Essential tips for taking care of your succulents and helping them thrive

  • Many are buying plants and turning to gardening as a therapeutic hobby during Covid-19
  • We’ve got your guide on how much sunlight and water they need, plus how to handle pests
Doris Wai |

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Succulents are easier to take care of than other plants, but they still require some care.

Many of us have turned to gardening as a therapeutic hobby during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Succulents – plants with thick, plump leaves – are a big favourite among Hongkongers, and for obvious reasons, too. These miniature plants are perfect for small spaces, tolerate warm weather well, and are much easier to take care of when compared to other varieties. This doesn’t mean they don’t require any maintenance though.

Here are some essential tips from top gardening websites to help you tend to your succulent and ensure it thrives.

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Even though succulents are mostly indoor plants, they need at least three hours of sunlight every day.

If you notice your plant’s leaves are spacing out or the middle of a rosette-shaped succulent is starting to grow away from the centre of the plant, this probably means it is not getting enough sunlight. Non-green succulents such as the Blue Chalksticks (Senecio serpens) or Lipstick (Echeveria agavoides) usually turn green if they are left in the dark for too long. Leaving your succulent in morning sunlight is most ideal as the afternoon sun is much harsher, which can damage the plants, leaving scars on the leaves. The leaves can sometimes end up looking “washed out”.

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As you might already know, water is another important factor in keeping your potted succulent healthy. These plants have adapted to survive long periods without water and only need watering once or twice week, depending on the climate. One common mistake many first-time owners make is spraying water on the leaves, instead of directly on the soil. Watering the leaves can make them mouldy.

Another is too much water. The general rule of thumb is to only water a succulent when the soil is dry. If it’s getting too much water , its roots will start to rot and its leaves will turn mushy or even mouldy. If you see any of these signs, remove the plant from its soil and air its roots to remove the moisture before repotting it in a new batch of dry soil.

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Also, it’s normal for the plant’s lower leaves that are closest to the soil to shrivel up, but you should definitely be concerned if that happens to the uppermost or newly-grown leaves.

Apart from basic care, succulent owners also have to beware of pests. Mealybugs look like a white, cottony substance and are usually found near a new growth on the plant or where the leaves and stem meet. Check on your succulent frequently, and look for leaves that look deformed as the mealybugs eat away at the plant as they move, which stunts the plant’s growth. These pests can be removed easily with store-bought pesticides or by spraying 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol on the bugs.

A round of alcohol spray should do the job if the mealybugs are discovered early. If not, you can consider pouring the alcohol over the soil to kill any remaining bugs.

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