Importance of Healthy Roots
Remember, strong roots = sturdy succs! Roots provide the anchor needed to keep a plant in place. The roots bring air, water and nutrients to the succulent – they are essentially the succs lifeline! Succulent roots need to grow down into the soil in order to absorb essential minerals and allow the plant to get bigger. Without healthy roots, succulents are likely to die.
Healthy Root Tip: While succulents are small, keep them in a shallow pot. Shallow pots are great for succulents because they naturally have shallow roots.
Encouraging Root Growth
Although succulents do not need as much water as other plants, how you water them is essential to strong healthy root growth. Root growth follows where the plant is being watered – when only the top of the soil is watered, roots will grow outwards rather than down, causing roots to dry out and eventually die. The Drench + Dry method is the best way to ensure your roots are growing down into the soil, creating a sturdy base. When using this method, you are allowing the soil to completely dry in between each watering. Drench the soil until you see water dripping through the pot’s drainage hole and then allow soil to completely dry out before watering again! (P.S. your pot DOES have a drainage hole, right?)
Aerial roots are the little roots growing along the stem of your succulent, above the soil. While seeing these is not a huge cause for concern, it shows your babe requires a little attention. Succulents will use these aerial roots to absorb water from the surrounding air, so when you see aerial roots it could mean your succulent wants more water or is in a humid area. Stretched out babes can also grow aerial roots as they are searching for more sunlight. Note that this will not happen to all succs, typically this will only be seen on plants with a stem. You can remove the roots by pulling gently or cutting them, doing so will not harm the plant.
This is the most common problem seen by succulent plant parents. Root rot is most often caused by overwatering, a totally preventable and fixable problem! While it is tough to tell if your babe is suffering from rot unless you un-pot it, keeping an eye for symptoms can keep your succs healthy. Healthy roots are typically white or yellowish, when roots are suffering from overwatering they will usually be black or dark down. If you notice slimy and wet roots, this is a sure sign of root rot – it is time to repot with fresh cactus soil.
Root pruning should not be your first course of action when encouraging healthy roots. This step should only be taken for succulents that are root bound and have seemingly stopped growing. Remove your succulent from its pot, brush away the old dirt, and look for roots that are dried up or brown. Cut away the dead roots, leaving the healthy roots to thrive, and repot in a larger pot with fresh soil. This will allow the healthy roots to gain the nutrients from soil and waterings.
All plant growth begins at the roots! Damaged or unhealthy roots will ultimately cause succulent sadness. Keep an eye out for signs that they need attention like halted growth, yellowing mushy leaves, or roots sticking out the bottom of pots. Stay on top of those succs so they can live long, and prosper!
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