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Mon, October 20, 2014


Our mantra: Water when the soil is dry, and NEVER water when the soil is wet!

Q’s & A’s:
Should I water my cuttings right away? NO, don’t water them for the first 2 weeks or you are risking rot! You should plant them in well draining cactus type soil, not houseplant soil that does the opposite, holding moisture in. Another option is just leaving them on a tray in the shade for a few weeks and often many of them will begin rooting on their own. Once you begin to water, make sure you allow the soil to dry between watering, just as you should with fully rooted/potted succulents. This rooting process may take up to 6 weeks before fully established.

How to propagate my succulents/create more cuttings? When a succulent plant begins to grow you have a couple of options. If it is a rosette/flower shaped succulent, you can often remove the lower leaves/petals and set them aside to dry for a few days in the shade to allow them to callous over. Often, these petals will also form new roots and begin growing new succulents out of them! You can leave them in the shade, plant partially in the soil, or lay on top of the soil. You may also cut off the main rosette and or other rosettes and set these aside to dry for a few days until calloused over. If you are left with just the "stump" of the original plant, this too will often create new leaves and plants that you can cut off again and also root later.

How often should I water my succulent cuttings? Succulents love water, but only when their soil is dry! During the winter months, you can cut back on watering but play it by appearance. If your succulents are looking a little wilted or thirsty, give them some water. When watering, always do it thoroughly all the way through to the bottom and let it drain through. Let them drain thoroughly; don’t let the pot sit in the drained water if the pot is kept on a tray or saucer! Do not mist your cuttings either, these are not houseplants and they do not do as well in humid conditions.

What is overwatering? Overwatered plants are soft and discolored. The leaves may be yellow or white and lose their color. A plant in this condition may be beyond repair, but you can still remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and rotted, cut away dead roots and allow to dry, and then start over!

What is under watering? Succulents prefer generous water (but always allow to completely dry before watering again) during the growing season (spring and summer). An under watered plant will first stop growing, and then begin to show wrinkles and shed leaves. Alternatively, the plant may develop brown spots on the leaves.

Should I put the cuttings in direct sunlight after they arrive? NO. Shade and being kept dry is fine until you decide to replant them.

What kind of temperatures do they need/like? Succulents are much more cold-tolerant than many people assume. As in the desert, where there is often a marked contrast between night and day, succulents thrive in colder nights, down to even 40ºF. Ideally, succulents prefer daytime temperatures between 70ºF and about 85ºF and nighttime temperatures between 50ºF and 55ºF. When replanting, heat is great, but full sun will only dehydrate them more until they can begin forming roots.

It gets hot where here, can we leave them outside all summer long? Extremely hot temperatures with direct sunlight and lack of water can all damage and or destroy your succulents. A little shade can make all the difference. Direct sunlight can also effect the coloring of your succulents, making some of them brighter, redder etc. It can also fade the coloring on some. Experiment!

What kind of light do they need? If in a home, succulents prefer bright light, such as found on a south-facing window. Watch the leaves for indications that the light level is correct. Some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. The leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed. Alternatively, an under-lit succulent will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves. This condition is known as etoliation. The solution is to provide better light and prune/propagate the plant back to its original shape. Many kinds of succulents will thrive outdoors in the summer.

What kind of potting soil and pot should I use? Succulents should be potted in a fast-draining mixture that's designed for cacti and succulents. If you don't have access to a purchased cactus specialized mix, modify a normal potting mix with an inorganic agent to increase aeration and drainage. These plants generally have shallow roots that form a dense mat just under the soil surface. Suggested “homemade” mixes are 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 perlite, or ½ potting soil, ½ (or a bit more) perlite. Succulents NEED great drainage, so choose a pot with a drainage hole, preferably an unglazed one. Think terra cotta! Succulents look great in them and you can simply “drop” or “lift” this kind of pot in and out of your garden outside (if you desire) when the weather changes for the seasons. Just remember to acclimate your plant gradually to brighter or more direct sunlight. Sunburn doesn't feel or look good on plants any more than it does on humans.

Should I fertilize my succulents? During the summer growing season, carefully fertilize as you would with other houseplants. Under-fertilizing is better than over-fertilizing! Stop fertilizing entirely during the winter.

Pest problems? Succulents tend to have few pests, but mealy bugs, aphids and scale can show up. For mealy bugs, dampen a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and thoroughly wet the pest. This will destroy the white shell and the bug inside will dry up (wipe it away if you want). For aphids and scale, take an old clean spray bottle, add 1 tablespoon of liquid Dawn dishwashing detergent and 1 tablespoon of canola oil, fill with water, shake and spray. If other pests, like ants or springtails find your succulent while it is on holiday in your summer garden, DON’T use just any insecticide; succulents are sensitive to many and could be damaged or killed. Stick to one that is borax-based. For knowledge fun: a video on making cuttings!

Information provided by Darren Irwin of The Succulent Source/San Pedro Nursery and Shar Peitz, a MGC member who is crazy about succulents.

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