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Potting, growing succulent plants is simple | TribLIVE.com
Jessica Walliser, Columnist

Potting, growing succulent plants is simple

Jessica Walliser
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Jessica Walliser | for the Tribune-Review
Here, a birdbath is used as a container for a planting of succulents. Prior to planting, a drainage hole was drilled into the basin so the succulents wouldn’t become waterlogged.

Question: I am in love with all of these great succulent plants that I keep seeing at garden centers. I’d like to plant a bunch of containers full of them for my garden. We go away a lot in the summer, and I know they don’t have to be watered as often as other plants. Can I use regular potting soil when I plant them or do I have to do something special?

Answer: Succulent plants are enjoying their moment in the sun (pun intended!). These drought-resistant, easy to care for plants have so much to offer both indoor and outdoor gardeners.

Their thick, succulent leaves retain a lot of water, making them the perfect fit for folks who frequently forget to water or for those who spend a lot of time out of town. Succulents can be grown indoors as houseplants, or they can be treated like annuals and grown in containers on the patio during the summer.

While there are some winter-hardy succulents, including the popular hens-and-chicks and sedums, most of the succulents you see at garden centers will not survive the winter outdoors where temperatures dip below freezing. That shouldn’t stop you from growing these great plants, however. I have containers of succulents on my patio all summer long and then I drag them into the garage or house for the winter. They require very little care in the winter time and are easy to move back outdoors when the weather warms.

Try haworthias, flap jacks, crassulas, jade plants, agaves and echeverias. There are many more, of course, but these are among the easiest and most common.

When potting your succulents into containers, use a commercial potting mix formulated especially for these types of plants. Regular potting mix isn’t as well draining as succulents like, plus these plants prefer soils with lower nutrient levels than those found in most regular potting mixes. If you can’t find a succulent- or cacti-specific potting soil, you can make your own. Blend 3 gallons of commercial potting soil (choose a brand that does not contain fertilizer) with 2 gallons of coarse builder’s sand, and 1 gallon of perlite. This mix is highly draining, porous, and lean — the perfect blend for succulents.

Caring for succulent plants is easy. Sit them were they’ll receive a minimum of six hours of full sun per day. It’s more common to overwater succulents than underwater them. Succulents will rot if overwatered or if water is left to stand on the crown of the plants overnight for extended periods of time. Put your succulent pots where they’ll get plenty of air movement, which helps them dry off after rains. And, be sure to water your succulents early in the day, whenever possible, so the plants can fully dry before nightfall.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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