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Succulent 101: FAQs for Beginners

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestSucculent 101: FAQs for Beginners

Succulents are fantastic plants for beginners and experienced growers alike. Easy-care as they are, though, they're in a category of their own when it comes to specific needs and treatment.

Satisfy your curiosity with common questions and answers that will put you on the right path to successfully turning your home into a thriving indoor succulent garden.


What are some great succulents for beginners?

Jade, aloe, snake plants, burro's tails, ponytail palms, and panda plants are some great starter plants for beginners. They're simple to grow and create a lovely, eclectic environment. Plus, they're easy to find in greenhouses and even grocery stores. It's not uncommon to see them sold year-round in box stores, too.

Share to PinterestSucculent houseplant Crassula on the windowsill
Andrey Nikitin / Getty Images


Are cacti also succulents?

Yes, cacti are considered succulents. A succulent is a drought-resistant plant with water-storing tissues in the leaves, stems, or roots. Cacti share this quality along, with a wide range of other plants including air plants. Succulents come in a vast array of shapes, styles, colors, and sizes to fit any setting.

Share to PinterestSmall exotic cacti in pots
Lester120 / Getty Images


What type of pot is best for my succulent?

If you purchased or received a potted succulent, there's no need to transplant it right away. Succulents prefer containers that aren't oversized, so you can usually go a few years before upgrading.

When choosing a pot, make sure it's size-specific and has plenty of drainage. These plants can also grow in terrariums, but you should have a bit of experience with succulents and watering regimens before trying this method.

Share to PinterestSucculent in the geometry glass terrarium
Polina Strelkova / Getty Images


Do succulents require special soil?

If you're transplanting a succulent, there are ready-made soils for the job. A cactus soil blend will work well, but you can also make your own with equal parts basic potting soil and sand. Adding a bit of pumice or perlite will help with drainage.

Fertilization isn't necessary, but a cactus formula is okay to use once or twice a year.

Share to PinterestWoman gardeners hand transplanting cacti and succulents in pots on the wooden table
Iryna Imago / Getty Images


What happens if a succulent has too much water?

Overwatering will kill a succulent, causing decay or even forcing the leaves to burst. Always water sparingly and gently. Though some varieties will tolerate completely dry soil, it's best to maintain a just slightly moist environment. Use your finger as a basis: if the soil remains dry down to your second knuckle, it's time to water.

Usually a little water every week or two will suffice. In the dormant winter months, most will need even less.

Share to Pinterestperson watering succulent plants son stairs outdoors in the front yard
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Can succulents live in rooms without much light?

Beginner succulents like snake plants, ponytail palms, aloe, and holiday cacti do well in low light, and some even require this environment. Once you have a good foundation and knowledge of succulent care, you can expand your indoor varieties.

Succulents can be somewhat temperamental with light. Some require eight hours of full sun, while others prefer solid indirect lighting. Do your research on each new species, but the telltale sign that any plant might need a bit more sun is if it leans toward the window. Red or brown stress coloring indicates too much light.

During warmer months, keep your houseplants outside for natural solar exposure if you can. Just monitor them so they don't burn or receive too much rain.

Share to Pinterestsucculent plants on white wooden shelf near glass window
Techa Tungateja / Getty Images


What if a succulent gets left outside in the cold?

There are certain varieties of succulents, like hen and chicks, that do well in cold weather. A common houseplant like jade does not, unless you live in an area that's warm year-round. And while your succulent can put up with a bit of a chill, frost or freezing temps will injure or kill it.

If your succulent is left outside uncovered for a few hours, a mild frost will typically damage the ends of the leaves. This is known as frost burn; gently remove the edges with sterile scissors. But if the plant is outside for a prolonged period and freezes, the water stored inside expands, causing the leaves, stems, or roots to burst. This will destroy your succulent.

Share to Pinteresthen and chicks succulent plant
Maksims Grigorjevs / Getty Images


Is it easy to propagate a succulent?

Succulents are one of the easiest plants to propagate. Most of them will do all the hard work for you by simply dropping their leaves naturally. These leaves root and create new plants.

If you want to start the process on your own, cut off a leaf or a section of stem with a sterile blade. Let it dry out a few days, then put it into soil.

Share to PinterestOverhead shot of children planting succulent plants.
Fran Polito / Getty Images


What are the most common succulent pests and diseases?

The biggest threat to a succulent is its environment. Poor drainage or overwatering will cause root rot, which can kill the plant if you don't catch it early and transplant it. Excess water can harbor fungus gnats, too.

Other common pests include mites and mealybugs. If you see evidence of an infestation, wipe off the leaves and use an organic horticultural oil as a repellent.

Share to PinterestWoman holding Astrophytum cactus with rust disease caused by pathogenic fungi of the order Pucciniales
Boyloso / Getty Images


Are succulents toxic to pets or humans?

Succulent toxicity depends on the plant. Many have a range of health benefits and are used externally for skin treatment and even cosmetics. Some contain vitamins and minerals that are nutritious to consume. But people with latex allergies should steer clear of using succulents medicinally.

Even though a lot of succulents aren't toxic, it's still best to keep pets away from them. Aloe, for example, has a pet-friendly gel, but the leaf surrounding it will give your furry friend a bellyache.

Share to PinterestCute ginger cat is sitting on window sill among flower pots with houseplants
Konstantin Aksenov / Getty Images


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