Succulents Basics

Soil - All succulents require excellent soil drainage. Water should run through pots fast so the plant’s roots don’t get waterlogged.

Water - Succulents are adapted to survive in harsh, dry conditions but this doesn’t mean they don’t like water when they can get it. One major tip is, they don’t like being soggy. If growing in a pot, let the soil dry out between waterings. Water enough to keep the leaves plump. Succulent leaves will often wrinkle if they don’t have enough water, but it’s better to let them get a little dehydrated than to overwater them. Hint: during the rainy season turn the saucers you have under your pots upside-down so they won’t get waterlogged.

Light - Succulents evolved in dry climates but shouldn’t be confused with tough desert cactus. Full sun outdoors is okay for Aloes (not all aloes, Aloe vera prefers part shade - at least mine does) and Agaves but Echveverias prefer a bit of shade or dappled sunlight. Most succulents appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day. Brown, black or white patches may be a sign of too much light. Succulents that are normally green, that turn shades of red or yellow may be stressed by bright sun. Plants that are desperate for sun will reach or lean toward the light and stems will elongate as if it is stretching to reach better light. This is what we call “getting leggy”.

Pests - Snails and mealy bugs are two common pests. Rats have also been known to chew on succulents. Agave Snout Weevil is a serious and potentially fatal pest. If your agave wilts and has dark patches at the leaf axils, it likely has snout weevil, a thumb sized black beetle that punctures an agaves core and turns it to mush. Prevention is essential: Drench the ground beneath agaves in your garden in Spring and Fall with a systemic insecticide.

Maintenance - It’s okay to maintain your succulet garden infrequently but it does need doing at least four times a year. The main seasonal clean-up is Spring. Tasks include, removing weeds and debris, keep plants pest-free, prune excess growth, take cuttings, check irrigation and plant gaps. More valuable information can be obtained at Debra Lee Baldwin's Website

Portulacaria Afra (Elephant’s Food) - AMAZING is the word! According to scientists who study global warming, Elephant’s Food in South Africa are as efficient at scrubbing the atmosphere of harmful carbon as comparable amounts of the rainforest. 2.5 acres of elephant bush absorbs 4.2 tons of carbon annually. Portulacarea afta grows anywhere that doesn’t freeze. Plant it in poor soil, let the sun bake it and when it’s happy, don’t water it. The solid green varieties are edible and it is also firewise. When placed directly over fire, it doesn’t burn, it just cooks! For more info on this amazing plant: Porttulacaria afra page

The Difference Between Cactus and Succulents. 
Succulents are plants that store water in their stems, roots and leaves. Cacti are fleshy plants that store water, therefore, all cacti are succulents. In order for a succulent plant to be considered a cactus, the plant must have areoles. Areoles are small, round, cushion-like mounds of flesh where spines, hair, leaves, flowers and more grow from the cactus. Areoles are only present on cacti, not all succulents.