Which locations do succulents thrive?

Which locations do succulents thrive?

The answer to the question – which locations do succulents thrive in – is :  any and all locations!  There are so many succulents that there will always be a species that will thrive in a location in your garden.

If you are a succulent novice or a well seasoned succulent gardener there will always be a new succulent that you acquire that you will be uncertain about which location to put it in.  Does it cope with full sun, is it a shade lover?

If the succulent you buy comes with an ID tag (that’s if you are very lucky) its possible it ‘might’ give you a ‘vague’ idea of the sort of growing conditions the succulent would thrive in.  General suggestions like ‘full sun’ or partial shade’, ‘fertilise in spring’.  They are generalised by the nursery for all plants that they grow.  For further explanation on some of these see: (How much sun do succulents need? Morning or Afternoon? Full or Part? )

This ID tag contradicts itself – may tolerate dryness but the soil must not dry out! – not helpful!

But how will you know if your succulent is just surviving or if it is thriving?

Signs that your succulent is just surviving.
There are signs that will tell you that your succulent is not doing well.  Such as, stretching (etoliation) from not enough sun/light, wilting leaves from over watering, puckered leaves from under watering and burnt leaves from too much sun. It is surviving but not as well as it could.  These signs do not mean that it is dying but it could be doing a lot better in a different location.

Stretching succulents: If your succulent is not receiving enough sun/light and is stretching then it needs to be moved straight away into a position that gives it more light.  Stretching (also known as etoliation) is not reversible, the only remedy is to prune the plant back so that it can start again in its new sunnier position where it wont stretch and will grow compact and healthy.

This is an example of an etioliated/stretched succulent. Tall and lanky rather than short and compact.

Burnt leaves: If your succulent has burnt leaves it may be because it has been previously grown in a part sun/part shade situation at the nursery.  The good news is that having burnt leaves will not kill a succulent, once the burnt leaves become the oldest leaves they will shrivel and die.  The new leaves that grow from the centre will be strong and healthy and will have acclimatised to full sun and will not get sun burnt. Succulents will acclimatise to new locations in 2-3 months

Note:  The only exception to this rule is if there is an abnormally hot day/week (around 40C/104F) the chances are that even a succulent growing in full sun can still get sun burnt leaves.

Sedum succulent with sunburnThese leave are suburnt.

Wilting/Pale leaves: Over watering can cause the leaves to look pale or yellow and they will wilt.  If you notice this on a few leaves then do not water the succulent until you see signs of recovery.  This could be weeks or even a month!  It may already be too late and the plant will die but you may catch it in time.   See post: How often should I water succulents? Do succulents need water?

overwatered succulent

Puckered Leaves: It does not happen very often but sometimes you can underwater your succulent and it will have puckered leaves.  Give the plant a drenching of water and leave it to dry out.  Do not make the mistake of then giving it too much water.

Underwatered succulent leaves

Puckered leaves can be a sign of an under watered succulent

Signs that your succulent is thriving
It can take some time to know if your succulent is thriving.  It is not something you can know within a week of receiving the plant. The signs that it is thriving are:
– not showing any of the above mentioned conditions
– new growth – especially in the succulent’s growing season
– flowers – a succulent will only flower in the right growing conditions
– pups/babies -succulents will only produce offspring if it has the right growing conditions to do so
– getting to its maximum species size

Succulents can thrive and look different!
A succulent will always adapt to its growing conditions.  See example below. Both of these succulents are the same genus/species and are producing babies/pups ie thriving.  Sempervivums (House Leeks) are grown on roof tops in Europe so would receive full sun at some times of the year and no sun at others and would therefore look different during different seasons.

Sempervivum grown in part shade Sempervivum grown in full sun

These Sempervivum are exactly the same species.  The Sempervivum on the left are growing in partial shade.  The Sempervivum on the right have 8 hours of full sun.  

Whether your succulent is grown in the ground or in a pot.  If it is not doing well do not be scared to dig it up and move it or put the pot somewhere else.  The majority of succulents are very hardy and if it is not doing well in one position there is no harm in moving it to another location. 

I have found that planting a succulent in the garden, that is not doing so well in a pot, makes the world of difference.  As long as the soil conditions and drainage are correct the roots of the plant will fair better in the ground, as the conditions are not so variable, compared with a pot which can heat up and dry out quicker and constrict the roots.

succulent garden australia

The difference between a succulent ‘surviving’ and a succulent ‘thriving’ is location, location, location!

Related Posts
Which succulents grow in full shade?
Do Succulents really prefer Sun?

 

How often should I water succulents?  Do succulents need water?

How often should I water succulents? Do succulents need water?

A common idea that people have about succulents is that they do not ‘require/need’ water.  This is a myth. All plants need water including succulents.  Yes they can survive long periods of ‘drought’, ie no water, but they ‘do‘ need water to live. How often and how much is the question. As succulents store water in their leaves, stems, or roots they can survive when there is a drought, therefore it is better for a succulent to be too dry than over watered. Do not use a spray bottle, the roots of the succulent need water.

Generally, you should water more often in the summer when the plant is actively growing than in the winter when the plant goes into semi-dormancy. Watering also depends on quite a few variables with regard to the succulents growing conditions: 

Is the plant grown in a pot or the ground
Pot size
Drainage
Inside the house or outside
Type of soil
Temperatures
Light Conditions – ie how much and how strong is the sun
Succulent genus/species
Maturity of the plant
Time of Year – Spring/Summer/Autumn Winter

Lets assume that the soil is free draining, the pot has drainage holes and the succulent has the right amount of sun/shade exposure.

Indoor Succulents
How much?
Give a good soaking—water should run out drainage holes at the bottom of the pot
Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer
How often?
Let the soil dry out completely before you next water.  It does not mean it needs water as soon as the soil it dries out, just to let the soil dry before you do water again.
Larger pots can hold more moisture, small shallow pots will dry out a lot quicker and may require
to be watered more frequently

Outdoor in Pots
Outdoor pots generally require more regular watering than indoor pots due to warmer conditions.
How much?
Give a good soaking—water should run out drainage holes at the bottom of the pot
Be sure to empty the water that runs into the saucer
How often?
Let the soil dry out completely before you next water. It does not mean it needs water as soon as the soil it dries out, just to let the soil dry before you do water again.
Larger pots can hold more moisture, small shallow pots will dry out a lot quicker and may require
to be watered more frequently

Succulent in large pot

Large pots hold more moisture so do not dry out so quickly

succulent in small pot

Small pots will dry out a lot quicker than a large pot as it holds less moisture.

Summer
Pots will dry out a lot quicker in spring/summer compared to autumn/winter.  So the need for watering will be required more often in the warmer months.
Winter
Winter rains can keep the pots moist continuously, but as they are in pots consider moving them to a sunny position under the eaves of the house to control the amount of water they receive.  This can also protect them from frost.  Don’t forget to water them while they are under the eaves though!

Succulents in the Ground
Succulents growing in the ground have different watering requirements to those that are grown in pots.  The soil temperature stays cooler and doesn’t dry out as quickly. The succulents will also establish a stronger root system.

succulent garden australia succulent growing in wall succulents in wall

The succulents above are growing in my garden.  I very rarely water them myself, they survive on annual rainfall.

How Much?
Consideration regarding natural rainfall is required when deciding how much to water succulents in the ground. As with succulents in pots give the succulents a good soaking, ensuring the water does not pool around the base/roots of the plant.
How Often?
Winter
In the Winter you should not have to water succulents growing in the ground at all. As long as you ensure they are grown in good draining soil – ie not clay soils.  Most succulents can cope with a lot of rain.  Planting succulents on banks, in walls or building a mound of soil and planting the succulent on the top of the mound will ensure their roots do not sit in water and they will then cope with rain.
Summer
In Spring or Summer if they receive rain once every 7-10 days you still should not need to water them at all.  If there is no rain once per fortnight should suffice, or even once per month. 

There is no simple answer to how often to water succulents.  Sometimes it is more about when to recognise that they need to be watered or when they have had too much water.

Signs of an Over-watered Succulent
An over watered succulent has leaves that are soft and squishy, they will drop off easily from the plant  and can be pale green or sometimes yellow or orange in colour.
Remedy: Do not water for ‘at least’ two weeks to give the plant time to dry out properly.  If the leaves drop off take them out of the pot/away from the plant.  Sometimes it may be too late and they will not recover but if you catch the signs of over watering early the succulent should survive.

overwatered succulent

This succulent shows classic signs of over watering. The lower leaves are lying flat.  They are also soft, spongy and pale compared to the new leaves growing from the centre.  These leaves will fall off very easily.

Signs of an Under-watered Succulent
An under watered succulent’s upper leaves become dry and crispy, the entire plant becomes shrivelled  and many leaves shrivel at the tips.  The leaves look puckered and dry.
Remedy: Firstly, check the soil, you could be watering the succulent but the soil is not holding any moisture for the roots.  Re-pot the succulent if this is the case.  If the soil is ok just give the plant a good soaking of water and keep in mind this succulent may need watering a little more regularly compared to other species of succulents.

Underwatered succulent leaves

Classic under watering. The leaves are puckered/shrivelled.

Watering mature plants versus new succulents
Established plants will have a stronger root system and tolerate dry conditions better than new plants.  Especially succulents that are growing in the ground.  So a mature plant is more likely to survive longer without water/require less regular watering than a younger one.

 

echeveria strawberry heart

A mature plant growing in the ground will have established roots and require less watering than a younger plant.

How should I water the succulent leaves I’m propagating?
Until the leaves develop the tiny roots the leaves shouldn’t require any water.  It would not be detrimental to water them but why waste your time doing so!  Once the roots develop a once per week watering should be sufficient, watering the leaf and the soil.  The roots – which are still  above ground  – will absorb any moisture in the air and soil below.

Should I water after re-potting a succulent?
Succulents are the opposite of normal plants and do not require ‘watering in’ or water when re-potted or planted in the ground.  They actually prefer not to watered straight away.

Should I use a moisture metre?
Moisture metres are a great idea to test the moisture in the middle of a pot.  When the top soil may be dry the soil below may still be wet and therefore the pot does not require more water.  You can buy moisture metres from your local hardware store.  

I agree, this is a lot to consider and may sound complicated but just consider the following basic steps for any of your succulents. 

  • check the soil conditions to see if it dry or moist
  • look for signs of over or under watering
  • if you are unsure whether to water – do not water!
How much sun do succulents need? Morning or Afternoon? Full or Part?

How much sun do succulents need? Morning or Afternoon? Full or Part?

The subject of how much sun succulents need is always a hot topic among succulent lovers, newbies and experts alike.  How much is too much?  Is morning sun ok but afternoon is a no no?   Will my succulent die if it gets too much sun? What is the definition of full sun, partial sun, dappled sun, partial shade and full shade?

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert ‘light energy’ (the sun) into chemical energy that can be released to fuel the plants’ growth. In low light, plants need to absorb maximum light for photosynthesis if they are to survive. In high light the plant needs to reflect some light for photosynthesis if they are to survive.

What is the definition of Full Sun/Partial Sun/Partial Shade/Dappled Sun & Full Shade?
Some succulents prefer full sun and some prefer partial shade, partial sun and a few prefer full shade, but what does this mean. I found the definition below on a gardening website which clarifies the meaning of these requirements.

  • Full Sun means 6 full hours of direct sunlight. The six hours could be from 8 – 3 or 12 – 6; anytime during the day. The hours can also be three morning hours, plus three afternoon hours.
  • Partial Sun / Partial Shade: These two are interchangeable to mean 3-6 hours of sunlight each day. While the terms are interchangeable, there is a default understanding.  Partial shade refers to morning and early afternoon sun, while a plant listed as partial sun means relief from the intense late afternoon sun  ie requires shade from a structure or a tree.
  • Dappled Sun is similar to partial shade. The plants are getting partial sun as it makes it’s way through the branches of a tree.
  • Full Shade means less than 3 hours of direct sun each day, best if it’s morning sun. But even in the absence of  direct sunlight, full shade can be bright light. Plus, full shade likes a filtered  sunlight the remainder of the day. Every plant needs some sun; even those that thrive in full shade.

The above would only be a guideline.  This does not mean that if your succulent has more than 6 hours of sun you need to move it to shade or it will die. Some areas of my garden receive sun from early morning to late afternoon which is more than 6 hours. These have succulents growing and coping well with the large amount of sun they are receiving.

What is the different between morning and afternoon sun?
Many succulent enthusiasts advise that succulents prefer morning sun for optimum growth.  I am unsure why exactly. From a Iayman’s point of view I would say that morning sun is less strong/vibrant than afternoon sun.  Morning sun is less intense and less heat is generated from the sun in early morning. However, I have searched the internet and I am unable to find any science to explain the real difference between morning and afternoon sun.  As per the previous paragraph ‘full sun’ can be 6 hours of sun whether it be in the morning or the afternoon.

Aeonium Pinwheel

Aeonium Pinwheel

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria in full sun

E. Strawberry Heart

The succulents above have survived and thrived 6 hours of afternoon sun!

Can you tell by looking at the succulent if it will cope in full sun?
There are some succulents which have characteristics that give us a clue as to whether the plant will grow and cope with full sun. Succulents such as the Cotyledon Orbiculata, some Echeveria and some Kalanchoe have a waxy coating on their leaves.  These succulents grown in full sun will produce copious quantities of the white waxy coating.The coating reflects a high percentage of the sun’s light.  The coating is thicker in full sun and less so when not required. Similarly a coat of hairs on Sempervivum leaves protect the plant from a high percentage of the sun’s light.  In general, plants that cope in full sun have small thick leaves as opposed to shade plants have large thin leaves.   

Kalanchoe

Echeveria with white powder protectant

Echeveria

cotlydon

Cotlydon

Examples of succulents with waxy coating protectant 

Can succulents get sunburn?
Yes succulents ‘can’ get sunburn!  It looks exactly what you think it would look like – brown or black markings along the leaves that are facing the sun.  The good news is that it will not ‘usually’ kill the plant, the succulent will recover.  It happens when a succulent has been grown in the shade or partial shade and then moved to sun/full sun.  The new leaves that are produced while in the sun position will cope with the sun and not get sunburn. When the leaves that have been burnt get older they will shrivel and die just like any other non sunburnt leaves on the plant.

Sedum succulent with sunburn

This Sedum was sunburnt when i moved it to full sun. As you can see the leaves on the top are strong and healthy.

Some points to remember.
– Even though a succulent may be able to survive full sun be aware that air flow is very important.
– Succulents will adapt and evolve (acclimatise) according to the amount of sun/shade they receive.
– Plants can change their leaf angles and orientation in response to a change in sun conditions.

Sempervivums – spectacular, hardy and monocarpic!

Sempervivums – spectacular, hardy and monocarpic!

Being a lover of the hardier kinds of succulent, Sempervivum are certainly up there in my top 10.  They are just as hardy as any Echeveria, Crassula or Agave succulent in my opinion.  They can survive heat, drought, frost and general neglect and still look fabulous.  In Europe their common name is House Leek, in the United States it is Hen & Chicks. Here are a few facts and pointers for the Sempervivum genus.

Succulent Family
A member of the Crassulacae family Sempervivum are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and can grow at 3000-8000 feet above sea level. There are about 50 different species.  They vary in size, form and colour and grow in rosette formation. The name Sempervivum comes from the Latin words semper, meaning “always,” and vivus, meaning “living.”  Which describes its everlasting nature. Pronounced: Semper Vee Vum.

Characteristics
Sempervivums come in many colours such as pink, orange, yellow, red, green and brown.  To see its colour in full glory they need to grow in full sun. If not grown in full sun they will grow as green in colour.  Mature plants can be from half an inch to 6 inches (1 to 15 cm) in diameter.

Sempervivum Tectorum

Sun Lovers
Even though Sempervivums are native to Europe which is not well known for its hot summers.  Sempervivum cope, and dare I even say ‘love’, full sun. They do not need  a lot of water and are drought tolerant.  This is great news for hot Australian Summers, however I would be inclined to cover them if the temperature if forecast over 40C/104F as their leaves may get sun burnt.  I would suggest that this would not kill the plant but probably just look a bit unsightly until the sun burnt leaves shrivel and drop off.

Frost Tolerant
On the other side of the coin Sempervivum are one of the most frost resistant succulents.  This would be due to their origins being in mountainous regions of Europe. They can survive in extremely cold temperatures, most will survive temperatures as low as -30F/-34C apparently.

Light and Water Requirements
Sempervivum can survive in full sun and tolerate drought conditions.  They do not require a lot of water but can also survive a wet winter as long as they are growing in well drained soil or on a slope if grown in the garden.  If grown in pots move them under the eaves of the house to avoid temperature fluctuations and avoid wet winters.

Sempervivum monocarpic succulent

Hairy Semps
Some species of Sempervivum are…….. hairy. That is the only way to describe them. They have tiny white hairs growing along their leaves and also on the tip.  This is the best way to distinguish a Sempervivum from any other rosette forming succulent.  Only Sempervivum have these tiny hairs.

Hairs on Semperivum

Hairs on Sempervivum

Sempervivum covered with cobwebs
Sempervivum Arachnoidium looks like it is covered in spiders webs.  (see below).  It is another amazing succulent.  The cobweb starts off in the middle of the plant and eventually spreads to cover all leave in the rosette.  It can then spread to cover the clump of Sempervivums.

sempervivum arachnoidium succulent

Sempervivum Arachnoidium Pygmalion

Propagation
Most Sempervivum are prolific at producing offsets which grow off the side of the parent plant and produce a large clump. However, some Sempervivum produce offsets on the end of long stems which are called ‘stolons’ these then set down roots at a distance from the parent plant. Once the roots have developed the plant can be grown independently from the parent plant.

Sempervivum propagation

Sempervivum Tectorum with stolons

Flowering – and the bad news
Flowers are shades of pink, red and sometimes yellow. If and when Sempervivum flower it happens in mid to late Summer. The bad news with regard to Sempervivum flowers is that Sempervivum succulents are monocarpic which means that the parent plant dies after flowering. It will shrivel and die.  It can then be easily pulled out and this will allow room for the pups to spread. Sempervivums are perennials so they live for at least 3 years or more before they flower. Sempervivum flowers produce a star-shaped fruit containing seeds which can be collected and grown. See Post : Which succulents die after flowering?

Uses
In Europe Sempervivums were traditionally grown on roofs.  They were thought to ward off evils spirits and raging storms.  Below are a couple of examples from Pinterest.  I assume they would need to be grown on a pitched roof for water to run off so as the roots are not sitting in water.

Image result for sempervivum green roof Image result for sempervivum green roof

Problems
Being as hardy Sempervivum are they do not have many additional problems to deal with.  Any succulent is prone to mealy bugs or powdery mildew and root rot from over watering.

Which succulents die after flowering?

Which succulents die after flowering?

I was shocked and a bit devastated when I found out that some succulents die after flowering.  It’s not something you should blurt out to a novice succulent lover!  But do not worry, of the thousands of different succulents there are only a very small number that are ‘monocarpic’.

Monocarpic plants flower, set seed and then die. Other words with the same meaning are hapaxanth and semelparous.  However monocarpic is the term that is used to describe the succulent process.  Probably because it is easier to say!

Monocarpic plants can be divided into annuals, biennials and perennials. Annuals flower and set seed in one year, biennials two seasons and perennials sometimes take many years to flower.

So the question is: how long does a succulent live before it flowers??  The good new is:  Succulents that are monocarpic can still live a long life as they are perennials.  Below are the succulents that I am aware are monocarpic.

Agave – Attenuata/Americana (Century Plant)
The above monocarpic Agave’s can take 10 -25 years before the parent plant flowers.  When it is ready the plant uses all its energy to produce a thick stem which grows from the centre of the rosette in a relatively short period of time – sometimes less than a week. The stem can grow up to 2.5 metres (8 feet) high.  The Americana (Century Plant) has a stem that can grow to 9 metres (30 feet).  Once it flowers the parent plant will wither and die, Compared to other succulents the Agave parent plant can take months or even years to die.  Agave pups grow along the stem of the flower, these can be harvested and replanted.  Any pups that have grown off to the side of the plant will not die, only the rosette that has produced the flower stem.

Some, but not all, Agave are moncarpic.

Variegated Agave Succulent

Sempervivum
All succulents in the Sempervivum genus are monocarpic.  At first this made me think twice about buying Sempervivum succulents. Each rosette only flowers once and then dies. However, most species produce lots of offsets which makes up for any loss after flowering.  It will take 3 to 4 years for the rosette to produce a flower and die, in this time the parent plant would have produced many pups/babies to continue on in your garden.

monocarpic sempervivum

Sempervivum Tectorum

In Europe they are known as ‘houseleeks’ but in the USA Sempevervivum are known as Hen & Chicks.  However, some people call the Echeveria genus Hen & Chicks as well. Thus, it can get very confusing and people think that their Echeveria succulents are monocarpic.  It is ‘only’ Sempervivum Hen & Chicks which are monocarpic not Echeveria.

There are some Sempervivum and Echeveria that look very similar, they both have rosettes.  If you think your succulent is a Sempervivum and it flowers – from the centre of the rosette- and does not die – suffice to say this is an Echeveria.

The photos of the sempervivum below show small offsets from the sides.  These can be mistaken for flowers.  They are not flowers but new plants/pups sprouting.  When a Sempervivum flowers it is from the centre of its rosette, not to the side.

 

Aeonium
Some Aeonium will flower within two years while others may take 10-20 years before they flower. They die completely after flowering but before do they will have produced offsets as well as large numbers of seeds. Not all Aeonium die after flowering, but for the one’s that do it is too late for the plant once the flower stalk starts to develop.

Aeonium Aboreum Fire Wise Succulent

I found this Aeonium (below) in a nursery.  It looks very pretty, but as it was flowering I figured it wouldn’t have a very long life span in my garden if it was an Aeonium that was monocarpic!  Something to be aware of for monocarpic succulents.

Aeonium flowering

Kalanchoe 
The Kalanchoe ‘Flapjack’ is a monocarpic plant, once the Kalanchoe flowers new “baby plants” can be seen at the base of the plant and along the flower stalk. They can easily be propagated from the stalk.

IMG_5799Propagating Kalanchoes after bloomed!

So, if you have any of the monocarpic succulents you should be prepared for its dramatic flowering death at some point!