give me all your succulent growing tips

September 27, 2012 |  Category:   happy purchases life

Don’t know why, but succulents never do well in our apartment. I like to think that I have a reasonably green thumb and I feel like I follow all the rules, but inevitably over time the leaves will start dropping one by one. I’ve tried watering less/watering more, moving the plants closer to direct sunlight on a south window, but the average lifespan of succulents in our apartment seem to be a few months and that is all. Why? Aren’t they supposed to be easy to care for?


These 3 plants might be my 6th or 7th attempt at growing succulents. My last attempt was a failure back in May and I can already see a few leaf drops on the bigger plant in the middle. Such a bummer! There’s always so much hope and optimism when I bring these suckers home. So tell me, readers, what is your secret?

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  • redorangepink September 27, 2012 at 3:02 am

    All three of the above look like they need more direct, strong, sunlight. When they grow all leggy like they’re reaching toward light with big gaps between leaves (like the middle one) you can tell. The one on the right is dropping its leaves low to try and maximise surface area to collect more light. In a healthy plant of the same sort, they’d be angled upwards. The one on the left is the healthiest, but you can see it is starting to flatten out its leaves like that, to try and get more sun. They also like fresh air flow around them- without it, they tend to get diseases. If they die from the centre – like it just turns to mush – that is caused by overwatering. Hope that helps. I collect succulents – have hundreds of them. Such amazing plants. Good luck!

  • Jen September 27, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Hi Jenna. I enjoy reading your blog. I once assisted an artist who ‘worked in plants’. There were many varieties of succulents in the studio. Your remedy: maintain a careful balance of light and water. Succulents thrive in bright, consistent, indirect light (north light). In fall water 1/4 cup every 3-4 weeks. If the plant is receiving more light intensity (east/west/south light), a little more water is ok. In winter you can almost hold off watering altogether. Ensure your plants are living in well-drained sandy soil. Less (effort, water, attention) is more! Good luck.

  • Marie Hansen September 27, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Jenna: Water them once a week and let them drain completely. they don’t need sun, just light. and should grow well. If you want to help them along, get some Miracle Grow liquid in a green bottle and follow the directions carefully. Should grow like weeds. Let me know how they do. Marie :-)

  • Laura September 27, 2012 at 5:41 am

    The one in the middle will thrive on total neglect. I’ve had one for at least 10 years if i water it twice a year that would be it. Good luck.

  • Neta September 27, 2012 at 7:08 am

    We have lots of succulents. They are all outside in the garden, either directly in the ground or in planters. They all recieve lots of sun fro at least a few hours and they shouldn’t be watered too much ( the soil should be dry before you water again ) i just rememberd i have a few in the house in little pots. One in our bath and a few more on windows sills, i water them once every 2 months !!

  • Sarah September 27, 2012 at 7:31 am

    ooh yes i am v interested in this too. i’ve just bought a baby succulent and i do have a bad track record with killing house plants. any tips much appreciated!

  • Jenna September 27, 2012 at 8:22 am

    @redorangepink thanks for your specific comments about each one. I just bought these from the store, so the state of each is how they were at the store, not the result of how they are growing in our apt. Will keep your suggestions in mind!

  • Kate September 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I have jades as well. My strategy is a mixture of sand and potting soil, watering twice a week, lots of sun but plants are in room temperature, and Miracle Grow every couple of months. Plants are tricky though!

  • barbara September 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

    less water, less less water.
    and yes to the sunlight, but remember, always behind a curtain, otherwise they will ‘burn’.

    always so lovely to read you.
    barbara, italy

  • soda September 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I find the succulents that are completely ignored are the ones that survive. I tried to nurture a cutting once and it completely died on me, but the cuttings that I just threw into a pot to deal with later (and forgot about for 3 weeks) are thriving! Generally, I just try to water them once every two weeks but I water a lot and make sure it drains. Good luck!

  • nerissa September 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I have also had success with using specialized potting soil–that is used for cactus plants. (I think I may also mixed it with regular potting soil, too). My dad (who has a total green thumb) scoffed at the idea of “special succuleunt soil.”. You could buy a bag, or mix it like Kate mentions above. I managed to rescue a Christmas cactus this way.

    I second good light.Also, I occasionally will dust my jade’s leaves, either with a towel or a light spritz of water. But you don’t want to soak the leaves.

    I water haphardazly.

  • nan September 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I used to grow them in Southwest (now live in eastern woods, too dark) — here’s what I did: rarely watered them but always washed them off with the sink sprayer — they are VERY sensitive to dust, mites & bugs and collect them easily. Use plant-safe cleaner if you’re using anything besides water. Make sure their soil isn’t impacted (hard, packed too densely). They don’t do great in direct sun — indirect light is what they love, and plenty of it.
    (just read comment before — yes — a plant sprayer is a good way to go too!)

  • Annelies September 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    They thrive in the bathro. They love the humidity.

  • Erin September 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I have several succulents growing. The lady who has a greenhouse in my area that specializes in these plants told me to think about watering this way – once a month put the plants in kitchen sink (pots must have holes to drain) and water them like a soaking, desert rain. Saturate the soil, let it drain, saturate again…drain. Leave them sitting in the sink over night to drain completely and then leave them for a month. Do this once a month. This approach has worked well for mine. They sit in south facing windows, with a lot of sun all day – at times it is pretty direct – and they don’t show any burning, maybe get drier faster.
    I have had several off shoots from my plants that i have been able to plant in new pots and gave away about 20 new little plants to my sister to grow.
    You can also regrow an entire plant just from a “leaf” of an old one. You can read up on that, but it is pretty simple.
    Hope that helps.

  • Holly September 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I am just as useless at this, but recently picked up that Miracle Grow made just for succulents, and it seems to be working.

  • oilandgarlic September 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I ignore my succulents and they thrive. They do get some watering but I only make a point of extra water when their leaves are visibly drying up — that’s how bad I am with paying attention to them. Mine are planted outside though. Some are in indirect light; some are in direct sun. Maybe your pots are too small once they get bigger?

  • Joy September 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Well-draining pot. Direct sunlight. Warm enviro. Water occasionally.

    Having said that, I didn’t know that succulents grow in NYC. I live in Los Angeles.

    My succulents like to be left alone in the sun.

  • Anna September 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I use the saturating-desert-rain-in-the-sink method with decent success. One trick that I have had good luck with is the water temperature: make sure it is warm to the touch.

  • Stephanie @ Blawsom September 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I had the same problem with orchids. I was told they were low-maintenance & only needed a spray of water weekly. LIES… all LIES! They’re as good as dead. I also love succulents… but with my track record… I’d probably kill them off too.

  • April September 28, 2012 at 12:53 am

    My only experience with succulents is with aloes, but we’ve been growing them for years. We’ve nurtured quite a few to a very large size. I agree with those of love that say the best way to keep them alive is to mostly ignore them. We water when the soil looks extremely dry, and keep them near windows. We gave one to our mother in law, and she killed it within weeks by over watering.

  • Ilenia September 28, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Same here. All the other plants in our apartment grow (and live) with no problems except for succulents.
    The only one that survived more than the others lasted a year and I completely ignored it! But I guess that my lack of attention was also the cause of it’s short life.

  • Pink Ronnie September 28, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Hi Jenna,
    It’s been too long since I’ve last visited! Have enjoyed catching up on reading your posts. Unfortunately I have no succulent advice to offer as I have yet to take the plunge myself (even though I keep thinking about it). I’ll have to come back to all the comment advice on this post when/if I ever pluck up the courage to buy my first succulent!
    Ronnie xo

  • Christina September 28, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Replant in a larger pot. If the roots are root-bound (the roots have reached the bottom and are all swirled up), gently loosen the roots a little with your fingers (some roots will break a little which is okay).

  • Jenna September 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for all these suggestions! I think what i might do is repot the middle one with mixture of sand/soil. I seem to be doing everything else that people have suggested except this. We’ll see how it goes!

  • Mette Camilla September 30, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I have a succulent that I’ve had for four years now. It lives in one of my living room windows (facing east) and to be honest I don’t water it that often (cause I forget), still it seems to be thriving – it’s about five times bigger than it was when I bought it. So my advice would be to put your plants in a window and “forget” about them. When they’re dry give them water (that might take 2-3 weeks depending on how warm it is) but not too much, and then “forget” about them again. Good luck.

  • l o v e l y t h i n g s October 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Yes…I think everyone might be right…mine do really well and I think it might be because I keep forgetting about them! They are quite resilient-at least in my experience…so don’t give up on them.

  • caroline October 2, 2012 at 1:45 am

    my secret is go crazy in taking care of them the first week of their life then forget you ever had them. I have these succulents that are probably 4 years old and I never water them. they sit outside in my balcony where it can get really, really hot. the only times I remember to water them is when I happen to see flowers blooming in the summer. I don’t know how they’ve managed to live so long.

  • Linda October 2, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Hi Jenna, found the way I treat my succulents in all the comments above. I have a jade plant and some cactus and they grow best with little water and lots of light. I almost dried out my aloe but it survived still. I use cactus soil too and have made the best experiences with it… :) Hope that your plants will grow fast and pretty :)

  • Sarah October 3, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Go easy on the water—just a wee dribble every week/fortnight. Mine get not direct sunlight and are going strong. Good luck :)

  • Katerina October 4, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Hello Jenna. i have lots of succulents outside in my balcony under a tend. i live in Greece (hot hot hot) and in the summer i water them every day. they are health and strong.

    Katerina FF

  • Jen January 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Jenna, Can we get an update on the succulents? I recently bought some, trying my luck out as well :)

  • Jenna January 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    @Jen Well…they are still alive! They middle one dropped a few leaves but there is plenty of new growth of leaves up top. The one on the left looks great. The little one on the right dropped a lot of it’s bigger leaves, but the offshoots have multiplied and are growing tall so not sure where that one is headed.

  • Adam Ryan June 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    First thing to do is to put it in direct sunlight. It is best to water it about once a week. It’s weird but If you do any talking to it, it takes in the vibrations and it helps the succulent. My succulent has been doing well since I got it on the 31st of May. I have a different kind of succulent but it works the same.