The succulent group is a vastly diverse genus, a common feature is the plant’s ability to store water in its body and root system, yet sit in dry compost for long periods. Many succulent plants have evolved over the years to exist in extremely hot, barren, dry conditions but do also survive well here in the UK too with a little modification!
As with any plant, heat, light, water, and food are all key factors to consider when caring for your succulents. The growing season for most succulents is March to September and once tuned into caring for them, they are quite easy to keep. Here is our general succulent care guide where we have shared our experience of growing many succulent plants under glass in Surrey. If you have found what works for you in your location – stick to it! It is important to understand your climate, what is hardy in the south west might not be hardy in the north west, we like to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping these plants alive and looking great. Here you will find our general care tips for all succulents, visit our Aeonium care page and Echeveria care page for further tips on growing these beautiful plants. Visit our “How To Pot Up A Summer Succulent Bowl” page for ideas to make the most of your plants this summer and create a patio table center-piece.
General Care Tips
Keep frost free. We heat our greenhouses to +5°C
Most succulents can stand some cold if they are dry, but certainly do not want to go down much below freezing (0°c). Indeed, it is the time spent dormant in the cold months that helps some plants develop flowers in the warmer months.
As much as you can give it.
We grow our plants either outside in the summer months or in the greenhouse all year round.
The native bright climates of these plants provide strong light most of the year round which allows the plants to grow in a vibrant compact way. Whilst not all succulents want bright sunshine, most do. We have found those that prefer a shadier spot often are variegated, or have translucent leaves, but not always; green Aeonium tableforme is found growing on the shady sides of cliffs in their natural habitat. If you find your plant raising up from the center or has leaves that are not as tightly packed as they were – it is likely the plant does not have the best light levels. Outside is where the best light is, under glass the levels drop, and moving into a porch or sunny windowsill is lower still, and a shady windowsill has very reduced light levels.
Soak it, then let the compost dry out completely. Repeat.
We are regularly asked “How often should I water my succulent?” the easiest answer to this question is “When the compost is completely dry… and if you are not sure wait a further day or two…or even three.”
The most important thing about watering is to soak the compost well, then let it dry out completely before you water it again. The plant will store all it needs from the good soaking it is getting. Just as in their native climate, often a deluge of rain occurs which dries up fast.
The rate at which the plant dries out will depend on where you put it. On a hot bright windowsill the plant will dry out quicker than on a cooler more shady windowsill. We are watering more than once a week in the hot summer months in our hot greenhouses. Not letting the plant dry out is the most common cause of succulent deterioration, indeed withholding water can help develop the colours in some succulent plants. Take comfort in the fact that you are less likely to kill your succulent plant by not watering it, than from over watering… but they do need water to grow and thrive.
Re-pot your plants. Choose pots with drainage.
The plants will be getting all their nourishment from the compost they are sat in, so to get the most from your plants you should re-pot them every year….2 at the most! and feed them to ensure they are getting any missing nutrients, this will help with leaf colour and flowering. Always choose a pot with drainage holes and empty saucers, this will ensure the plant can get rid of any the excess water they do not need.
We use John Innes No.2 and Horticultural Grit or Perlite, in a ratio of 60:40 Compost to Grit. We feed our plants with our own fertiliser that is low in nitrogen and high in potassium and phosphorus together with many trace elements especially designed for this plant group. We certainly have had some great results with this mix.