Succulent Plants and Their Care

Photo by Kayla Haupt

Succulent plants have broad appeal. They generally are easy to care for, and their diversity is great. These attributes are a great draw to beginner and experienced gardeners alike.

Succulents are planting, including sedum, kalanchoe and aloe, which store water in their leaves, stems, and roots. They range in size and variety from ground cover to tall and tree-like. They need infrequent watering, well-drained soil, indirect or morning light, and little fertilizer.

Water succulents only when the soil is dry. Other signs they need water include shrinkingn or puckering or dull leaves. When putting plants outdoors, gradually introduce to light, or your succulents are apt to get sunburned and may even die during the transition. A window location with afternoon bright light may do the same.

Fertilize succulents once or twice during summer with standard plant fertilizer at half rate or dilution. Use a well-draining soil blend designed for succulents or add peat moss, perlite, or coard builders sand to increase drainage of an all-purpose mix. If soils drains too slowly, succulents rot.

Photo by  Kayla Haupt

Photo by Kayla Haupt

Succulents are easily propagated. Allow stem or leaf cuttings to dry and place in well-drained soil; water sparingly and transplant when roots have formed. Alternately, some succulents form plantlets or offsets (look like miniatures of the original plant). These can be removed from the plant and, after dried, when placed in well-drained soil, will form roots of their own.

Succulents are wonderful container plants that thrive outside during Iowa's spring to fall months. They need to be taken indoors in late fall and do not tolerate freezing temperatures. Many succulents adapt well to indoor living, although they do need ample light.

Pests are seldom an issue with succulents, but if you should need to address a mealybug or scale insect issue, wipe the infested area with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Slugs can be controlled with bait products (mainly an issue when outdoors and shaded). Spider mites can be controlled by spraying with water, but be careful not to overwater, which also would hurt your plant. Many insecticides designed for ornamental plants are damaging to succulents, so contact your local or state Master Gardeners for recommendations.

Succulent Care Guide


Are you interested in learning more about succulents at a workshop held by the Iowa County Master Gardeners? Check our Events page to see our upcoming workshop schedule or contact through the Iowa County Extension Office.

Original article written by Amy Lukas, Iowa County Master Gardener Intern

Amy LukasComment