Container Gardening with Succulents: Soil and Care Needed

Tips on Care and Soil for Succulents in Containers


Growing succulents is an easy and fun hobby that just requires succulent soil and a little knowledge about how to take care of plants in pots. Succulent plants are readily available from sellers online or from the local plant nursery and with the right succulent soil and a little tender loving care, you can create a beautiful collection of succulents that will thrive and multiply right in your container garden.

Soil considerations for succulents are very important. Succulents are drought-resistant plants that have developed thick and fleshy tissue for storing water. The roots of the succulent plant take their water from molecules in air rather than from direct contact with water in the soil itself. Having well-draining soil and using a pot with a drainage hole is necessary for the survival of your succulents. There are many commercially prepared organic soil mixes available. Most contain compost, peat moss, sand and a little limestone to serve as a pH adjuster. These ingredients are necessary to provide critical root aeration and drainage that your succulents will need to do well.

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Planting Your Succulents

When you purchase your succulent plants, they most likely will be bare root or in a small amount of soil or a small pot.  Prior to planting, carefully shake any excess soil from the roots. Using a clean, well-draining pot, hold the succulent at the level at which you want it to be seen.  Add succulent soil to the pot to the bottom of the roots and then carefully fill in around the roots with additional succulent soil until the plant is well supported. Add additional plants the same way, making sure that all plants are well supported by the succulent soil and being careful not to tamp the soil down around the plants too much. Different varieties and species of succulent plants can be planted in the same pot, creating an interesting and vibrant container garden. I added some rounded stones between my succulents to create the look of a dry stream bed. Adding stones and small fairy garden objects are popular ways to decorate your succulent container garden.


Watering and Container Considerations

When choosing a pot to plant your succulents in, you can use either a plastic pot with a drainage hole or a clay pot with a drainage hole. The type of container that you choose to use will have an impact on how often you water your succulents.  Clay pots lose moisture more quickly than a plastic pot which retains moisture. When using a clay pot, you will need to water more often. When using a plastic pot, overwatering can cause the succulent plants to begin to rot. The key to watering your succulents during their normal active growing period of spring and summer is to soak the potting mixture thoroughly when watering. The top of the soil mixture should be allowed to dry out between waterings during the growing season. Succulents go dormant during the winter months and require much less water. Unlike growing vegetables in pots, you can bring your succulent container garden right into the house to care for it during the winter months. Watering considerations for dormant plants are to allow the succulent soil to dry out completely between waterings. Overwatering during the plants’ dormant season can cause the plants to rot.

Unlike a desert cactus, succulents are considered jungle cacti and require bright light and slightly more humid conditions.  They enjoy a sunny spot and would do well with similar light and moisture requirements as growing lettuce in containers. During the winter, place your succulents in a sunny window and turn the pots often so that the plants receive equal amounts of sunlight.  In the house, the succulents will require constant temperatures and less watering.

Hens and Chicks

Succulents are popular because of their ease of planting and care. When I was a child, my grandmother always had beautiful pots of succulents that she called “Hens and chicks” because the parent plant created tiny offshoots from the main plant. She would let her hens and chicks grow until there were masses of parent plants with lots of tiny “chicks”  She always planted her succulents in clay strawberry pots, filling each hole with a parent plant. Soon tiny baby plants would emerge which are easily removed with a sharp, clean knife and after a few days of drying can be added to your succulent container garden or can be used to start a new garden. Removing some of the offshoots can be beneficial to the growth of the parent plant.

Beautiful succulent container gardens can be created in almost any container as long as the proper succulent soil is used and they receive the proper care. Succulent containers can be creative! Some succulent lovers have used succulent soil in half of a hollowed out log or have found success with their succulents by building planter boxes. Your imagination is the limit to what container you can use to grow your succulents as long as the correct growing conditions are observed.

Have you had success with succulents? What’s your best tip for caring for them?

  • Great article! I’m going to try this technique and make a varied bowl this week!


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Container Gardening with Succulents: Soil and Care Needed