How to Care for Succulents—and Keep Them Looking Picture-Perfect

These low-maintenance plants can tolerate a lot of neglect, but they need the right conditions to really thrive.

Succulent plants in an apartment
Photo: Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Succulents have been a mainstay in home gardens and interiors since the early 2000s, thanks to their low-maintenance nature, affordable price point, and Instagram-worthy appearances. Succulents are widely regarded as a great plant for beginners and they double as home decor. But if you've ever accidentally let a succulent dry up and die, you may be wondering where you went wrong. (And don't worry, you're not alone.)

Considerations Before You Get Started

Succulents are a diverse group of plants with thick, fleshy leaves and stems that store water. The majority of succulents are native to hot, arid climates, but with the right care, they can be grown almost anywhere.

Succulents are generally easy to care for (they're the ultimate "set it and forget it" of houseplants), but they still have specific requirements that need to be met in order to thrive. Below, learn all the fundamentals of succulent care to ensure your plants stay healthy, plump, and picture perfect.

What You'll Need


  • Succulent plant
  • Water
  • Porous, well-draining soil
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


Succulent Plant Care

Giving your succulents the right environment and TLC will ensure they thrive and grow.


Because succulents hail from environments with lots of sunlight, they tend to crave a good amount of UV rays. "At a minimum, most succulents need more than six hours of light daily," Chad Massura, co-founder of the sustainable potting mix brand Rosy Soil, says. "Aim to place plants in a south- or west-facing window for the best results."

The exact amount of light a succulent plant needs, however, can depend on the variety, whether you're growing it inside or outside, and the climate where you live. "As a general rule, most succulents can handle more shade in hotter, dryer climates, and will need more sun in cooler climates," Ryan Guillou, curator for the San Francisco Botanical Garden, says.

Massura also adds that succulents grown in low-light conditions can flatten and stretch in an effort to get more sun. If you notice your succulent leaning toward the sun, "try rotating your plant each month to help them stand up straight," he suggests.


A porous and well-draining soil with a loose and grainy texture is ideal for succulents to ensure they aren't sitting in water for an extended period of time. If you don't use a well-draining soil, you may have to adjust your watering habits to keep your plants from drying out or getting root rot. "If you are growing in a heavier soil, make sure that it has had time to dry sufficiently, and if growing in a lighter soil like sand or cactus mix, you may need to water a bit more," Guillou says.


This is where the low-maintenace part really comes in. When it comes to watering succulents, "neglect is best," Guillou says. While the frequency of watering will depend on the species and your growing conditions, most succulents should be left to dry out completely between waterings. That means your succulent's soil should be bone-dry and crumbly before you give it another drink. If the leaves and stems start to wrinkle and get brown, that's a sign your plant is dehydrated and needs to be watered, says Angelica Elliott, assistant director of public horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

When in doubt, however, it's better to steer on the side of under-watering. "[Succulents] will have a better chance to bounce back after being under-watered rather than over-watered," Guillou says.

Temperature and Humidity

Because succulents are native to hot, arid climates, they generally prefer warm temperatures with lower humidity, though it can depend on the species. For a general range, Diane Glaub, plant arbor manager at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, says, "Most succulents prefer temperatures between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent." Since succulents have adapted to desert extremes, they're pretty good at handling both hot and cold conditions within reason, Massura says, noting that humidity is the bigger concern here.

"High-humidity environments quickly lead to rots, wilts, and a slow death," he says. However, Massura explains, succulents can combat high humidity (as high as 70 to 90 percent) as long as they get plenty of daily sunlight to keep their leaves and the soil dry.


Succulents generally don't need fertilizer when planted in the ground, Elliott says, since they can typically obtain all the nutrients needed from the soil. If you're growing succulents in containers, however, you may benefit from periodically fertilizing your plant when it's actively growing. Elliott recommends using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, such as 10-10-10.

How to Propagate Succulents

Propagating succulents is relatively easy to do with many succulent varieties. You can either pull off a leaf, or use a stem from a plant.

  1. Choose a healthy stem or leaf. Ones that are shriveled are not going to be healthy enough to propagate.
  2. Allow it to callus. Set the leaf or stem aside for a few days, so the cut edge can dry out.
  3. Use rooting hormone. This optional step can really help single leaves or tiny pups take root.
  4. Plant it in the soil. Use succulent or cactus-specific soil blends and make it moist to help your plant take root.
  5. Repot the plant. Once the cutting takes root, you can repot it in a larger pot with succulent soil.

How to Grow Succulents in Pots

Succulents grow beautifully in containers, but have different needs than many other houseplants. Here's how to create a beautiful setup to help your succulents thrive.

  1. Choose an appropriate container. Succulents don't have deep roots, so they actually thrive in a shallower pot or bowl than you would use with other plants. Choose one that's an inch or two bigger than their current pot to give them room to grow. Ensure that it has drainage holes, to help keep the roots dry in the event of overwatering.
  2. Use the right soil. Well-draining, sandy soil is best for succulents. Using a soil blend that's made for succulents or cacti would be ideal.
  3. Watch for signs that you need to repot your succulent. If your succulent starts to spill out of the container, or even create roots outside the pot, it's time to move it into a bigger container.

Common Problems With Succulents

Even though they're an easy-care plant, you may find that your succulent starts to look a little unhealthy. Here's how to get to the root of the most common succulent issues.


In most cases, overwatering tends to be the reason a succulent fails to thrive. An overwatered succulent will have mushy, drooping, or yellowing or blackened leaves; will start to lose leaves; and the stem could become swollen.

To fix an overwatered succulent, drain out any moisture that you can. You may also want to take the plant and the soil out of the pot and let it sit out to speed up drying out. Make sure the plant dries out thoroughly before you water again—and consider repotting in a pot with drainage holes to help reduce the chances of that happening again.

Under watering

Yes, succulents can go a very long time without water, but if you wait too long, you'll find plants with shriveled or yellowing leaves, The cure is easy: Give your plant a good water, then let it dry out completely before you water again.

Sun damage

Most succulents thrive in bright sunshine or indirect light. But too much sun can burn your succulents, and cause brown spots. Unfortunately, the brown spots are scars, and will be permanent on your succulent.

Leggy plants

If your succulents have a very long stem with thin leaves, it could be a sign that they need more sun. You could cut it shorter (as if you're propagating it), and let it regrow from there, but choose a sunnier spot in your home.

Common Types of Succulents

There are literally hundreds of different types of succulents out there, in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. You can find some gorgeous succulent options for your garden or your plant collection. Here are 10 of the most common succulents that work beautifully as houseplants, if you're looking to keep a few in your sunny windows.


Cactus Succulent

Hanneke Vollbehr/Getty Images

If you've ever been confused about the difference between succulents and cacti, a common geometry fact might help with the distinction. Like squares are to rectangles, cacti are to succulents. In other words, all cacti are considered succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Cactus plants can also be distinguished from many common succulent plants because they typically don't have leaves.

Jade Plant

Jade plant, lucky plant, money plant or money tree, (Crassula ovata)
mikroman6 / Getty Images

This pretty succulent has been a popular houseplant choice for decades, due to its low maintenance habits (only water it every few weeks or so), and bold jade green color.


An aloe plant sits on a wooden dining table.

Carlina Teteris / Getty Images


Native to Africa, Madagascar, and the Arabian peninsula, these plants are known for producing a skin-soothing gel. However, out of over 300 species, only a few contain the well-known medicinal properties.


Agave: closeup of blue leaves.

acilo/Getty Images

These plants are similar in appearance to aloe, but are typically larger and spinier. Agave plants, native to the Americas, are sometimes called "century plants" since they only bloom once in their lifetime.


Echeveria tippy pink

 Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

Likely the first image that comes to mind when picturing succulents, these plants are rose-shaped with thick, waxy leaves. Native to Mexico, Central America, and South America, Echeveria are often bred for their colorful leaves and flowers.


Kalanchoe plants beginning to bloom

Josie Elias / Getty Images

Kalanchoes are a popular succulent houseplant, thanks to the fact that many varieties bloom beautifully. Like other succulents, keep kalanchoes out of humid areas like your bathroom, and you'll need to keep them away from your pets, as they can be toxic to your furry friends.

Ponytail Palm

Potted evergreen ponytail palm (Beaucarnea Recurvata) isolated on white background
SzB / Getty Images

Don't let the name mislead you. This popular houseplant is actually a succulent, and like other succulents, thrives beautifully on neglect.

Snake Plant

Snake plant in a pot indoors

Grumpy Cow Studios | Getty Images

Snake plants are popular for being low maintenance—and that's because they're succulents. Place. your snake plant near the entrance of your home to bring good fortune with proper plant feng shui.

String of Hearts Plant

Ceropegia woodii also called String of Hearts or Chain of Hearts, modern house plant in a flowerpot against white wall.

Lana_M / Getty Images

This elegant trailing succulent comes from South Africa. String of hearts plants make great hanging houseplants—and they bloom, too.


Close up of jelly bean succulent (Sedum rubrotinctum) with bright red leaves.

Sonia Bonet / Getty Images

Sedum plants come in a number of different shapes and colors, so odds are you can find one of these succulents to suit your style. They also make great landscape plants and ground cover, if you're looking for a low maintenance alternative to a lawn.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are succulents poisonous to dogs or cats?

    Luckily, most succulents are considered non-toxic to pets. However, there are some varieties, like aloe, pencil cactus, kalanchoe, jade plants, and more that can be poisonous, so it's important to do your research before bringing a new succulent around your pets.

  • Why is my succulent dying?

    As emphasized above, over-watering is a much bigger concern than under-watering for these plants, and the most common reason for a dying succulent is root rot. If you notice your plant has root rot, make sure to address the issue as soon as possible, by treating and trimming the infected area.

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