Should I grow succulents in a pot or the ground?

Should I grow succulents in a pot or the ground?

Whether I could grow succulents in the ground was a question I asked myself when I first started out.  Most photos you see of succulents are in pots or any other container you can possibly think of.  They do grow very well in pots for many reasons. Here are a few ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments for pots and garden.

POTS

Advantages
Pots with drainage holes
The soil in pots with drainage holes dries out quickly which succulents like as they do not like their roots to be wet for an extended period of time.Even if you have a pot in an area that gets rainfall you know the water will drain freely through the bottom of the pot if you have a downpour.

Succulents in a large pot Echeveria Succulent Container


Moveable Pots
If you find that your succulent is stretching due to lack of light you can move the pot to a sunnier position.  If you have a very wet Winter you can move the pot under the eaves so that the soil can dry out and you can control the moisture intake.Pots are great for small garden areas or patios or also on window sills.

Quirky Pots
There are so many different types of pots of all shapes and sizes that you can grow succulents in.  There are many small, slow growing succulents that are ideal to be grown in small pots, some of the larger succulents also look great in pots.  Here are a few photos from Pinterest of succulents in different types of pots/vessels.

Way cooler than a Chia pet.: For one of my vintage "planters": Succulent Garden Ideas:

Disadvantages
Pots without drainage holes
When I am looking for pots for succulents the first thing I check is for a drainage hole.  It surprises me how many pots (of all sizes) do not have a drainage hole.  After all succulents are not the only plants that do not like sitting in water. Every pot should have a drainage hole as far as I am concerned.  Without a drainage hole you may over water which will pool in the bottom of the pot and there is a high risk of your succulent dying from root rot.

Small pot! Large Succulent!
Even though succulents are fairly slow growers, over time a succulent will outgrow a pot and it will need to be transplanted. If you have a display of different succulents in pots they also will outgrow the pot.

Overheated Roots
The soil in your pot heats up on hot days and it can be fatal for plants. Even when air temperatures are mild, pots standing in full sun become hot. The temperature of potting mix inside a pot can be 10 degrees or more above the air temperature. The roots in pots cannot cope in extreme temperatures and die.  Keep this in mind when you buy a new succulent in a black plastic pot from the nursery.

Succulents in black pots

Left in the sun on a 40C day these black plastic pots can fry the roots of the plant.

GARDEN

In the garden there are a few aspects you need to consider if planting succulents directly in the ground. I have planted succulents in the ground all year round. If planting in Summer you should take into consideration the sun will be lower in the Winter months and thus your succulent may not receive enough sun in the Winter. Conversely, if you plant in the middle of Winter when the plant may receive sun and partial shade it may only get full sun in the Summer when the sun is higher in the sky.

You need to plant your succulent in a position which drains well in the garden, ie;  on a slope, a raised garden bed or in soil that has good drainage.

Echeveria Black Prince in the garden

This Echeveria Black Prince has grown in the ground for 4 months. With the same sun and rainfall as the pot grown Black Prince →

Echeveria Black Prince Succulent

This pot grown Black Prince does not look quite as healthy grown in the pot as the ground grown Black Prince with the same conditions!

Advantages
Low Mainteance/Drought Tolerant
The advantages are clear cut to me. A succulent garden should and can survive on annual rainfall. This then gives you a very low maintenance, drought tolerant garden.  Which looks great at the same time.

Happy Roots
When planted in the ground the roots of the succulent are not restricted in any way.  When in a pot the roots can become pot bound. Also, on a very hot day if the pot is in the afternoon sun the pot can get very hot and the roots can overheat and fry.  Whereas the ground is  cooler and the roots can spread as far as they like and keep cool.

Disadvantages
Rainfall
A distinct disadvantage with growing succulents in the ground is that you cannot control the rainfall it receives. Even if you have succulents on a slope or in a garden bed,  if you have a particularly wet Winter the roots can stay constantly wet which is not good for a succulent.  See my post: Echeveria Black Prince Succulent where my Echeveria Black Prince had to much Winter rain.

Hail
Another weather element that can devastate your succulents is Hail.  See my post: Succulents DO NOT like hail!! It took a long time for my succulents to recover from the hail we received last Winter.

SO, as you can see there are positives and negatives for both sides of the coin…… of course!  However, if you want to plant succulents in your garden rather than have them in pots – if you live in the Southern Hemisphere where our Winters are mild  -I would certainly do so.  I have seen quite a few gardens with succulents growing merrily. Just make sure you plant them in the conditions they enjoy.  Full sun for some, sun/part shade for others. Always well draining soil.

 Succulent Garden  Australian Succulent Garden  Australian Succulent Garden
Should I prune my Succulents?

Should I prune my Succulents?

It is certainly ok to prune your succulent.  You can prune your succulent any time you feel they are getting stretched or overgrown. You can also take cuttings to propagate new plants or to encourage new growth. There are a few other reasons why you would prune a succulent.

Should I prune dead or rotting leaves on my succulent?
If your succulent has dead leaves or you buy a succulent with lots of dried/dead leaves around the base of the plant the leaves can be removed. It’s natural for leaves to die on a plant.  It’s like hair falling out your head.

dead leaves on succulent

Dead leaves around the base of the plant.

dead leaves on succulent

Easily removed by pulling the leaves off.

If you pull them gently they should easily come away from the stem or you can cut them off with secateurs.  This encourages new growth, deters any bugs or mould and improves the look of the plant.

dried leaves on succulent

Agave leaves die but are still firmly attached to the plant.

agave attenuata

A pair of secateurs are required for cutting the dead leaves from the plant.

Should I prune a plant that has stretched/etiolated?
If you have a succulent that has stretched due to lack of light, pruning is the best way to rectify this. The succulent will look a bit worse for wear at first but in time new growth will be more compact and the succulent will look healthier.

Graptoveria Succulent

This is an example of pruning. Some of the long leaves were pruned and the stem produced new growth. I eventually removed all the long leaves.

Should I prune the flowers on my succulent?
Most succulents flower, some are more prolific than others.  My Echeveria plants seem to flower all the time. When the flower dies you can prune it.  Some flower stems have leaves on them which are great for propagating a new plant as the stem has more hormones from producing the flower. The best time to prune a flowering species of succulent is after it has finished flowering.

Succulent Flowers

These flowers are truly dead. Time to prune.

After Pruning.

If you have a large succulent that flowers the best time to prune is after the plant has finished flowering.  If, however, you do not have the time or inclination to prune, don’t worry, the flowers will die and drop off by themselves eventually with no adverse reaction to the plant.

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

I rarely prune this Crassula Ovata Jade Plant.


Should I prune my succulent to make it a nicer shape?

Succulents often need pruning just like any other type of plant when it comes to shape and to control size. The succulent you buy will grow bigger and will not look so cute and compact after a while so pruning is a necessity if you want to keep your plant compact.  However, do not panic, succulents are fairly slow growers.  So you won’t be out there pruning all the time!

Crassula Ovata Succulent

I have been pruning this Crassula and replanting the cutting to make a succulent carpet.

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent

I have pruned this Aeonium and replanted the cuttings at the front of the plant.

 

What instrument should I use for pruning succulents?
I use normal garden secateurs to prune, or if the leaves are dry enough I pull them off with my fingers.  Some leaves are ready to come off and fall off as I touch them. If you have pruned a succulent that has a disease make sure you clean the secateurs thoroughly so that the disease is not transferred from plant to plant.

Where do I prune my succulent?
Do not worry! you cannot hurt a succulent by pruning it. There is no wrong way to prune it.  If there is a part that is protruding that looks out of place, prune it off as far back as you like.  Pruning is really trial and error.  If you have not pruned before give it a go and learn from your mistakes.  The photo below is a Graptoveria succulent I have.  It was pruned by a passing German Shepherd!!  I was a bit annoyed at the time but didn’t throw it out and here we are quite a few months later with a new shoot!

Graptoveria succulent

 

Why has my succulent changed colour?

Why has my succulent changed colour?

What makes my succulent change colour?
Let me start off by putting your mind at ease. As a rule most succulents change colour, this is fairly normal!  This is the plant’s reaction to the growing conditions it is experiencing.  A plant grown in shade will differ in colour to the same plant grown in full sun. Once you get to know your succulent species you will be able to ascertain why it is changing colour. Some plants can be grown in the same light conditions but if one is watered more than the other they can be different colours.  Some websites advise that the plant is stressed.  I personally think the plant is adapting to its environment and it does not mean it is stressed (as such).  You can buy a succulent because it looks amazing and then it will change colour once you have brought it home and put it in a different position/condition.

When is my succulent changing colour a reason for concern?
If your succulent is changing to a dark grey, black or brown colour radiating from the middle this is an alert to over watering and the plant is starting to rot. I bought the echeveria (below) from Bunnings Hardware store and a few days later it had brown markings on the leaves near the centre of the plant. This is not a good sign. Bunnings are notorious for over watering their succulents. I did not water the plant for a couple of weeks and it is now ok. Note: Did you know that if you buy (any) plant from Bunnings and it dies within 12 months of purchase, if you have the receipt they will refund/replace it with another one!

Echeveria Succulent

The day of purchase.

Echeveria root rot

Echeveria starting to rot.

Echeveria Succulent

Rotting leaves were pulled off.Now ok.

It was a purple – now its green!
Many succulents ensure their survival by controlling problems they may encounter. Such as the sun, drought and wind through physical modifications.  If the sun is too hot and bright many succulents will shelter their tender green leaves or stems under a protective colouration provided by various compounds that turn them blue or grey, or red or brown.

Some of my succulents are planted in full sun in the Summer but in the Winter when the sun is lower a neighbour’s tree blocks the sun for most of the day. Due to this an aloe and an echeveria change colour from season to season. They are purple in the Winter and green in the Summer.  I think they look equally fabulous whether they are purple or green.

Echeveria Succulent, Colour Change Echeveria Aloe Succulent Aloe Succulent

Can I change the colour of my succulent with food colouring??????
I have seen a post on Pinterest that says you can add food colouring when watering succulents and their colour will change. I have not tried this and doubt whether this would work. (see below).  This picture looks like it has been tweaked on photo shop.  I have not found any evidence on the internet that this actually works. As a succulent lover I think this looks unnatural and is unnecessary.  There are many naturally beautiful coloured succulents without painting or dying their leaves.

Crassula Ovata
I have some crassula that are yellow with red tipped leaves in the sunny areas and green in the shady parts of my garden. One of my larger plants is green one side and yellow the other due to half  the plant getting more sun. (see below)

Crassula Ovata

My Crassula (Jade Plant) is green in the shade!

Crassula Ovata - Jade plant

…..and yellow in the sun. Same bush!

Echeveria Black Prince
When my Black Prince endured a lot of Winter rain last year it turned a very pale orange colour. I still am unable to find a photo on the internet of another Black Prince that looked like mine.  It is now back to its normal shape and colour.

echeveria black prince

Orange leaves after a wet winter!

Echeveria Black Prince

Less rain and more sun-back to normal!

Sedum – Jelly Beans
There are some other succulents that have minor changes to the tips of their leaves when grown in a sunny position as apposed to a shady position such as the Sedum – Jelly Bean plant.  A darker green with red tipped leaves when grown in the shade and almost all green when grown in the sun.

Jelly Bean Succulent

Grown in shade.

Sedum Succulent

Grown in the sun.

 

Basically, if your succulent changes colour it is not a concern unless that colour is in the middle of the plant and is a brown, black or grey which means your succulent has been over watered.

 

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II

Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II

Succulents are very adaptable and can grow in many different conditions.  They will change their shape and colour depending on these conditions.  When you become more experienced with different types of succulents you will get to know how your succulent is coping with the position it is growing in.

Why does my succulent change colour?
Colour change in succulents is fairly common and is a response to growing conditions. Some people use the term ‘stressed’ for plants that change colour but I like to use the word ‘adaption’. A plant grown in part shade will differ in colour to the same plant grown in full sun. Some plants will be grown in the same light conditions but if one is watered more than the other they can be different colours. Some plants are a different colour in the winter than they are in the Summer.  (see below)
See full post : Why has my succulent changed colour?

Echeveria Succulent, Colour Change

This echeveria was purple and elongated in the winter with less sun and lots of water.

Echeveria Succulent

With full sun and less water it is now green and a lot more compact. It looks like a totally different plant.

You can buy a succulent because it looks amazing and then it will change colour once you have brought it home and put it in a different position/condition.

Aloe Succulent

This aloe was a beautiful purple when a friend gave it to me.

Aloe Succulent

Now the very same plant is an amazing green aloe.


How do I know if my succulent gets enough sun?
As I have mentioned in my previous post: Do Succulents really prefer Sun?   Succulents can change shape and/or look different when they do not have enough sun. A succulent that would normally be short and compact will grow long and spindly. The scientific term is: etoliation or the layman’s term is: stretching. This just means that the plant will not grow as compact as it would if it had sufficient sun and stretch upwards in search of brighter light.  Unlike over watering, not enough sun is easily fixed.  Move the plant to a sunnier position!  Either in its pot or transplant it. The plant will stop stretching. Please note however: the part of the plant that has already stretched will not correct itself. The best option for this would be to prune the stretched part of the plant. This will not harm the plant in any way.  Or you can leave it as it is as the plant can look amazing on a long stork as in the photo below.

Echeveria stretching succulent

This echeveria stretched to get enough sun over the other plants in the pot. I like it though!

Echeveria stretching

In the same pot this echeveria has also stretched above the plants.

How do i know if my succulent has ‘enough’ water?
This is not a question that you need to ask yourself but I know that there are people who worry about this. There are some species of succulent that show signs of not having enough water (see below) and would like a drink but on the whole you should be asking yourself if you have watered too much! Succulents can survive without water for extended periods. How long that period is depends on a wide variety of factors including light, soil, drainage etc.  In my experience if you do not water your succulent for a year, as long as it was not under the eaves and receives annual rainfall then it will be fine.

Aeonium swortkop’s leaves become droopy if they have not had enough water. Crassula Ovata’s (Jade Plant) leaves can look wrinkled and withered if they do not receive enough water. Echeveria and Graptoveria hold water in their leaves so they will be very flat if they do not have enough water.

Can succulents survive inside?
Not ‘all’ succulents will grow well in an indoor environment but there are a lot that will.  I have quite a few jars of echeveria succulents growing on my kitchen window sill, they receive about an hour of sun every morning and then bright light for the rest of the day.  I also have one in the bathroom which receives no direct sun just bright light.

Indoor succulent Succulents on windowsill Indoor succuelnts

I only give the small succulent jars a table spoon of water every other week and the bathroom succulent about the same. I also have a few terrariums with succulents – see below.

 succulent terrarium

 

Note: I do not profess to be an expert on succulents and do not have a horticultural qualification. My blog is simply my opinion and details my experience with succulents in my garden. All photos are taken by me. If there are photos of succulents not taken by me this is mentioned.

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