I’ve killed every succulent I’ve ever attempted to grow. Things start off well enough, but a few weeks after I bring one into my home, it starts to look spindly and sad before it gives up and dies. Despite hearing time and again about how foolproof succulents can be, I’ve never had luck. I have a hunch that I’m not the only one. Fellow succulents killers, are you out there?
Distraught about my inability to nurture a succulent in my tiny New York apartment, I took advantage of a trip to San Francisco to head to that city’s gardening mecca, Flora Grubb Gardens, to ask for advice: Why are my succulents dying, and how can I keep them alive?
N.B.: See our favorite hardy varieties in 10 Easy Pieces: Best Succulents.
Photography by Erin Boyle, except where noted.
1. Don’t overwater.
If you live in a wetter climate, let plants dry out thoroughly between waterings (those pillowy leaves hold moisture to use when they’re growing in the desert).
2. Let the sun shine.
3. Conduct experiments.
4. Go green.
5. Embrace old faithful.
Above: Varieties in the Crassula genus are a dependable option. A Crassula “Gollum” Jade is available from Mountain Crest Gardens for $3.95.
6. Get agave and aloe.
7. Know your colors.
8. Provide breathing space.
9. Plant in unglazed pots.
What else? Any other tips for the succulent killers among us? See more tips and container-plant design ideas for our favorite succulents:
- Succulents & Cacti 101: A Field Guide to Growing, Care & Design
- Succulents: 8 Tips to Help Your Favorite Indoor Plants Survive Winter
- 11 Ways to Keep Houseplants Happy in Winter
- Required Reading: Success with Succulents
- Echeverias 101: A Field Guide to Growing, Care & Design
- Houseplants 101: A Primer
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