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How to plant succulents indoors

There are many different types of succulents available and growing succulents at home is more popular than ever. Keeping these plants alive is not always easy, though: not only can it be quite difficult to figure out how to water them, planting is also an issue. What kind of soil do they need? What type of planter is best?

Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to plant succulents indoors!

Haworthia succulent on white background | Full succulent planting guide
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What kind of soil do succulents need?

Succulents usually naturally occur in relatively arid environments with nutrient-poor soil. They have evolved to use any available water very effectively, which means they don’t do so well with too much water.

What this means when choosing soil for your indoor succulents is that you should always go for something very well-draining and definitely not too rich.

  • A good guideline is to use a mixture of regular potting soil and some type of gritty material, such as pumice, perlite or coarse sand. Although the ideal mixture depends on which kind of succulent you’re planting, equal parts grit and potting soil often work well enough.
  • Some succulent lovers also swear by extremely gritty mixtures that contain no potting soil at all, as these help reduce the risk of the plant contracting root rot. If this is your first time hearing about root rot, don’t worry, we’ll go into more detail about what it is below.
  • If you don’t feel like mixing your own soil (it can get a little messy, especially if you have to do it indoors), there are plenty of commercial succulent soil mixes out there that you can use, such as this one with potting soil.
  • Also keep in mind that most store-bought succulents should be repotted as soon as possible. Unfortunately they’re often planted in soil that retains too much moisture, which might clump around the roots and help lead to root rot.

Tip: Many nurseries nowadays appear to plant their succulents in coco coir. This is a great material but not for succulents: when it dries it completely clumps around the roots and makes them unable to take up water. The succulent should carefully be removed from its coir prison.

Various succulents and planters on newspaper ready for repotting.

What kind of planter do succulents need?

When choosing a planter for your succulents, the same rules should be kept in mind: drainage is the keyword here. Standing water can kill your succulents before you even notice something is wrong.

Many succulent lovers prefer using terracotta pots, as these are porous and allow for quick water evaporation. They also usually have a drainage hole, which is another must when it comes to succulent planters.

Although experienced succulent growers can probably control their watering well enough to keep succulents alive in pots with less drainage, going for planters with a drainage hole is usually just the easiest choice. If you don’t like the look of terracotta, be sure to at least look for a planter with a hole in the bottom or drill one yourself.

Always choose a pot that’s appropriately sized for your succulent(s); definitely avoid anything too large, as the soil won’t dry quickly enough and root rot becomes a risk.

Succulent care

What kind of lighting do succulents need?

Unlike a lot of popular houseplants, most succulents thrive in direct sunlight. In fact, they may get leggy and wither away without it!

So if you can, it’s highly recommended to put your succulents in the brightest spots in your home. Although they can manage with moderate lighting, they definitely do better bathed in sunlight. If your home is dark you can consider supplementing with some artificial lighting.

What kind of humidity do succulents need?

Given that many of the varieties are desert plants, most succulents prefer very little humidity.

Fortunately, most households tend to be on the dry side, so in that respect your succulents should feel right at home.

Rosette succulent

What kind of temperatures do succulents need?

Many varieties of succulents tolerate a wide range of temperatures. In the home, you generally don’t have to worry about temperatures too much since room temps are absolutely fine for these plants.

If you grow your succulents outdoors be sure to protect them from the harshest afternoon sun to prevent burning. In a sheltered spot and if your climate is not too extreme you might be able to keep your succulents outside all year long! Some species, like the thimble cactus, can even tolerate a light frost.

Just keep in mind that while succulents can tolerate extreme temperature fluctuations, they do best when given time to slowly adapt.

How much water do succulents need?

Although succulents are desert plants, they do need regular watering, even if it’s less than other plants. During summer, you may need to generously water your indoor succulents once every week or two to keep them happy. Do still let the soil dry out entirely between waterings; succulent roots are really not used to any degree of standing water at all.

In the winter it’s recommended to water less. This is when the growth period slows down and succulents are usually in a state of semi-hibernation.

If you’re still not sure how much water your plant needs, have a look at the full succulent watering guide.

Gasteria succulent | How to plant succulents

What kind of problems do succulents have?

Although succulents are hardy plants and ideal for beginners, here are some examples of things to watch out for:

  • Root rot. Since it’s been mentioned multiple times already, root rot is definitely something to watch out for with succulents. Root rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that happens when plants sit in stagnant water too long.

    The infection attacks the roots, which can kill plants if not caught early enough. Unfortunately, it’s often too late by the time you see the signs but there’s still a chance that an affected plant can be saved through propagation.
  • Leaves turning mushy or yellow. Aside from root rot, overwatering can also lead to the leaves growing mushy. The leaves may also turn yellow and fall off, although this can be a sign of underwatering as well. In both cases, adjusting your watering schedule and keeping an eye on the soil’s moisture level can help.
  • Leaves turning brown or stretching. Although succulents often enjoy direct sunlight, too much for too long can sometimes lead to browned, scorched leaves. If there’s too little light, you may see the succulents start to stretch towards the nearest light source instead. In both cases, changing the location and/or adjusting the lighting can help.
  • Pests. The most common pests for succulents are mealy bugs, root mealy bugs, and scale. Depending on what you’re dealing with, you can use a combination of home remedies and commercial insecticide to treat infestations. 
Pachyphytum oviferum succulent in the sun.
Your succulents will love living in terracotta planters!

Are succulents toxic to cats and dogs?

The answer to this varies wildly depending on what kind of succulent you have. While some succulents may be safe for cats and dogs, others are toxic. In the case of cactus varieties, it’s the thorns that you have to watch out for!

Have a look at the pet safe plants tag if you’re looking for some greenery to add to a home with animals. There are plenty of succulents on the list as well.

Where to buy succulents?

Since succulents are popular indoor plants, you can often find many varieties at your local stores and nurseries. However, if you’re looking for something more specific, you can buy succulents online!

Cover photo: Echeverias by faroutflora.