Grow Happy And Healthy Succulents With This Essential Guide

The Essential Guide to Growing Happy + Healthy Succulents

Succulents are all the rage, and for good reason. They are beautiful, interesting, and in most cases easy to care for. They are often used as decor both indoors and out, yet that doesn’t mean that they ARE decor (ie: meant to be set on a fireplace mantle to collect dust). Succulents are living plants that require some care to survive and thrive, and while caring for them is not complex, knowing the basics will help you have the healthiest plants around. Oh, and it’s fun to play with succulents. You can create all sorts of weird and wonderful planters – so much so that everything you see will begin to take shape as a place to plant. If you are new to gardening or consider yourself a brown thumb, I hope that succulents are your gateway to digging into a little garden therapy!This is THE Guide to caring for succulents - choosing, planting, water, light, pruning and even container ideas

What is a Succulent?

Succulents are a general name for any plant that has a swollen part that can hold excess water. This could occur in the leaves, stem, or even roots. Most commonly, people refer to succulents as plants with fleshy leaves, typically identified as types of Sedum, Sempervivium, Echeveria, Aeonium, and Crassula. Understanding that the word ‘succulents’ doesn’t refer to a type of plant, but instead describes its characteristics, will help when understanding how to care for them.Choosing Succulents and many other tips for how to keep them alive (and thriving!)Choosing Succulents

As most of the plants commonly referred to as succulents are different families, the care instructions will differ for them. The best way to learn what they need to thrive is to read the tag that comes in the plant. I have often seen succulents sold at shops that don’t specialize in plants (like furniture or grocery stores). These will usually not have proper labels so you may not even know the name or care instructions for that plant. In general, I buy my plants from reputable sources (garden centers, florists, farmer’s markets) as they will carry the healthiest selections. I have been known to pick up some scraggly, uncared for, unhealthy plants at various shops when they are on sale so I can quickly and inexpensively increase my supply. In general though, look for:

  • Healthy-looking leaves with no odd discoloration, spots, or tears.
  • Plants that look “full” with leaves that start at the base of the plant and are closely spaced, particularly in Sempervivium and Echeveria that have a rosette-shaped pattern to the leaves.
  • No pests on the leaves…
  • …or soil. Yes, pull the plant gently out of the pot and inspect the soil. Look for signs of pests, disease, or tightly-wound roots that indicate that the plant is root-bound. Watering succulents and how to rehydrate the soil as part of the essential care guide


Just because these plants are drought-tolerant doesn’t mean that they don’t need water. It simply means that they will be able to tolerate longer periods of drought. With regular watering and proper conditions, succulents can be low maintenance and last for years.

When you first plant succulents, water them until the soil is damp. Then, allow the soil to dry out before watering again. There is a big difference between soil drying out and drying up. Allowing the soil to feel dry to the touch is good practice, but if it has shrunk from the sides and become hard, you’ve waited too long. Rehydrate soil that has dried up by soaking the pot in a sink or tray with an inch of water for a few hours until the soil rehydrates.


Set succulents out in the sun for the best results. Again, keep in mind that all succulents do not come from the same family and some may require more or less sun than others. Plants that aren’t getting enough sun will get leggy (read: grow tall to reach for the sun). Plants that are getting too much sun will get scorched leaves.Beautiful greenhouse filled with succulents


If you are a lucky enough to live somewhere that winters are mild and succulents’ thrive all year, then lucky you! You will likely have plenty of huge succulents around to enjoy. For the rest of us, there is an important distinction to learn about succulents in colder climates: hardy succulents need a cold period at some point in the year to thrive, and tender succulents will die if left in the cold.

Hardy succulents like Sedum and Sempervivum are wonderful in cold-climate gardens, particularly in containers. In the fall, move the containers under cover (but not indoors) and leave them alone for the winter. I put mine under a bench or deck next to the house so that they don’t get snowed on, but a greenhouse or cold frame would also work well. Next spring, pull the pots out and set them in the sun. They will be back to their former glory in no time!Various sedum and other succulents

Tender succulents are best brought indoors for the winter. Try to find the sunniest location you can, water a bit more sparingly and remove any dead leaves as they dry up.grow happy and healthy succulents with this essential guide

Tidying Up Succulents (Pruning)

These pretty plants can look like they have taken a beating over the winter, whether they braved it outside or inside. Hardy succulents will need the brown outer leaves removed and the soil refreshed (see more on dividing hardy succulents). Tender succulents can probably use replanting as they likely got leggy searching for light indoors (see more on transplanting tender succulents).

Now that you have the basics, check out some of these creative succulent projects to make:

Instructions on how to make this beautiful succulent wreath!


Dressing up vintage silver with cool succulents

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour Modern Succulent PlanterFall Table Decor with Air plants, pumpkins and Succulents

About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Kristi
    KristiJune 29,15

    I love your blog. You are so knowledgeable and it is great to see the resurgence in gardening and homemaker skills our grandmothers used. I love succulents, as they are so easy to care for. There are nice displays of succulents at New Westminster City Hall. I love the photo of the wreath you shared.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Bessie
    BessieSeptember 17,15

    I am wondering if you can tell me what the difference is between a succulent and a sedum ? I just found this site and I think I love it,

    • Stephanie
      StephanieSeptember 17,15

      Hi Bessie. First of all, thank you! Second, great question. Succulent is the descriptive name for all sorts of fleshy-leaved plants including Sedum, which is a genus of many plants commonly known as stonecrop. Succulents can also be used to describe Aloes, Agave, Aeonium, Echeveria, and Sempervivium among others. I hope that helps!

    mufin3a.newgrounds.comNovember 1,15

    Aw, this wwas a really good post. Taking the time and
    actual effort to generate a very good article…
    bbut whaat can I say… I put things off a lot and never manage to get anything done.

  4. Sia Ditte
    Sia DitteDecember 20,15


    After reading this post I really want to try!
    So do you have some suggestions for tender succulents?

    Thank you!
    And Merry Christmas!

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseDecember 20,15

      Hi Sia, because they vary so much based on where you live, I would suggest going to a local garden nursery and seeing what is available. Please let me know what you find! Thanks.

  5. Cathy
    CathyDecember 31,15

    It’s amazing to visit this site and reading the views of
    all colleagues on the topic of this post, while I am also keen of getting know-how.

  6. polly
    pollyFebruary 24,16

    Hi,I just started ready our blog and am enjoying learning!I have a lot to learn;I grew up in CT, where I learned what to plant when, then my hubby and I moved to sFL and I had to start all over again.:)

  7. polly
    pollyFebruary 24,16

    If succulents come from different plant families and require different care, how do you define what’s a succulent? And do you know why they’ve just come into the public consciousness in the past few years?
    among us non-pro gardeners,I mean.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseFebruary 24,16

      Hi Polly, from the article above “Succulents are a general name for any plant that has a swollen part that can hold excess water. This could occur in the leaves, stem, or even roots. Most commonly, people refer to succulents as plants with fleshy leaves, typically identified as types of Sedum, Sempervivium, Echeveria, Aeonium, and Crassula” I would suggest following the care instructions that come with the plant as a first step, and following the instructions in this post in the event there are no care instructions. I think they have become popular because of how easy, beautiful, and versatile they are. But who knows why anything becomes a trend? :)

  8. รับซื้อ Patek Philippe
    รับซื้อ Patek PhilippeApril 21,16

    Thanks for your personal marvelous posting!
    I really enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come back
    in the future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great work, have a nice

  9. Erica
    EricaJune 8,16

    Thank you for this post! I’m very new to succulents and just purchased my first succulents at a local farmer’s market. They are three individual plants (black prince, topsy turvy, & panda plant) in three individual basic pots with a drain hole at the bottom. When I purchased them, I could tell the panda plant had recently been watered and forgot to ask about the other two. Is there any way to tell if succulents need water by their appearance, color, etc.?

  10. Karen
    KarenJune 9,16

    What is the beautiful purple plant in the photos (the close up)? And what about soil? Just any potting soil? Thanks.

  11. Kileen
    KileenJune 13,16

    Thanks for this post. I have many succulents and I learned a few things I didn’t know. I live in the Phoenix area and have just brought my plants in for the summer. Last year I lost a few from the excessive heat here and learned my lesson. Luckily I don’t worry about them in the winter.

  12. Grandmas House DIY
    Grandmas House DIYJune 14,16

    Oh my gosh I’m totaling saving the succulent wreath, how fun! Sadly I over watered the first succulents I brought home and killed one of them immediately, the other is still hanging in there, I put it in the sun and am hoping for the best. Hopefully I’ll learn my lesson, they’re so darned fun and cute!

  13. Gina
    GinaJune 15,16

    This is fantastic! I’ve pinned this for later because I’ve been wanting to start with some succulents. But, I was so afraid that I would kill them because I always get so confused about what a plant needs. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly! I can’t wait!

  14. Leanne
    Leanne @divaofdiy.comJune 16,16

    I love succulents! I always have a hard time deciding how much to water them. Thank you for the tips! This month on Talk DIY to Me link party we are having a DIY gardening theme! Tuesday is DIY garden decor. I would love to invite you to come party with us!

  15. Erlene A
    Erlene AJune 19,16

    I wish I had these tips sooner. My daughter received a succulent and killed it :-( Thanks for sharing on Merry Monday.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJune 22,16

      Hi Erlene, well, I hope you get another one. They are worth the effort!

  16. Pete Murless
    Pete MurlessJanuary 30,17

    I live in the Little Karoo , South Africa. Did you know that S.A. has 46 percent of the Worlds succulent species./?

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