In recent years, succulents have grown in popularity. And it is fairly easy to understand why.
For starters, these plants are easy to care for. Compared to other plants, succulents are easier to care for and require little maintenance. Sure, these plants require watering from time to time. But when you nail down the basics, these plants can thrive with minimal care.
Another distinct advantage of succulents over other types of plants is that these do not require frequent watering. These plants were originally grown in arid areas. Their drought-resistant properties make them the perfect addition to gardens located in dry climates.
Succulents can be grown indoors or outdoors. Contrary to what some people may believe, these plants do not require full sun to thrive. In fact, you can grow succulents in a low light area in your garden or a bright area inside your home.
Do succulents need soil?
Yes succulents need soil in the long term. If you purchased a succulent grown in a container of sand, rocks, or pebbles, it is important to know is that the succulent will not survive in that container for a long time.
Because succulents are resilient plants, it is possible for these to survive for some time without soil. However, over the long term, these plants can wither and die. For these plants to thrive and reach their full potential, they need soil.
Succulents can survive for weeks or even months without soil because of their hardy nature. Some species grow in arid deserts while some can be found near sea coasts. Furthermore, these plants have evolved in such a way that they can survive long dry spells due to their ability to store water.
As your succulent’s roots grow and develop, it will need a bigger container, preferably filled with the right type of soil. If you leave your plant in its original container, it can wither and die, despite your best efforts.
In the short term, there are a few things that you can do to keep your succulent happy without soil.
First, you should ensure that your plant gets adequate sunlight. Like most plants, succulents require an adequate amount of sunlight to grow and survive over the long term.
Second, you need to learn how to water your plant. Unlike other plants, succulents do not need to be watered very often. In fact, one of the mistakes new plant owners make is to water their succulents constantly. Constant moisture is detrimental to the well-being of succulents.
The right type of soil for succulents
If you want to grow and propagate succulents, you will need to plant these in soil. But you can’t use the same type of soil you use for your other plants.
But what kind of soil do succulents need? The best type of soil for succulents is a well-draining soil.
What exactly is a well-draining soil? Well-draining soil is a type of soil that drains well. Unlike other plants, succulents have a tendency to rot when they sit on wet soil for an extended period of time. Well-draining soil can soak up a considerable amount of moisture but can dry up quickly.
It should be noted that drainage is influenced by a few factors. These include moisture level, sunlight, airflow (especially if the succulent is kept indoors), and soil composition and quality.
Essentially, that means that there is not one soil that is best for all succulents or environments.
Before buying soil for your succulents, there are a few critical factors that you should look into.
Organic to mineral material ratio
Soil consists of both organic and mineral materials. Organic materials refer to elements that come from living materials. Mineral materials, on the other hand, refer to soil components derived from non-living things.
Gravel is an example of a mineral material, while plant debris is an example of organic soil material.
Both types of soil materials are vital for the growth of succulents. Organic materials provide the plants with vital nutrients while mineral material provides drainage and support.
Soil for succulents should contain anywhere between 40% to 80% mineral content. Percentages will vary depending on the type of succulent you own as well as environmental factors.
Seasoned succulent growers recommend organic materials like potting soil, compost, and coconut coir. You can use a mix of these.
For mineral materials, experts recommend fine gravel, coarse sand, and perlite. Avoid mineral materials that have a tendency to store water, like vermiculite.
Soil texture refers to the grit size of its mineral composition. Sand has the largest texture while clay has the smallest. In between these two is silt.
Texture influences two key factors. First, it determines how much water the soil can hold. Second, it influences how fast the soil will dry out.
As a rule of thumb, the finer the texture, the longer it will take for the soil to dry. Conversely, sandy soil, with its larger particles, dry out faster.
In short, if you are growing and propagating succulents, you should use sandy soil and avoid soil rich in clay.
Another important thing to consider when selecting soil for succulents is the environment. If you are growing your succulent outdoors in the ground, opt for sandy loam comprised of around 50% to 80% fine gravel or coarse sand.
You can even get away with planting succulents directly on the ground because of the combination of adequate sunlight, continuous airflow, and larger soil volume. You can improve drainage by planting succulents on mounds that facilitate faster drying of the soil.
On the other hand, if you prefer to grow your plant indoors in a container, use coarse grit minerals with a diameter between 1/8″ to 1/4″.
Using the right type of soil for your succulents will ensure that your plants will grow and thrive.
How to water your succulents
Whether you are growing succulents in soil or a soilless medium, it is critical to learn how to properly water these plants.
You can water your succulents either by spraying these or by using a syringe. Remember, you do not need to water your succulent daily. Instead, water your succulents when they seem to shrivel and their leaves begin to wilt.
Take note that overwatered succulents can also shrivel and wilt. The key difference between a succulent that needs water and one that is overwatered is how the plant feels to the touch. A succulent that needs to be watered does not look plump and feels flat. An overwatered succulent has a body and leaves that feel mushy.
Another important thing to remember when watering succulents is that these plants need enough sunlight. Overwatering combined with inadequate sunlight can lead to rotting.
In addition to proper watering and adequate sunlight, you should also strongly consider using fertilizers. Fertilizers provide the nutrients that succulents would otherwise get from the soil.
Image: istockphoto.com / evgenyb