Last updated on March 26th, 2022
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Succulents are outstanding container-grown plants. With their fleshy leaves, tolerance for drought, and an endless array of shapes/colours they offer something for everyone. What’s more, many succulents thrive indoors in well-lit rooms and provide cleaner air in the process, making them an ideal pot-grown indoor plant as well.
There are thousands of succulents available, from hardy outdoor types usually sold as rockery plants as well as more tender indoor varieties. They are further divided into echeverias, aloes, sedums, and sempervivums as far as species are concerned. Succulents are impressive given that they have to survive in some of the harshest terrains in the world. Still, just because they grow in the desert doesn’t mean you should provide them with bad growing conditions if you can help it.
When you are growing succulents in pots you still want to give them succulent-based soil, the right pot, and the correct amount of water, which is very minimal water. In fact, one of the biggest problems with succulents is overwatering and lack of free-draining soil.
There are some Sempervivums that are more stress-tolerant and perfect for beginners or for people whose gardens don’t exactly provide the ideal conditions. There are two main types of Sempervivum, the first of which is larger in size with an open face and the second of which is smaller with a round, ball-like shape. Sedums make complementary plants because of their finer texture and their cascading element. So if you are going to grow in the UK you should pick one of these as a starter variety before you move on to anything more complicated.
Why not have a look in your local nursery/garden centre or even online and take a look at some of the rockery plants for an idea of just how much choice there is.
Where to put them in your garden
Place in a sunny position in well-drained soil
One nice thing about succulents is versatility. You can put them in between your patio pavers to add a bit of texture and fun. You can leave them in their small containers and put them in your rock garden, and you can even bring them inside, set them across a patio, put them on your balcony table, and so much more. They add a unique aesthetic appeal no matter where you place them. In general, all they need is plenty of light and well-drained soil.
Why grow succulents in pots?
Growing succulents in pots is actually better for anyone in the UK because they do originate from warmer, desert climates, which is very much the opposite of the UK. They will easily die off in harsh winter weather, and if their roots get too wet they will drown very quickly or start to rot.
By growing in pots, you have the opportunity to move the containers indoors when the weather turns and this will help the succulents survive the winter. In most cases, if you plant them directly in the ground they won’t be as successful unless they are in a sheltered position in well-drained soil, and even then, only a limited variety will thrive.
Another benefit to growing in pots is the ability to move the containers around the garden to chase the sun. All year-round succulents need ample light and you might live in an area or have a garden facing an area where the light actually moves all day, if that’s the case having succulents in small pots affords you the ability to move the containers throughout the season when the weather turns.
Picking the right container
Ideally, you want a planter or container that’s been made with hypertufa, an antiquated material that is designed for succulent growth but can be messy.
If you can’t find this at a local garden centre or online, you could theoretically make your own, or you can settle for something almost as good. Gardeners.com did a good guide on how to make these yourself here.
Shallow terracotta pots are perfect for growing succulents in
The container you choose has to be made from a material that will prevent the succulent from sitting in too much moisture. Unglazed terracotta pots are the best because they will help hold heat for the succulents and prevent too much moisture. Size-wise they don’t have to be very big. In fact, succulents have very fibrous roots that can’t be too deep. Again if you bury your succulent into large a container it can cause the roots to rot, so shallow containers (as pictured above) are best.
Picking the right soil
You want to get potting soil that is designed for succulents specifically. The succulents need to be in something that is well-draining and not overly rich. Succulents actually store water in their large leaves, which is why they get so big. If you plant them in regular potting compost that is designed to help hold moisture, it will cause over-watering and eventually waterlogging. You can always help the succulent compost with extra drainage by adding perlite and coarse sand to the mixture.
If you cannot get specialist succulent or cacti compost, use multipurpose compost and mix plenty of grit into the compost.
Caring for succulents in containers is relatively easy. You want to give them full sunlight, which is a benefit afforded by containers because you can move the containers around the garden throughout the year. This is also a benefit for winter care when you need to overwinter your succulents by moving them indoors into a greenhouse or into a more sheltered area in your garden.
Feeding and watering
You don’t have to feed them unlike most plants but they do require moisture without over-watering. You should plan on watering about once per week letting the soil dry out in between each watering during the summer and then reducing the frequency based on conditions the rest of the year.
Overall, succulents are very easy to maintain in your garden and even easier to maintain in pots. If you are growing succulents in the UK you are much better off throwing them into containers because of the flexibility you get and the higher success rate of your succulents surviving their first winter.
Image credits – Shutterstock.com