Congratulations! You aced Succulent Care 101 and it is time to begin the next level of our course: Let’s Get Schooled: Succulent Care 201. In 101, we learned about watering, types of light, soil, and fertilizing succulents. Now we dive deeper into being the ultimate plant parent and focus on intermediate care for succulents.
Intermediate Succulent Care
We promise no one is born with a “green thumb”! Anyone can develop the skills to care for succulents, and any plant for that matter, with enough attention to detail and experience. Even ultimate plant parents need to google “Why is my plant dying” from time to time. With care and patience, even the saddest succs can be saved.
The next level of succulent care revolves around water-related issues, pruning, and propagation. The first two are necessary for succulent care, but propagation is a fun way to grow new bbs from the ones you already have! We mentioned this in 101, but here is a gentle reminder that all succulents are different! The conditions of your space and the weather in your area play a role in proper care of your bbs. Take a peek at your specific succ’s care instructions to make sure you are providing the best care.
Let’s Get Schooled
1. Water-Related Issues
She extra, but she worth it. In the plant world, water is not water. There’s tap water, rainwater, distilled water, deionized water, and… we’re going to stop there because the list goes on. Depending on where you live, tap water may contain minerals that aren’t the greatest for succs. Bbs are hardy and won’t really be affected by the traces of minerals, but over time it can build up in soil and cause some issues. For example, if you are seeing white dots on your plants leaves, that is calcium left behind after the tap water dries.
Rain water is that natural stuff that falls from the sky. Distilled water is the type you purchase at the grocery store, or can be made by boiling tap water. Distilled is the type pretty much all plants, succs included, prefer. It is the only type of water that is guaranteed to contain zero minerals and additives.
If you can, try using rain or distilled water when quenching your bbs thirst. However, if you use tap water (it is the easiest, no judgement) avoid getting it on the leaves and consider repotting into fresh soil more frequently to avoid mineral buildup.
Succulents are adorable and we want to give them all of our care and attention, but sometimes our succs want to be loved from a distance. Trust us, more water is not the way to win over your bbs heart.
Early signs of an overwatered succ are bloated leaves and/or soil that never completely dries out. When overwatering becomes more severe, the leaves will turn yellow and become translucent. To the touch, they may feel soft and mushy, bottom leaves are the first ones to show these signs.
Fix Overwatered Succs
After watering your plant, pick up the pot and notice how heavy it is. After a week, pick it up again and again a week later. Take note how it loses weight as the soil dries. Become more familiar with the weight of dry soil and then you won’t have to stick your finger in to check.
Don’t take the “desert plant” thing to mean succulents never need water. Your plant most definitely needs water and will not survive without it. Underwatered succulents give some tell-tale signs they are thirsty. Be on the lookout and adjust your watering schedule accordingly!
Properly watered succulents have plump and firm leaves that do not bend. The first thing sign of a thirsty bb is that the leaves will feel rubbery and bend easily. Unlike overwatered succs, the color typically will not change. The next warning sign is wrinkly or shriveled leaves. Another sign your succ is thirsty are aerial roots, which are clear, white, or pink tendrils growing out of the succulent’s stem above the soil. Succulents send out these shoots to collect water from the air. Note that they are prevalent in high humidity areas, so if you see aerial roots but no other signs, your succ is probably fine.
Fix Underwatered Succs
Wrinkles are cute on babies, but not on succulents! The good news is that saving an underwatered succ is easier than an overwatered bb. Water your succulent as soon as you notice signs of underwatering. Using the Drench + Dry Watering Method (explained in Let’s Get Schooled: Succulent Care 101), fully drench your succulent with water until it begins dripping through the drainage hole on the bottom. Wait until the soil totally absorbs the water and then pour more. After a few days, check if the signs of underwatering have lessened. Resume a regular watering schedule after quenching your succ’s thirst.
Out with the bad, in with the good! Pruning is the process of removing dead or dying leaves, lower brown leaves, and anything that does not contribute to succulent growth. The occasional pruning can encourage growth, prevent rot, and keep bbs happy and healthy. Succulents, just like all living beings, grow! As new leaves grow out from the center of a rosette or out the top of a stem, the old lower leaves can shrivel. This is totally normal and is not cause for concern. Gently pull away old dead leaves, giving room for new growth! While pruning you might even find some new growth #YasQueen
While pruning is something you can do pretty regularly (every few weeks,) spring and fall are the best times to give succulents some TLC. They might be entering their growing season or going dormant for a few months. As you get your plants ready for these stages, check your succulent for dead leaves and debris sitting under the plant and in the soil. A buildup of debris under your succulent leaves your bb at risk for pests.
Get your succs in a row, because we are diving into propagation. One of our favorite things to talk about and do! There are so many ways to propagate and we recommend trying them all to find out which method works best for you.
Pro Tip: the timeline of propagation really varies depending on which method you select, but we have found that water propagation provides the quickest results.
Cuttings vs Leaves
To start off your process, check out the succulent you are looking to propagate. Depending on the plant, it may be recommended to use a leaf over cutting or vice versa. Some varieties of succ are able to be propagated from either! Use the advised method for that particular succulent for the highest rate of success.
Always start with a healthy plant, you might be tempted to try using the shriveled leaves that fell off the bottom of your succ, but please don’t. It is best to use a healthy cutting or a big plump leaf. Gently twist and pull it away from the stem – be sure to get a clean break and then give the leaf a few days to dry out and callus (a hard dry layer across the fleshy area where your leaf or cutting came off the mother plant).
Water vs Soil
After the cutting or leaf has callused, it is time to allow her to grow. Decide if you are going to do water or soil propagation. The water method is like a “set it and forget it” route whereas soil will require frequent misting.
For a water propagation with a cutting, fill a jar with water and situate the cutting so that the stem is a few millimeters above the water. This will encourage roots to grow downward, towards the water. If the succulent cutting is too small to balance on the rim of the jar, cover it with plastic wrap, poke a hole, and stick the stem inside. The humidity created in the jar encourages roots to grow. In about 2-6 weeks you will see roots sprout, depending on your climate and environment! When using leaves, over the top of the jar with plastic wrap and poke small holes and insert the leaves callus side towards the water. In a few weeks you will begin seeing small roots and then tiny rosettes begin to grow! Do not fret if roots grow long enough to touch the water, this alone will not cause root rot. We recommend waiting until roots are an inch long to pot, but it is really up to you!
Start your soil propagation after your succulent leaf or cutting has callused over. From here, you will place the leaves on top of cactus soil or gently insert the stem of your cutting into the soil. For soil propagation, it is very important to mist the soil every three days to keep the soil wet. This is different from your typical succulent watering methods. Moist soil will encourage the roots to grow. As the roots grow, you will switch from misting the soil to lightly watering the top layer of soil. Having the water go deeper into the soil will encourage roots to grow down into the dirt. You will not be able to see the roots grow from the cutting, but on the leaves you can watch the roots grow and form cute baby rosettes!
With both methods, place the pot or jar somewhere it will receive bright, indirect light.
Go on and grow with confidence! Want to take a step back and revisit Succulent Care 101? Go ahead, bestie! Ready to learn more? Check out Succulent Care 301!