How to Care for Succulents and Cacti

Jaime Faulkner, Editor In Chief, 2012-2013

If you’ve been to a nursery or garden center lately, you have probably seen a cluster of strange looking plants for sale near the cacti. Succulents, or plants that store water in thick leaves or pods, have surged in popularity over the last few months. According to Houseplants.com, the reason for their sudden demand is because succulents are both “beautiful and nearly indestructible.” Lucky for Phoenicians, we are in a prime location for succulent success; these goofy little plants are native to North American desert area. Here are all the tools and tricks you need to start your own succulent/cacti indoor potted garden.

STEP 1: Choosing a Plant

Head to your closest Home Depot, Lowes, or Ikea. You can check out a local nursery if you want, but the big name suppliers have a good selection of plants without ridiculous price tags. Have a careful eye when choosing your plants; avoid succulents that look brown, bleached, or droopy. Don’t choose cacti with spiny needles or jumping spines if you have animals or little siblings who might get into trouble.

STEP 2: Maintenance

After you’ve made your selection, repot your succulent or cactus. Make sure to get a pot slightly bigger than the plastic container your plant currently is in to give it future root room.  A beginner’s mistake is to place your new plants in direct sunlight; these plants can survive in extreme heat but they certainly don’t thrive in it. Too much sun can actually boil the water in your plant’s leaves and kill it. Place it somewhere with frequent, but not constant, bright sunlight. If your plant isn’t getting enough sun, it’ll start stretching towards the light source so you’ll know when to move it. Make sure to water regularly, but let the soil dry out in between. If you don’t let the soil drain, the roots can get waterlogged and rot away. Fertilize the same way you do with regular plants.

STEP 3: Enjoy!

This might sound like a lot to think about, but don’t be discouraged! Despite these details, succulents are incredibly hardy and a great beginner plants. They can be medicinal, like aloe vera, colorful, like moon cacti, or just really adorable. Once you’ve gotten the hang of caring for succulents and cacti, you can expand by getting more. They also make great and easy gifts.

With these tips, you should be able to successfully raise a cactus or succulent and watch it thrive!