The North Texas heat wave has sent a lot of residents searching for drought resistant plants that can withstand such hot temperatures. Succulents are hardy and nearly indestructible. They store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. These plants have adapted to survive arid conditions throughout the world, from Africa to the deserts of North America. No matter what kind of succulent you’re growing, the rules are pretty similar between the different species. Here are the general rules for growing top-quality succulents:
1. Succulents Prefer Bright Light
Watch the leaves for indications that the light level is correct. Some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. The leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed. Alternatively, an underlit succulent will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves. This condition is known as etoliation. The solution is to provide better light and prune the plant back to its original shape. Many kinds of succulents will thrive outdoors in the summer.
2. Moderate the Temperature of Your Succulents
Succulents are much more cold-tolerant than many people assume. As in the desert, where there is often a marked contrast between night and day, succulents thrive in colder nights, down to even 40ºF. Ideally, succulents prefer daytime temperatures between 70ºF and about 85ºF and nighttime temperatures between 50ºF and 55ºF.
3. Don’t Over/Under Water
Succulents should be watered generously in the summer. The potting mix should be allowed to dry between waterings, but do not underwater. During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every other month. Overwatering and ensuing plant rot is the single most common cause of plant failure.
- Overwatered plants are soft and discolored. The leaves may be yellow or white and lose their color. A plant in this condition may be beyond repair, but you can still remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and rotted, cut away dead roots and repot into drier potting media, or take a cutting and propagate the parent plant.
- Succulents prefer generous water during the growing season (spring and summer). An underwatered plant will first stop growing, then begin to shed leaves. Alternatively, the plant may develop brown spots on the leaves.
4. Use the Proper Soil
Succulents should be potted in a fast-draining mixture that’s designed for cacti and succulents. If you don’t have access to a specialized mix, considering modifying a normal potting mix with an inorganic agent like perlite to increase aeration and drainage.