How much water should I give my succulent? Does my succulent need to come inside in the winter? Do I need to fertilize my succulent? These common succulent care questions (and many more) can be answered by one simple sentence: “Succulents are opportunistic growers.” But what does that really mean?
At the most basic level, being an opportunistic grower means increased growth when conditions are ideal and slowed growth when they are not. Makes sense right? But, here’s the thing, succulents’ “ideal growing conditions” can change throughout the year. To better understand the ideal conditions for each succulent, we need to talk a bit about dormancy.
Dormancy is a state in which plants have normal physical functions, but are not actively growing. It, in no way, indicates that a plant is unhealthy, and is actually very common in the plant world. Dormancy is dependent on natural environments. When you start to introduce artificial elements, like grow lights, heated homes, etc., some plants won’t follow their natural dormancy rhythms. More on that later.
Succulents can give off a few subtle signs when they are entering dormancy. A succulent entering dormancy will usually go pale in color. If it’s a succulent that is typically green year round, those greens will go a little paler. If it’s a succulent that took on bright hues like oranges, reds, and purples during its growing season, those hues will start to fade back to green. Some species, like Haworthia, will start to close up. (See the picture below) Their hardy leaves go from being spread out to tightly wrapped towards their center. The most recognizable sign across all species, however, is slowed or paused growth.
Care During Dormancy
When your plant goes dormant, it doesn’t need as much water or nutrients as it does during an active growth period. That’s why we recommend fertilizing in the fall and spring, so your plants get their nutrients as their either coming out of or going into dormancy.
Once your plant is fully in its dormant state, you can usually cut your watering down to every 3 weeks or once a month. Just keep an eye out for limp, thin, rubbery leaves, as this is an indication your succulent needs more frequent watering.
Winter vs. Summer Dormancy
Generally speaking, most succulents go into a dormant state in either the summer or winter. Again, these classifications are based on their natural environments aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules when you’re raising succulents with artificial elements. That being said, here’s a little cheat sheet to help you know when to look out for your babes going dormant.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible to override your succulents tendency to go dormant using artificial elements. Using a grow light for 12-18 hours in the winter months gives your plants the illusion of prolonged sunlight. Pair this with regular watering (when the soil is dry) and a nice warm home between 65-75 degrees, and your succulents will have no idea that the season has actually changed!
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As always, if you have any questions about your succulents and how to care for them, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help!