Succulents can create beautiful displays in your landscape or in your home. Whether you are looking to plant succulents in the ground or in pots, the following tips will have you doing both successfully.

5 Steps for Successful Succulents

1. Find some sunshine. Most succulents need full to mostly full sunshine to thrive. Consider all the ways that the sun might be available to your succulents and then plant them in that spot where they get as much of it as possible. Outside: Watch for shadows from trees that might cast too much shade in the afternoon, does the change in the winter sun now put your possible succulent garden in too many shadows? Inside: Pots can be moved around to follow the cast of the sun at different times of the year. Inside: Opt for southern facing windows where the sunlight is bright and shining most of the day.

2. Good drainage is a must. Finding a spot in your landscape where water never pools or puddles is essential to the overall health and vitality of your succulents. Succulents will not tolerate having their roots in standing water and this will be a sure death sentence. (This is also a reason not to get too caught up in fad containers for succulents that don’t have drainage holes. It’s like starting the whole process with an underlying problem.) 

  • You can add peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and other amendments to garden soils and potting soils to lighten them up and increase drainage, or buy premixed specialty soils that have many of these products included. I’ve done both, the first when I’ve been strapped for cash, and the second when I’ve been strapped for time. Succulents aren’t too particular of soil type as long as it drains well.
Succulents in a pot.

3. Handle your succulents with care. Gently tip your succulent to the side and slowly slide the plant out of the pot, cupping and supporting the top of the plant. Succulents are notorious for breaking easily so really take some extra time maneuvering your specimen out of its nursery pot. For large succulent plantings, two pairs of hands is helpful.

4. If digging in the garden, the hole in your garden plots should be dug at least 2” wider than the diameter of the succulent  root ball, but only as deep, at crown level. Succulents should always be planted at crown level. What does crown level mean? It means that the soil level in its pot should end up even with the soil level of the garden. If planted in a pot, it should be no more than about 2” larger than the nursery pot you bought it in. Make sure it has a drainage hole.

  • Ground: Gently backfill and firm the plant into the hole, pressing slightly to make sure there is good soil contact for the roots.
  • Pots: Fill pot with at least 2”-3” of your chosen succulent potting soil, (more if the pot is larger), then proceed to backfill and tamp soil gently around rootball. Make sure to leave at least a 2” margin from the top of the pot to the top of the soil line so that there is ample room to allow for correct water absorption.

5. Time to water your succulents. If you watered both the garden you are planting in and the succulents in their pots before planting you are done after this step. There is no need to waterlog the soil.  If you didn’t pre-water, go ahead and water within a few minutes of planting. Thoroughly, but gently, water around the roots of the succulents and also the soil around them. Gentle watering allows any air pockets to be filled in with settling soil. This is essential for the roots to be able to make good soil contact. 

  • How often you water after planting will depend on what time of year you are planting your succulents, what type of soil you used, the temperature, rainfall, and the list goes on and on.
  • Keep in mind that most succulents like to dry out before being watered again. For outside succulents, many times this lines up with natural rainfall.
  • When you do have to water, make sure it is a slow, deep, thorough watering that allows for maximum penetration to the roots. In pots, the water should run out the bottom of the drainage holes.
  • Remember to always empty any saucers under the pot no longer than 15-30 min after watering. 


~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy