Growing Succulents 101: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan. 18, 2023

Interested in growing succulents? Here's what to know before starting your garden, including types of succulents to grow and watering tips.

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The infatuation with growing succulents started simply enough. Their tendency to thrive on inattention plus strong geometric shapes captured the attention of many gardeners. Now, the tough-as-nails plants are more popular than ever. Here’s how — and why — you should add succulents to your garden.

Everything Gardeners Should Know About Growing Succulents

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Hummelii sedeveria succulent

These drought-resistant, perfectly plump plants are both easy to care for and offer tons of flair. The range of colors—blue-green, lime, yellow, red, burgundy, pink and more —is matched only by the fascinating variety of leaf shapes, including rounded, ruffled, spiky and needlelike choices.

“They’re so textural and many plants have distinctive, unique looks, and that helped to propel succulents as ‘it’ plants,” explains Justin Hancock of Costa Farms, one of the world’s largest succulent and houseplant growers. With so many looks, there’s bound to be a succulent you fancy, whether it’s an upright African milk tree, low-mounding echeveria, or trailing elephant bush. Many make excellent indoor plants, preferring the dry, warm air typically found in homes.

Psst—here’s what I wish I knew before planting my succulent garden.

How (and Why) to Start Growing Succulents

growing succulentsCourtesy Jim Dickson
American goldfinch perched on succulents growing in a wooden planter

Growing succulents is an excellent option for gardeners who love containers but don’t like the idea of watering them every day. These plants shine by themselves or with houseplant companions like snake plant, ZZ plant and ponytail palm. “They are a natural fit for container gardens, especially in hot, sunny spots that tend to dry out fast,” says Justin. “Low-growing varieties are fantastic as edging plants or in mass plantings for a look that doesn’t require a lot of care.” Happily, there are both tender and hardy succulents, so you can enjoy them in many different ways. Some succulents even attract pollinators.

Learn why a hens-and-chicks plant is a great option for a beginning succulent gardener. Think your jade plant might need repotting? Here’s how to know for sure.

Succulent Care and Watering

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Campfire crassula succulent

In general, succulents just need a few consistent conditions. “Bright light and well-draining potting mix or soil are a must,” Justin says. “Even though they’re touted as easy-care plants, most succulents will fail if their roots stay wet or they don’t get enough bright light.” Insert a toothpick into the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to gauge how much water is in the soil. “If it comes out clean, the mix is dry and you should water your succulent,” says Justin. “If bits of potting mix are adhering to it, then there’s enough moisture and you probably don’t need to water just yet.”

Need succulent troubleshooting tips? Find out what’s wrong with your succulent and how to fix it.

Succulents grow slower than other plants—some don’t noticeably grow for months—so they don’t require much fertilizer. Feed them as infrequently as once or twice a year in spring or summer, or push them to grow faster by fertilizing every time you water. Just be sure to follow application rates on the fertilizer label.

Discover the top 10 flashy flowering succulents to grow.

Types of Succulents to Grow

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Fantastic kalanchoe succulent

Choose low-maintenance stunners from thousands of succulent options.

  • Desert rose looks like a bonsai, so it’s perfect for creating textural contrast.
  • Sunsparkler Blue Elf sedum is hardy, coming back every year in most regions, with blue-gray foliage and pink flowers.
  • Haworthia fasciata, with dark green leaves and crisp white bands, is among the toughest succulents.
  • Fantastic kalanchoe features green, paddlelike leaves edged with colorful cream, pink, red and purple streaks.
  • Campfire crassula, with its rich green foliage, takes on bright orange and red tones in cool weather.

Next, check out these adorable succulent pots and planters.