Beginner’s guide to growing and propagating succulents

I have been growing succulents for a few years now, and after lots of trials and errors, and reading numerous articles on succulent plant care I have a beautiful collection of succulents that I am currently growing in containers. This post is for all the beginners who are desperately trying not to kill their succulents. I will give you tips on how to care and propagate succulents.

succulent plant care tips

How to care for succulents

1. Sunlight – They love it. They need it. 🙂 Most succulents will lose their beautiful rosette/compact form in shade. The stems would grow tall and leggy. This process is called etiolation. One way to bring them back to their original shape is to keep them in the sun for 4 to 6 hours. You can also cut the leggy part of the succulent, and plant the cuttings in the soil. The cuttings will grow roots in 2-3 weeks.

Some succulents need to be sun stressed to retain their beautiful bright colors. Be careful when the temperature goes above 40 degrees Celcius as too much sun can damage the leaves.

effect of sunlight on succulents - how to take care of sucuclents
Succulent plant care – Shade vs sunlight

2. Water – Overwatering will harm your succulent and it is hard to resurrect them once the root starts rotting. Wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering. Do not allow water to clog at the bottom of the bottom. Water once a week during summer months and once a fortnight or month during winter, depending on the weather conditions.

Tip – Often the upper layer of the soil may appear dry while it remains wet inside or at the bottom. Check two inches of soil with your finger to determine if your succulent needs water.

If you think you have overwatered your soil, take out the plant, let it dry for a few hours before planting in dry soil. Keep checking the roots/leaves once in a while to make sure your succulents are healthy.

3. Soil – I have been growing my succulents in normal garden soil that is available in Bunnings. One of the sellers suggested that the potting mix is good enough for succulents if you don’t water them too much. Given Sydney weather, this has worked well for me. Please note that nutrient-rich soil used for growing other house plants and vegetables might do more damage than good.

Make sure the soil is porous and the container has holes at the bottom to allow good drainage. Good soil is essential for growing healthy succulents.

4. Bugs – Succulents are susceptible to mealybugs. These are tiny white insects that appear as a soft cottony substance on roots and insides of the leaves. They can slowly kill your plant by sucking the juice out of it. The white substance is a telltale sign of infestation. Apart from that, your plant would start looking unhealthy, withered, and stop growing even after good nutrition and sun.

treat mealybug infestation in succulent

Checking the leaves isn’t enough to gauge the level of infestation. You will have to pull out the plant and make sure the roots and soil aren’t infected as well.

Tips – Spraying the plant with soap water or 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) has worked for me to get rid of the mealybugs. I also try to manually remove them from the plant with thin sticks.

Here’s a good article on how to get rid of mealybugs. I hope these tips will help you in the succulent plant care.

How to propagate succulents

Succulents can be easily propagated from leaves and stem cuttings, either in water or soil. It’s amazing to watch tiny buds grow from leaves and see little leaves appear on stems.

propagate succulents from leaves - succulent plant care

Tips to grow succulents from leaves and cuttings

  1. Pick healthy plump leaves from the parent plant. Trim your succulent if they have turned leggy or the mother plant has many chicks.
  2. Let the trimmed end dry out for a day or two
  3. Place the leaves/cuttings on the soil or hang them over water
  4. Spray little water once the roots appear. Be careful not to overwater
  5. Let the bud grow a few inches before moving them to a separate pot.
grow succulent from leaves

Succulent flowers are absolutely exquisite. Wait for Spring to watch them bloom and fill your garden with pretty colors.

succulent flowers - succulent plant care tips

Related Post – 10 house plants grown cuttings and leaves

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10 thoughts on “Beginner’s guide to growing and propagating succulents

  1. It seems less is more when it comes to succulents. I’ve killed many of them purely through over watering, I think. This is helpful. I do have one or maybe two surviving ones. Let me try to propagate them and see what happens.

  2. I always assumed they were easier to grow and didn’t need much care. I haven’t grown much plants to speak of, though. This is a nice and detailed guide to start with.

  3. Succulents haven’t survived for me at all. I have so many plants at home but succulents have always been tricky. Apparently it is hard for them to survive in Indian weather. I have been successful in propagating them many times, but while the plants grow, they wither and die. Apart from a healthy looking prickly cactus, I stopped growing succulents. Never worked for me.

    Kudos to you for being so successful with them.

  4. Oh FINALLY! Thank you so much for this post! I cannot tell you how many folks kept gifting me succulents because they were ‘easy’ and required close to zero attention. Especially because I was killing regular plants all the time. But clearly they were wrong, because then I started killing the succulents too, and wondered if I did indeed have a black thumb. The curse of being the plant killer.

    But this post is helpful. I will use it to kept the final succulent alive atleast.

  5. I cannot thank you enough for this post. I have been struggling to grow succulents but they always try to grow lean. From your post, I realised it is perhaps due to lack of exposure to sunlight.

  6. I had two or three succulents and I loved them. Or rather, loved them a bit too much, as I watered them ‘regularly’! They died thanks to that extra love.
    Thanks for this post, Raj. Succulents are a rage these days, I think, but not everybody is aware of how to care for them.

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