A Beginner’s Guide To Growing & Caring for Succulents
You may not surprised to learn that indoor air can be more toxic than the outdoor air in some cases as the air can accumulate toxic agents such as benzene or formaldehyde. In 1989, to find a solution to this problem NASA conducted a study on the air filtering capacity of common indoor house plants. Many succulent plants made it to that list. In his ted talk titled ‘How to grow fresh air’– researcher Kamal Meattle demonstrated how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used indoor can boost productivity by 20 percent and be beneficial for long term health. One of them is called the perennial snake plant. A common indoor succulent. And in his book ‘Sleep Smarter’- Author Shawn Stevenson describes how keeping some specific plants around can increase the quality of sleep.
Okay, now that you are convinced that you should start growing plants indoors, we suggest you start with a variety of succulent plants. Succulents are those plants that grow in arid environments. They have fleshy leaves and swollen stems that store water. They are often called the ultimate enduring houseplants and perfect for beginners as they require less maintenance and can survive a period of neglect. Here is how you can start growing your succulent:
Image: Snake Plant-a common indoor succulent. (Sansevieria trifasciata)
1) Choosing the right species
Most succulents thrive in warm climate and sunny outdoor conditions, some species can also tolerate low light indoors. So, you should do some research to select a succulent from a range of species suited to your needs. Identifying the right species will let you create optimal conditions for the plant, and will provide you with customized instructions for that particular species.
There are many effective plant identification tool online or you can consult with your local gardening store. The following guidelines are suitable for most species of succulents. but if you are growing a rare species, it is better to follow a more customized guideline.
2) Choosing the Right Type of Soil
Many succulents are endemic desert species, so naturally, they can not tolerate damp soil. One of the most common beginner mistakes is not using soil that drains quickly. Damp condition and less aeration will lead to rotten stems, which can kill the plant.
For indoor succulents, experts suggest using ‘ Gritty mix’. It is a combination of large particles of pine bark, Bonsai block and turface. Many DIY guides are available online that will help you to make your own mix. but If you cannot manage these materials, the last option is to use pre-bagged cactus mixes. However, This mix does not drain well. Adding pumice or perlite to these mixes will help them drain better and dry out more quickly.
Another benefit of using gritty soil is that those pesky fungus gnats will not be able to breed there. Since soil gnats live and breed in moist soil they can’t survive in a fast-draining gritty soil mix.
3) The Optimal Lighting Condition
To ensure proper growth most succulents will need as much sunlight as possible. So, indoor succulents need to be kept where they will get the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day, generally by the window. Many Succulents species tend to lean towards the sun, so leaning might be a sign that they need to be in a sunnier spot. If you can not ensure the proper sunlight exposure you might consider getting a grow light. These lights can also add to the decoration of your room.
image: Succulents under a growing light.
4) Watering Procedure
Over-watering is the number one cause that kills succulents. Firstly, make sure that there are drainage holes in your succulent container. As a beginner even if you over-water the plant the water can drain out quickly thus avoiding any chance of rotten stems. later once you get comfortable growing succulents you can move them to a pot without drainage holes.
Then, you need to let the soil dry out completely before you water again. Water deeply but less frequently. Watering this way will ensure that the plant can grow stronger and deeper root system. This way they can survive longer periods of time without being watered. If you are unsure whether you have watered enough, always err on the side of less watering. This video demonstrates the procedure clearly.
And finally, avoid using spray bottles, spraying water might look effective. But it will not enable these plants to develop healthy roots. Healthy roots mean a healthy plant.
5) Continuous monitoring
Succulents grow best during the spring and summer, followed by a dormant-like period in the winter. So, you might consider fertilizing the plant in spring if you notice little growth. However, if you are not careful they can begin to stretch out and will start losing their adorable compact shape.
Finally, you should wipe-off the accumulated dust on the leaves. And might consider taking the plant outdoor once every four months.