Succulents are plants that capable of withstanding long periods of drought by storing moisture in their leaves and stems.

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These versatile plants can be grown in garden beds, pots, indoors and outdoors – and they’re ultra low-maintenance. This beginner’s guide to succulents will teach you the basics of propagating, growing and caring for your succulents. 

WATCH: Charlie Albone’s guide to succulents 

When it comes to growing succulents, one thing is certain: one succulent plant is never enough. Once you experience your first taste of  success with succulents, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll want to begin collecting all the types of weird and wonderful succulents out there.

Types of succulents

There are so many succulent varieties available in Australia. There are the ones you see everywhere – like Echeveria (also known as Hen and chicks), Houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum) and snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – and then there are other unusual succulent varieties that you’ve probably never heard of, like Fred Ives (Graptoveria) and Rainbow Crest (Euphorbia lactea crest). 

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How to propagate succulents from cuttings

The easiest (and cheapest) way to build your succulent collection is by propagating them from cuttings.  Our step-by-step guide to propagating succulents will take you through the entire process from collection to planting.  

Ideal soil conditions for succulents

In your garden beds, you’ll achieve best results from your succulents when they’re planted in free-draining soil. 

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For containers, buy a specially prepared potting mix, often sold as succulent and cacti mix.

The inclusion of gritty sand in the potting mix or garden beds is essential, as succulents won’t tolerate wet feet and will rot quickly without it. 

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How to fertilise succulents

A good feed of nutrients during the growing and flowering seasons will be appreciated! You can buy this in granular form, or as a soluble powder to be added to your watering can. 

General-purpose fertilisers containing nitrogen and potash, as well as trace elements such as iron, magnesium, manganese, boron and copper, are suitable.

Growing succulents in pots

If planting your selection of succulents in containers, almost any pot, tub or trough will do the trick. The ideas for succulent planters are truly endless.

Succulent planter ideas: 

  • How to transform a Kmart tray into a succulent planter
  • Turning a broken pot into a succulent display
  • Playful succulent planting ideas
  • How to create a succulent bowl
  • How to make a table centrepiece using succulents

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No matter which container you end up choosing, be sure to allow enough room to cater for the roots of the plants, and check that the container has sufficient drainage. 

Repotting is only ever required when the roots start to burst out the base of the pot or become obvious on the surface of the soil. This is a job best done in spring. 

How to grow succulents indoors

Succulents can make excellent indoor plants, but it’s important to keep in mind that succulents require plenty of sunlight to thrive.

Place indoor succulents in a spot that receives direct sunlight for most of the day. You’ll know if the succulent is not receiving enough sunlight as it will grow ‘leggy’ and stretch out of the pot.

Growing succulents outdoors

As long as succulents are planted in well-draining soil and receive plenty of direct sunlight, they are sure to be low-maintenance, drought-tolerant outdoor plants.

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Almost all succulents will thrive in full-sun hot spots or in bright light, although it pays to check the plant label for best-growing conditions or aim to replicate the area from where the healthy-looking cutting was taken. 

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Larger succulent varieties like agave (Agave americana) and Foxtail agave (Agave attenuata) make fantastic feature plants, while smaller succulent varieties can be grouped together to transform a blank wall in full sun into a luscious vertical succulent garden or simply be planted together in a pot outdoors.

Caring for succulents

When it comes to caring for succulents long-term, it’s a good idea to fertilise them once a year using a controlled-release fertiliser. The best time to fertilise succulents is during their growing season which lasts from spring to summer. 

How much water do succulents need?

Succulents are resistant to most pests and diseases, but one thing they won’t stand for is wet feet! If you’re wondering how to water succulents, the best way to do it is to deeply water the succulent and then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. 

The same thing goes for potted indoor succulents. Simply test the soil with your finger, and if it feels dry, pour enough water into the pot that water escapes from the drainage holes. Allow any excess water to drain away. Then, simply allow the water to dry completely before watering again. 

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Is misting good for succulents?

There’s no harm in very occasionally misting your succulents with water (as long as they’re not receiving too much moisture as a whole), but it’s definitely an unnecessary extra step.

Misting is great for plants like ferns and orchids that typically thrive in humid environments but succulents, simply prefer a hot, dry climate and therefore won’t benefit much from being misted with water.