No need to be prickly about care for these plants.
Local gardening experts say there is an art and a science to making your spring pots pop with color and design, and they have tips for you based on their Oklahoma-grown experience.
Succulents are the house cats of the plant world: They don’t need a ton of attention, but what attention they do require is critical to their thriving. And — just as with cats — unhelpful generalizations abound, including the idea that all succulents love direct sunlight, or that a few drops of water will suffice, as if all succulents come from the Gobi Desert.
Christina Carter, co-owner of Plant People, 1212 N. Hudson Ave. in Midtown, said that it’s true all succulents need sunlight, but there are caveats. “Some succulents need more sunlight or warmth than others,” she said. “Many succulents thrive in a place where they will get six to eight hours of sunlight a day, but it’s not recommended to expose your succulents to full sun in temperatures above 90°F to avoid doing damage to their leaves and root system.”
As with any plant, the best advice is to get the specific care requirements for each variety you purchase. Carter says keeping in mind that care requirements are not “one size fits all” is important for success with these hardy plants.
“There are many factors to consider, including the type of succulents, the type of pot and soil, how hot and sunny your location is and whether the plants are outside or kept inside alone with your houseplants,” she said.
Knowing whom to trust is important. Local plant stores can save you time and money, and they’re more accountable than random websites. That being said, YouTube channel Succulents and Sunshine has a large, active following, and offers stellar advice for no charge. For amateurs, it recommends starting with something that works well indoors, like a zebra plant or snake plant.
Jen Semmler, who owns The Plant Shoppe at 835 W. Sheridan Ave., said echeverias do not do well outside typically, but she loves them indoors, noting that they need some outdoor light.
“Some succulents can live fully indoors, and we love haworthias,” Semmler said. “Jades do well inside, and my favorite — California sunset — only needs a well-lit room indoors. You basically want the most amount of sunlight without direct sunlight. String or trailing succulents, like string of pearls or string of bananas, are also great choices for indoors.”
One of the primary issues for Oklahomans raising succulents is our wide temperature swings. Succulents don’t thrive across a wide range of temps, but some are hardier than others.
“Succulents tend to prefer a temperate climate ranging from 60 to 80°F,” Carter said. “Some can tolerate temperatures as low as 40°F or as high as 90°F. High temperatures in the range of 80°F to 90°F can sometimes help maintain the deep colors for many succulents, especially for soft succulents.”
As for watering, Carter recommends not watering on a set schedule. “Water your succulents when the soil is completely dry. Watering on a set schedule doesn’t always work out, especially if your succulents aren’t in a pot with drainage. If the soil has shrunk from the sides of the pot and become hard, you have waited too long.”
We asked Carter for some quick do’s and don’ts in succulent care:
- Use well-draining succulent/cactus soil.
- Research the watering needs of your particular succulents, since it can vary.
- Be patient. It’s okay if it takes a loss of a couple of succulents to gain some experience
- Never use regular potting soil by itself. Non-organic materials must be added so that it doesn’t retain too much water.
- Succulents don’t need misting. They aren’t ferns!
- Don’t use fertilizer too often or any that’s high in nitrogen. Excess nitrogen causes plants to grow fast, but makes them vulnerable to common pests