If you wish to grow succulents at home, the most important thing we need to understand is that they are very different from you regular indoor or outdoor plants. A vast majority of houseplant, almost 90%, are tropical plants and grow in jungles where the growing conditions are rich and moist. On the other hand, all succulents are desert plants that grow with little to no water through the year other than in the rainy season and loose sandy soil devoid of any organic matter.
To grow succulents successfully it is important to replicate their growing conditions with light, soil, and watering and that directly translates to leaving them alone for most part.
How to take care of Succulents in Indian Climate
Succulents are a favourite with all age group today for their ease of growing, their compact growing pattern, and carefree nature. Their popularity will keep growing for the next decade or so. With people gravitating towards green gifting options, succulents are a top choice because it can be gifted to almost anyone, irrespective of them being a gardener or not.
Succulents adapt to even harsh conditions. There are a few things that you should keep in mind while taking care of your succulents.
The best container for your succulents
Succulents don’t need very big pots. The most important factor when selecting planter/container for your succulents is drainage. Succulent planters need to have a sufficiently large drainage hole for quick draining after watering. Another factor that plays an important role in this is the potting mix that we will talk about later.
You should always water them sidewise on the roots and not directly from the top to avoid calcium stains of their foliage or branches. Do not over or under water the plants because that can cease plant growth.
The best potting medium for your succulent
Unlike other houseplants, succulents need a soil-less potting mixture customised for them. While the market is full of succulent potting mixes, you can make your own at home very easily. One of the biggest pressure points for succulents is the potting mix, the other being watering.
The potting mix needs to be well aerated and to let the roots breathe and avoid rot. A loose mix also enables the weak root system to flourish and make their way easily through the planter, as a healthy root system translates to healthier shoot growth. A well-draining loose mix also ensures that it doesn’t hold excess moisture.
A good succulent potting mix should contain equal part building material and drainage material. Perlite, coarse sand, wood chips, neem cake powder, compost, and cocopeat are great components. Mix them in equal parts and your good to go, or you can avoid all the hassle and buy a succulent potting mix off the shelf.
The correct way to water your succulent
Succulents don’t require to be watered regularly and they do better on the drier side and are extremely drought resistant. They need to be watered only when the potting mix is completely dry and then some.
If the soil has even a tiny bit of moisture, it doesn’t require any water. Succulents rest in the afternoon and that is when they absorb and utilize the water. It is important to water the succulents from the side and take care not to wet the leaves to avoid leaf burn. Water your succulent till it starts coming out of the drainage hole and let it drain completely.
The right light for your succulent
One of the major concerns of plant parents is plants not surviving after they get it home from the nursery. Most of the plants in nurseries are maintained under the green house. Once you get the plants home do not put them in the sun directly, ease them into it. Introduce them to partial sun and then full sun gradually.
Although most of the succulents are good with the sun but they can’t tolerate the scorching sun of Indian summer afternoons. They do great with 3-4 hours of sunlight when they are outside and brightest indirect light indoor. Ideal places indoors for them would be near south-facing windows or balcony or in east or west facing balconies or windowsills where they get morning or late afternoon sun. Inadequate light will make the plant leggy. Good light ensures better growth and stunning colours.
Ventilation for your succulent
Succulents require good ventilation to dry out the soil, especially in the winter season where it requires breathing. Non-ventilated containers and placements can suffocate the plants and cause them to rot due to build-up of moisture.
Ensure that air flows freely around succulents and don’t group them up with other tropical houseplants as they increase the moisture content in the air around them.
The right growing temperature for your succulent
Succulents are hardy plants that thrive at an optimum temperature range between 15-45 degrees. They do go dormant in the winter season and require even lesser watering to survive.
The correct fertilizers for your succulent
Succulents require diluted fertilizers in their growing season of spring and summer. Feeding it with any generic plant fertiliser once a month does the trick. One teaspoon of bone meal every month or a bi-monthly dose of 19:19:19 N:P:K foliar spray.
Winter care for your succulents
- Succulents can’t survive in freezing temperatures, so don’t leave them out.
- Damp soil in the winters can result in root rot. That’s why watering further reduces in the winter months.
- If the soil is not drying out easily in winters due to the moisture, add a layer of sand on top of the soil.
- If you do not want to move the plant here and there, choose a location at the temperature level of 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best succulents suited for Indian homes
Agave is a hardy evergreen succulent with a large rosette of narrow stiffly erect leaves with moderately spaced spines. They are slow-growing plants that thrive on a bit of neglect!
Furcraea is a hardy stemless evergreen succulent, very well suited to Indian climate, hot arid to tropical. Grown for their variegated foliage, they form a fountain of upright, sword-shaped leaves, resembling undulating ribbons.
Yuccas are slow growing and drought tolerant hardy plants. Eventually, they typically lose their lower leaves giving the plant a pleasant tree-like appearance.
Senecio is a fast-growing succulent with vines and once established, they are extremely drought tolerant, with small, white, cinnamon-scented flowers. They are extremely good-looking in hanging planters.
This succulent famous for a rosette of plump, stiff, upright leaves, Haworthias are a joy to grow and they come in many sizes and patterns and are extremely easy to grow.
One of the most widely planted succulents, Echeveria is well-loved for its rose-like form with fleshy leaves in a rainbow of colours. Echeveria is an evergreen and produces summer flowers.
Sedum is famous for its dense, soft foliage that get heavy as it matures. It looks great trailing out of erect planters with beautifully soft blue-green leaves. They love bright shade or partial sun and grow equally well indoors too.
Adeniums are beautiful choice to add a splash of colour to the garden with flowers that bloom for several weeks in shades of pink during the spring and summer months.
Hens and Chick - Sempervivum tectorum
This succulent grows in a cluster of the rosette. The main plant is known as the hen, and the offspring around it are called chicks. The offspring sprout their roots, becoming an independent plant.
Also known as a lucky plant, the fleshy, glossy, and oval leaves growing on the burgundy stems along with seasonal white to pink flowers.
Snake Plant- Dracaena trifasciata
Also known as valentine plant or sweetheart wax plant, Hoya plant consists of large-sized, thick, fleshy, and heart-shaped leaves. It produces a cluster of pink-hued and red-eyed, waxy flowers.
- Where can you grow succulents?
Succulents thrive in warm and dry climates. In India, it will thrive where it is hot throughout the year, both as indoor and outdoor plants.
- What’s the Correct Pot Size?
Succulents have shallow roots and they do well in smaller pots. While picking the container make sure that the pot has a drainage hole and is only 1 size bigger than the previous pot.
- How to Water Succulents?
Water the succulent only when the potting mix is completely dry and wait for a couple of days post that too. Water it from the side, taking care not to wet the foliage. Let the water drain completely from the drainage hole before placing it back.
- What is the best light for succulents?
Succulents grow best under direct sunlight. However, overexposure to sunlight can harm them. In India, many states receive harsh sunlight, especially during the summer afternoons.