Interior Design

Succulents: how to plant them (and keep them alive)


Plants can make a house a home. For a few years now, succulents have been the houseplant of choice to add homey-ness, a hint of color, and personality to a room. They’re cute, diverse, and low maintenance. If they’re the right plant for you, here are the top 5 tips to perfect your succulent planting, keeping, and growing.

1. Choose the right size planter

When it comes to planting succulents, the size of the pot matters. You want the succulent bowl to fit the room aesthetic, but the bowl should also fit the plant. Make sure that the succulent has enough room to grow its potential flowers and spread its roots; leave around ½” to 1” between the succulent and edge of the pot. 

In addition, ensure that the pot has a good drainage system. Succulent roots don’t do well with wet soil, and can quickly rot if their soil base is waterlogged. That’s why it’s important to ensure your succulent’s planter has a hole at the bottom to allow drainage. If you’re worried about soil falling out, use mesh tape or a layer of pebbles to cover the hole but not prevent the water flow. 

Don’t forget to fill the pot to the top with succulent soil mix, rather than common gardening soil. Normal soil tends to retain water for long periods, which is a risk factor for root rot. Succulent soil mix, on the other hand, contains ingredients like coarse sand, perlite, and crushed rock. This means that water flows through freely, keeping your succulent roots well-aerated and healthy.

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2. Provide Enough Sunlight 

Though succulents are low-maintenance, the one thing they do need is ample sunlight. Place them on a window sill or in a room that faces south so as to maximize sunlight exposure on a daily basis. By doing this, you can prevent the weird bending and expanding of its leaves. If none of your rooms have suitable lighting, then purchase a grow light to supply them with as much light as possible. Indirect light can be great for succulents as well, so long as there’s plenty of it.

And although cacti and succulents are well adapted to dry climates with high temperatures, it is entirely possible to give your succulent too much direct sunlight. If this happens, you’ll notice bleached or pale patches on the leaves. These patches are usually rough, unlike the smooth textures of healthy leaves. This is most likely with younger plants, so be sure to gradually introduce your baby succulent to direct light.

3. Water Your Succulent (But Not Too Much!)

If you’ve ever inadvertently killed a succulent plant, you probably over-watered it. This is one of the most common mistakes of succulent care!

Remember – succulents are from dry, arid climates where rain doesn’t fall too frequently (but when it does rain, it really pours). That means they need lots of light and infrequent, heavy watering to thrive. Succulents store moisture in their leaves and stems (think of a thick, fleshy aloe vera leaf), so they won’t die right away if you forget to water them. You can always wait a few days if you’re not yet sure it’s time to water a succulent plant.

The watering schedule for your succulent might be once a week – but this can vary tremendously based on the type of plant, typical humidity, daily air temperatures, and the duration of sunlight it receives every day. The best way to know whether it’s time is to water is to check your succulent’s soil. When the top inch or inch-and-a-half of soil is dry, give it a good drenching. Water it slowly, soaking the soil until water is coming out of the drainage hole.


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4. Clean Your Succulent

In their natural setting, succulents outdoors have the wind to keep them clean. In your apartment, however, it’s normal for houseplants to gather dust. This dust can keep your plants from breathing properly, and it blocks the sunlight they need to thrive. That’s why you should periodically wipe down your succulents with a clean, moist cloth. There’s no rocket science here – just keep those succulent leaves clean and shiny! 

Now that you’re cleaning, take the opportunity to remove any dead leaves and stems that have accrued in your succulent planter. It’s totally normal for your succulent to shed dead leaves over time. And while little bit of leaf litter isn’t a problem, too much can attract insects and fungus that will make your succulent sad.

5. Rotate Your Succulent 

To ensure your succulent plant grows evenly, it’s a great idea to periodically rotate the pot. Succulents (like other houseplants) tend to grow toward the light. Given enough time, this can cause their stems to become noticeably crooked or bent. While that’s not immediately harmful for the plant, it’s not as healthy as a symmetrical succulent with its weight balanced evenly. Preventing this lopsidedness is as easy as regularly rotating the entire succulent, encouraging it to grow evenly in every direction. An easy trick to remember is to give your succulent’s pot a quarter-turn each time you water it.

6. Fertilize Your Succulent Occasionally

In the natural world, decomposing plants release nutrients into the soil, which feeds other plants. This doesn’t happen in your apartment, which is why you need to fertilize your succulent every once in a while. Plant fertilizer is simply a mix of compounds like phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen that keep your succulent strong and healthy. 

There’s a lot of debate and discussion about how often your succulent soil needs to be fertilized. Some experts suggest as often as once a month, while others say far less than that is needed. And though it’s tempting to imagine you can’t over-fertilize a plant, too much of a good thing is certainly possible here. We recommend giving your succulent a healthy dose of natural fertilizer once a year. Aim for the springtime, when your plant is growing quickly and can put all those nutrients to good use!

Here at Common, we have sunny rooms and chic furnishings perfect for you and your plants. Learn more about our homes here.

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