All images: OhNoRachio
So. You’ve snapped up several succulents and Instagrammed the shit out of them – now what the hell are you supposed to do? And if everyone says they’re so easy to look after, why do yours (ahem, mine) appear to be slowly dying?!
I spoke to self-confessed succulent addict Rachel Basinger – no SRSLY; she owns hundreds of ’em – who runs her own independent store OhNoRachio, and handily sells amazing handmade ceramics to house your plants in:
“Being a seasoned plant killer in the past, I first stumbled across these squishy pretties at my local IKEA and decided to buy one. I knew nothing about them, except that this plant was lilac and amaaazing! I popped it on one of my sunny living room windowsills and, as with all my plants (ooops) pretty much forgot about it. To my surprise, it actually seemed to thrive on my neglect, unlike its peers (namely a rather brown maidenhair fern that was flailing next to it).
“Over the following years, my collection of succulents has grown to enormous proportions: I have around 150 individual plants now around my home and studio. In fact, my boyfriend has implemented a rule in the house that if I buy another succulent, he gets to make a geeky game purchase, which is fair enough…”
Over to Rachel, then, for some pro plant advice…
What even is a succulent?
Succulents, also known within the botany world as ‘fat plants’ (no joke) are essentially a group of plants that retain water within their stems or leaves, giving them a certain loveable, plump squishiness.
Y’see, it’s all about saving water to survive in arid climates and poor soil conditions. To you and me though, that basically means they’re hardy blighters AKA pretty tricksy to kill. In fact, more often than not people end up killing them with kindness, by massively over watering the poor devils. They actually require very little care, aside from as much sunshine as they can possibly get!
Where to buy
You can get hold of succulents in all manner of places these days as they have grown in popularity BIG TIME over the last 18 months or so. Some of my favourite places to score interesting new babes are eBay; IKEA and local garden centres. eBay is a gold mine as there are a ton of collectors who sell their own propagated succulent babies.
How to plant
You’ll want to find a nice planter to house your new pretties. I happen to sell them *wink wink* but you can also score some great vintage numbers in charity shops! Succulents aren’t fussy, and like to be planted close to one another unlike many other plants.
Get soil sorted
What they do need though is well draining, gritty soil – not normal compost, they don’t like having moist roots! You can buy specialist succulent and cacti soil (yup, that’s a thing) from local garden centres, but I like to make my own mix (succulent geek right here) adding in horticultural grit, perlite and sand. This ensures the soil dries out quickly.
If you find yourself a planter without drainage, all you need to do is line the base with a thin layer of stones. Just incase you do water a little too frequently, this will stop the delicate roots sitting in water!
When to water
Once you’ve planted up your new babes, aftercare is simple. I can’t stress enough how little you actually need to water them. Especially over the winter. Here are my super simple watering tips:
- During spring/summer, water around once a week. Don’t go mad, a small drink will suffice. It’s always better to give them too little than too much.You’ll know if they need more as their fat little leaves will start to wrinkle a little. If this happens just top them up again.
- Do not water again if the soil still feels damp to the touch, you should always let it dry out completely before giving them more!
- Feed them once a month with a normal plant food like BabyBio or Tomorite, just make sure you don’t pour any water with the fertilizer on it onto the leaves. ‘Peasy.
- During autumn/winter you virtually don’t need to water them at all as they won’t start growing again until late March. I water approximately once every 2 months, really.
Most importantly though – make sure they live on the sunniest windowsill you can find. If they don’t get enough direct light they’ll start to get all leggy!
Plus, a little #greengeek bonus is that you can propagate most of them incredibly easily from just a single leaf! Yup, if you carefully pluck off a leaf or two from the stems, all you need to do is lay them directly on top of some soil and within a few weeks you should notice some tiny roots sprouting out, and eventually a baby plant, MUCH EXCITE. I did a more detailed post about propagating succulents over on my blog.
They really are the most unfussy plant pals, bless ’em.
Thanks for the pro tips, Rach! We’ll be green-fingered in no time…