moisture content. Dry soil is coarse and does not hold whereas wet soil is sticky and can easily form a mudball when rolled in your palms.
For purchase plants follow the instructions on the resource card if available.Or gradually learn to compare the weight of completely dry pots against freshly watered ones to get a sense of how much water remains in the soil.
Finally clues that your plant needs watering include shrinking or puckering leaves or normally shiny leaves appearing dull.
When its time to water saturate the pot until the water drains from the bottom, this helps make sure the water gets to all areas of the soil as well as flush out lingering minerals which might otherwise overly accumulate.
With regard to technique there is no written rule but it all depends on your need and situation. Using a watering spay is ideal with a few young plants or fresh cutting while using a watering can is best for older plants.Another instance you could use a spray when you need to want to avoid cleaning up after watering. Spays are more conservative and don't create huge spills.
More established plants can be soaked use a measuring cup to water the soil until it floods slightly. Soaking should be done about one in ten days to ensure the soil is completely dry from subsequent drenching.
A brilliant solution when dealing with a lot of succulents is bottom watering. Use a large shallow tupperware container with water in it and set the succulents in.Make sure the water line came up to about one inch below the top of pots and let the succulents sit for 1-2 min. Alternatively, use your bathtub in place of the tupperware container.
Bottm watering is perfect where the plant's rosette is nearing the width of the container.Trying to water around such rosette make it difficult to get water under the foliage entirely. Occasionally you will need to fill above the soil line to ensure excess salts don't accumulate near the surface of the pot to close to the plant.
Make The Ideal Potting Mix
Succulent love soil with good aeration, good drainage, and low water retention. You can easily find ready to use soil mix in most nurseries and gardening supplies store but you can also use any soil and modify it yourself.
Ensire your soil is well drained with a lot of pebbles or perlite mixed in it so that when you water the excess moisture drains and the soil does not remain saturated.
Recognizing that most succulent plants are adapted to environments where the soil is often completely dry, make your own mix using one part by volume of pumice or perlite, clean coarse sand or insoluble chicken grit and coconut coir or peat based potting mix.
However conflicting opinion argue that this mix is best for outdoor succulents and recommend using one part volume of pine bark fines, turface- absorptive rock-, and crushed granite. The idea is to maximize draining which compensates for high water retention and low soil aeration indoors.
Terririum Will Most Likely Kill Your Succulents
With indoor succulents you want pots with good drainage, in fact, you want pots with drainage holes. If you forget everything about succulents remember that poor drainage will definitely kill your succulents.Terrarium pots create a self-sustaining eco-system that tend to get quite humid.This coupled with lack of a drainage hole only leave very few succulents options that can survive in such this conditions.
Only way succulents survive in terrarium pots is by exposing the plant to enough sunlight. Also, put gravel or pebbles and charcoal at the bottom of the pot, the charcoal helps absorb excess moisture. If you must use terrarium pots then opt for high humidity indoor plants such as spider fern, friendship plant, and aquamarine.
Terra coat and ceramic pots are pretty breathable options which means they work well in areas that might not get a lot of air flow. Unfortunately, ceramic pots heat up quickly and although this is not a huge problem plants roots close to the pot surface could burn.Another undesirable option with regard to the change in temperature is metal which abruptly adapts to outside temperature.
Clay and earthen pots evaporate water through their pores which is a good thing when growing plants that do not like soggy soil like succulents. However, evaporation also cools down the plant's roots and make them grow around the pot wall which in turn makes changing the pot hard.
Plastic pots are durable and affordable. Compared to ceramic, terrarium and clay pots, plastic pots are less fragile. On the downside, plastic pose high water retention because it makes it harder for water to evaporate.
Indoor Succulents Love Them Some Breathing Space
Give succulents room to breath. Plants growing indoors should be less clustered than ones growing outside. This helps maximize the amount of light each plant with the shorter plants not getting blocked out.
However it good to appreciate the aesthetics of paired plants in the same planter, they create beautiful impressions especially when textures and colors contrast.
The important point to remember is when you cluster your succulents the water and nutrients needs and the space in the container ought to be bigger.
Breathing space should equally be ample within the soil structure. Naturally succulents and cactus tend to grow in extremely porous soil, the gaps between particles should never be filled with water because it replaces Oxygen to create anaerobic conditions.
Keep Your Plants Clean, Even Though They won't Die From Dirt
When dust gets between leaves and spines succulents are not easy to clean as you may have assumed. Easy brushing and wiping work for soft leaves plants but with succulents you need to do a little more.
Instead of wiping use a stiff painting brush to gently scrub between tight spines on smaller plants, use a slightly larger brush to work on bigger plants. However, you might still need to use the small brush for tight spaces on the big plants.
A powerful water spray can be used for dirt on very prickly plants or tough dust and grime. Should you opt to use the water spray, be sure to use rainwater as opposed to tap water which often has high lime and leaves splashes on the plant.
When using some form of fabric to wipe off loose dirt, avoid cotton wool wipes and buds coz they leave tiny fibers embedded on spines which are fairly hard to remove.
Rub your plant with alcohol to clear bugs and webs which you might need to do frequently coz some bugs keep coming back. When you are not sure what insects are forming the web it's best not to use harmful chemicals. The webs might be formed by spiders which are not harmful to human or the plant but instead feed on the smaller bug which would otherwise harm your succulents.