BY EMMA GONZALEZ / MAY 15th, 2017

Within the last few months, Amazon.com decided to sell succulents and cacti. I know what you’re thinking, plants online? Well yes! With the right price and all the tools you need from soil to books, Amazon has the hook up on plant care. If you’re like me and get stressed out at Home Depot, Amazon could be a good alternative to cultivating your garden indoors or out. Gardening and plants have a whole lot of benefits to your health and to your home. They can liven up a space and send potential buyers the message that you care about your home and what you put into it.

Before you order and delve into the world of pretty plants, I wanted to include some tips for beginners. Since plants are living things, it’s best to remember that you must observe and “listen” to them. Plants have their own ways of telling you that they’re not doing okay. These tips go in depth on proper beginning care as well as how to notice if they’re as healthy as they can be.

Photo by Emma Gonzalez

Arrival. When your plants arrive, they will be wrapped in plastic and boxed. Make sure you unwrap carefully and inspect them. If you have a cactus, make sure you’re aware of the spines that can be prickly. Tweezers can be helpful at unwrapping cacti. Notice if they look dry, or dull in color. If so, slowly acclimate them to sunlight and watering. It’s important to remember that plants can be stressed out too. Going from a dim box to bright lights can shock them so to speak. 

Watering. When it comes to watering succulents and cacti, it’s important to remember that they do not like having a wet bottom. This means, it’s good to let them dry between watering to about once a week with watering overall. Overwatering can rot the roots, if your plant is looking mushy or yellowing, stop watering. It is better to underwater than overwater.

I recommend a plastic syringe­­­­­­­­ or bottle such as this one to control the amount of water your succulents get (especially if they’re tiny). ­Currently, we’re in full on growing season till about autumn. That means watering them and feeding them at the appropriate times and often. Hopefully it goes without saying that you need to water less in the fall and winter months. You will be watering more from spring into the early fall while its lighter out for longer. While succulents and cacti tend to be hardy and can survive, getting down a routine of care can increase their longevity and make them thrive longer.

Photo by Emma Gonzalez

It is also important to determine how much water a succulent gets based off their pot. If you’re like me and want to put succulents in nontraditional containers (such as this shot glass), remember that they do not need to be watered as often. Why? If there is no drainage hole, it’ll take longer for the soil to absorb the moisture. Succulents and cacti can thrive in glasses and other pots with the right soil that is made for them that allows drainage. If you water succulents once a week, try every other week or a week and a half. It takes some trial and error. However, when in doubt, do not water. It is harder to save a succulent or cactus that is waterlogged.

Some people suggest putting gravel or rocks on the bottom on a pot to allow for drainage. However, it has been debunked that this does not really make the plant healthier. Potting mix should extend all the way down for your plants.

Lighting. This is something I learn from with time and error. I thought that cacti and succulents could thrive in a lot of light all throughout the day. However, your plant can get sunburnt, just like us! Too much light will give your plant a dull, colorless, or even yellow looking from the stress of too much light. This can also happen if you move it into light very quickly as mentioned above. (Such as when they arrive from a dark box and are outside of the box).

I also got a UV light because I thought it would help my plants grow. While a UV light is good for winter and fall, it can also burn your plants. Morning light is deemed as the best for succulents. Afternoon sun can often be too harsh on them.

Photo by Emma Gonzalez

Check out the windows in your home. It’s not uncommon to put multiple plants in one area or window because of the lighting. Do not be afraid to rotate them so every corner can get the rays it needs. Really look and observe your plants, some species of succulents do not need as much light as others. You’ll start to get an idea based off if they grow towards the light or start looking a little colorless or “bleached.” Beware for scarring that can occur if your plants get scorched by the light. Scarring can last the whole span of your plant’s lifetime.

Fertilizer. Some blogs and websites mention that succulents and cacti can thrive without fertilizer. However, you can always get specific food to help them grow. It’s not a bad idea to feed them nutrients, especially if they look on the unhealthy side. Follow the directions on the back of the bottle. If you mix with your water, make sure you have separate water bottle without the plant food.

Leaves. Really pay attention to your plants when you first get them. The leaves can tell you if you’re not watering enough, watering too much, anything about sunlight, and just the overall health of the plant. Do not freak out if leaves start to decay from the bottom.  Since succulents and cacti grow upwards, the bottom leaves will go first. It’s perfectly natural. Make sure to remove dead and decayed leaves to avoid pests and keep your plant growing strong. The decay can attract different types of bugs that can be harmful.

I hope these basics make you feel a little more confident in caring for plants. As you start knowing your plants and getting a routine of watering and sunlight down, you can move onto things such as propagation. As for pests, this website outlines some of the things you can be on the lookout for.

Succulents and cacti can a great source de-stressing and make your home look a little prettier. You can feel a sense of pride and joy when you’re able to adequately take care of them. They also can make a great gift if you start dabbling in bouquets and arrangements!

Succulent Care for Beginners