By Erin Weaver
Are you about as nurturing as the Sahara? Does every plant you try and coddle wither and die? Good news, friends! Succulents have taken the country by storm, occupying every Pinterest board and Anthropologie catalogue in sight, and it’s not too late to get in on the craze (even if you’ve of a green thumb in the past). Succulents and cacti are great in the tight spaces of dorm rooms and crowded student housing alike, and will sit happily on any windowsill for as long as you choose to forget about them – which, believe it or not, they take rather kindly too. They’re some of the most forgiving, resilient little plants out there, but that doesn’t mean they’ll thrive in every condition. To help you strike the perfect balance between apathetic and overbearing, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks to keep your succulents as happy as possible.
Place them somewhere well-lit – but not all the time – to navigate the territory between maximum sunlight and sunburn.
Succulents generally like as much sunlight as possible, but if you start to notice that those little waxy leaves are taking on patches of light brown, give them a break from the direct sunlight and move the plants to an area that gets light only during certain hours of the day. This often entails moving the succulents off the windowsill and into another sunny swath of the room, and generally only applies to the littler succulents; ever-stubborn varieties of cacti are also usually unaffected by this phenomena.
The number one cause of untimely succulent death? Overwatering.
This is where you shed your green thumb sensibilities and adapt the attitude of an uninterested parent. The general advice is to simply leave your succulents alone (much like the requests of petulant children: “Get out of my room, Mom”). However, this doesn’t mean ignoring your succulents entirely. As tenacious as they are, succulents can be fussy about their water intake. Aim to mirror the following cycle as much as possible: get a succulent’s soil soaked through and saturated with water, and then let it dry completely (and repeat until your succulent eventually outlives you, and you have to pass the duty off to your grandchildren!). While other varieties of plants like their soil moist at all times, this will kill off the more dessert-inclined succulents and cacti.
Plan on dealing with plants that try to run away from home, as it were.
Does your succulent have little “arms” that have shot away from the base plant and are clammering over the rim of the pot? Does your succulent look like it’s trying to escape? Then it’s time to re-pot! Much like goldfish, most varieties of succulents and cacti grow to the size of their container – and then some. While a huge succulent can survive in a small space, it would be much like a human being living in a walk-in closet: doable, but cramped. If you really want your succulents to thrive, plan on re-potting them about once every year (or sooner if your plant is particularly speedy in its growth).