Planting, caring for and propagating succulents
Succulents are very special plants. Their unusual shapes make them unmistakeable. The best thing is: succulents are particularly easy to care for.
What are succulents?
Succulents look completely different to other plants in the garden, on the balcony or on the window sill. Varieties such as aloe, gasteria and stonecrop, as well as echeveria and the tree houseleek draw attention with their thick, fleshy leaves and shoots.
The name succulents is no coincidence. It is derived from the Latin word ‘succulentus’. This means ‘rich in sap’ and clearly refers to the water storage of these plants. This is present in both the leaves and the stems. This water storage also means the plants can survive a very long time without water. That makes them particularly robust and perfect for plant-lovers who forget to water plants now and again.
Where to plant succulents
Succulents are perfect for decoration thanks to their striking appearance. You can use them for interior design. For example, you could plant them in a hanging garden or build an attractive plant wall for them.
However, succulents also look great in stylish bowls or pots made from zinc, clay or terracotta. They are also a real highlight in a homemade flower pot made from a tree trunk.
Succulents do not need much space. So you can combine several species together and thereby ensure a particularly lively planting corner. You can even plant these different species in the same pot. Draped artistically on flower steps or arranged on a shelf, they can take the place of a picture or other eye-catchers in the room. If you have a house or garden wall you want to add greenery to, you can create a vertical garden with succulents and drain gutters.
You can find a particularly large selection of various species among the non-winter hardy succulents. You can buy aloe, kalanchoe and echeveria as a houseplant. However, they are also happy outside on the balcony or in the garden during the summer. Winter-hardy species such as stonecrop or houseleek can be planted in a rock garden or on dry stone walls. They also look good in troughs or other plant containers left out in the winter.
As previously mentioned, succulents are easy to care for. Moreover, they are happy even in the smallest spaces. This means you can also plant them in unusual containers. For example, they grow just as well on an old fragment of clay or a roof tile, as they do in worn out gardening shoes.
You only need to ensure the soil is permeable when planting. Cactus soil is a particularly suitable example. Alternatively, you can mix potting soil with sand. Succulents will also be happy in this substrate. The only important thing is to ensure the water can drain easily, as the plants do not tolerate waterlogging. Drainage holes in the pots or other containers are therefore very important. With a drainage layer in the bottom of the pot you can ensure additional protection against excess wetness. With a particularly permeable material used as a drainage layer, such as expanding clay, almost no waterlogging can form.
Cover the succulent’s soil with gravel. This will keep the rosette from lying on the substrate and beginning to rot.
Succulents look particularly natural if you place some larger pebbles between the plants. You can collect these from a river or buy them in a DIY shop. The plants are very happy in a sunny place in the garden, on the terrace or on the balcony. Alternatively, you can find a place for them in your home. However, this should get plenty of direct sunlight.
Caring for succulents
Succulents do very well in the event of a long, dry spell. They also generally tolerate high levels of heat well. The water stored in the leaves and stems keeps them supplied with everything that they need, even in extreme conditions for a longer period. The plants also evaporate very little moisture.
You do not generally need to water plants growing outdoors to begin with. The plants should only be watered if they have been dry for a very long time. Plants positioned in places sheltered from the rain and those indoors should only be watered when the soil is very dry. Succulents tolerate dryness considerably better than too much wetness.
Fertilise sparingly, at the most every three to four weeks. When fertilising, only use half the amount of liquid fertiliser recommended on the packaging or use a special cactus fertiliser.
Lots of succulents are easy to propagate. For example, from a leaf rosette. Plant them in sandy soil. You can also use side shoots or individual leaves for propagation. Plant them in propagating soil with the set. They will form roots there very quickly.
Sometimes, you may discover roots on the offsets when still on the mother plant. These then grow into the soil particularly quickly.
It is best to propagate your succulents in the spring or summer. Leave any moist cut points resulting from this to dry out for two to three days. Only slightly moisten the soil and set up the breeding pots in a shady place.
Winter protection for succulents
Light and cooler places are ideal for succulents in the winter. This could be a south-facing window, for example.
Houseleek and stonecrop are winter-hardy. So you can plant them in the garden even during the cold times of year, or leave them on the balcony. Place the plants in a location sheltered from the rain so that the wetness cannot damage the succulents. If the succulents grow in a bed, a permeable soil is particularly important in the winter. Otherwise, the soil will quickly become too wet for the plants. And wetness is much more dangerous for them than frosty temperatures.
Remember to get the rest of the plants winter ready now as well. We’ve provided all the tips for the garden and various plants here, so you don’t forget anything.
If you want to know more about when you should do what kind of work in the garden, you can find out the best times for all the important tasks in our Gardening Calendar.