Plant parenting 101 A simple beginner’s guide to succulents and tips to grow your collection

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If you are feeling lost as you have recently acquired a potted succulent, and you’re questioning why you have bequeathed yourself the task of raising another living entity, here’s a simple beginner’s guide to help you cater to all your plant’s needs. As the caretaker of your pet plant, you have now officially entered the world of plant parenting.

Water

Succulents appreciate thorough watering after the soil dries. Rather than using a spray bottle, soak the soil of the pot (not the plant itself, or else it may rot) until it visibly drains out through the bottom. Then allow the soil to dry completely before watering once again. Throughout the spring and summer months, water your succulents approximately once a week, and two to three times a week during the late fall and winter to replicate its dry period. However, to ensure that it has been adequately watered, and to prevent overwatering, check the soil for dampness before watering and reduce water amounts for plants in containers without drainage.

Soil

When it comes to soil, invest in cactus potting mix, which allows for draining and drying. Pots and containers with holes at the bottom are critical to help gauge whether your plant has been sufficiently watered. Otherwise, if you are using a container such as a mason jar, a teacup, or a terrarium, consider layering the bottom with pebbles or mixing sand into your soil to encourage water draining.

Sunlight

Most succulents enjoy bright but indirect sunlight. If you opt for a minimum of three hours of bright light with partial shade or facing the plant towards an east-facing window to catch the morning rays (while evading harsh afternoon light), your succulent should thrive. Generally, leaves that have become abnormally brown or red are a pretty good indication of sunburn. On the other hand, if your succulent is stretching towards the light due to the lack of sunlight and you’re unable to relocate the plant, you may turn the plant periodically to reduce the effects of leaning or purchase a grow light. Another method to save the plant’s aesthetic is the useful technique of succulent propagation.

Propagation

Succulent propagation, if successful, is an excellent way to grow more plants without having to purchase any! Start by holding onto the base of a lower leaf, gently wiggling it until it snaps off the stem. Once you have gathered enough leaves, place them on a paper towel for a couple of days or weeks until they dry and callous over at the base. After a couple of weeks, pink roots with new, tiny plants may emerge from the leaf and you can place it on soil, watering it when dry. When the leaf withers completely, simply remove the new plant from its leaf and place it in soil. If you wanted to save your succulents from stretching out, you may also cut off the very top of the plant rosette (in addition to picking the leaves). Once the stem callouses, replant it into another pot. As for the stump of the original plant, new and smaller plants should grow where there once were leaves.

Succulent photo taken by Faith Rahman

As spring comes into full bloom, if you experiment and stay diligent with your plant parenting, you might just end up with an amazing family of succulents.