Did you know that succulent plants breathe at night, not during the day like other plants? This preference for nighttime air exchanges helps them to conserve water during those hot days. If this level of detail interests you, look up Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, or CAM for short. For now, onto a few plant care tips that I learned from my visit to the Crump Greenhouse:
1. Watering - In a greenhouse, succulents may only need to be watered every 7 -10 days but in the dryness of homes, they may need to be watered more. It depends on so many factors, so succulent expert Gordon Rowley said in one of his books,"It is often a matter of waiting for the plant to make the first move." However, as I discussed with a plant expert at Paulino Gardens in Denver, it's possible to have a miscommunication with your plant. When it shrivels, it's often too late. The easiest way to kill your succulents is watering them too frequently, such as a little today, a little in a couple days. The frequency of the watering may vary based on the time of year and the amount of recent plant growth, but the amount that you water is roughly the same. Water them fully but don't let them sit in a saucer of water as they will rot.
2. Propagation - If you have a healthy succulent and would like to take a snipping to create a new plant, one tip that I learned from Mike Crump is to let it cure. That's right, snip a healthy piece of the plant, one that has new growth generating and a nice shape. Then let it dry for approximately one week before planting the stem in soil. The stem part of the plant calluses over before it goes into the soil. Put it in the soil for a day or two more, and, only then, do you water it.
3. Soil and Stones - Just because succulents can grow in rock crevasses doesn't mean that they tolerate any kind of soil in pots. Use good quality catci and succulent soil that drains well. In this picture you can see course gravel on the top layer. Gravel is an excellent way to retain soil moisture and also make the soil less attractive to flies - just put a light coating of it on the top of your soil. If you are going to use liquid fertilizer, less nitrogen is better. Use about 1/4 of the recommended amount of an all purpose fertilizer. Also, use it more infrequently than is recommended and mostly when you see new growth.