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Succulent Care for Newbies

This is a note that aims to help new plant parent understand the basics requirements of succulents and cactus. The information written here are all merely through experiences, trial, and error. Succulents are basically plants that thrive from neglect.

Below are some of the very common succulents & cactus that you would encounter in most nurseries in Malaysia. But first, take some time to understand the difference between a succulent and a cactus. In general anyone would tell you that these plants are desert plants and can usually take on anything from blazing hot sun to super thunderstorms. Not true.

Succulents are basically fleshy plants that stores water in their leaves, stem and roots. They have shallow and delicate root system and are basically found all over the world. Cacti on the other hand are also basically fleshy plants that stores water in their leaves, stem and roots, which makes them part of the succulent family. Cacti are basically a sub category in the succulent family. The cacti, basically does not have any branches or leaves as for one to be classified as a cacti, they must have Areoles. Areoles are small mounds of flesh where the spines, hair, flower, etc grow from. These parts are only present in a cactus, not all succulents.

ar·e·oleˈerēˌōl/nounBIOLOGYplural noun: areolesan areola, especially a small area bearing spines or hairs on a cactus.

Echeverias are rossette type succulent that is often sought after by consumers because of its uniqueness. However echeverias require an adequate amount of sunlight for it to maintain its compact and lovely shape. When they do not receive the amount of sunlight they require they will begin to stretch upwards, giving them a very leggy and tall look in search for more sunlight.

Haworthias are small succulents from the South Africa, these succulents are very slow growing and generally are easier to care than echeverias as they are rather more tolerant with lighting because you can basically get away with just a decent amount of lighting. They should be getting at least 2 -3 hours of direct morning sunlight and bright filtered light throught the day because in nature, they can usually be found near rocks, and underneath small shrubs. One thing to note, if they are exposed to too much sunlight they might turn red/orange. To fix this simply put them in some shade and lessen the amount of lights received.

Sedums are very to care for. These succulents are also known in a more common term called the stonecrop plant. These plants will thrive in most lighting conditions however, they are also quite prone to stretching and elongating when they do not receive enough sunlight. Their light requirements are similar to echeverias where they need a minimum of 4-5 hours of morning sunlight to maintain their compact shape. Sedums can change color when they are receiving too much sunlight. Its a sign the plant is showing stress, its interesting to see the change in color, but when you can please do give them some shade too to prevent scorching.

The common cactus, is very forgiving in lighting and watering as they can do tolerate a decent amount of sunlight and watering. One can never go wrong with a common cactus. Only way they die is when you give them too much water!

Sunlight : How much light should your succulent receive? It basically varies from the many types of succulents available. As a general rule of thumb they should be receiving an average of 4-5 hours of morning sunlight and the rest receiving bright daylight. Avoid exposing them to mid day sun as they are often too hot and will scorch the plants. However some species can do with a little extra sunlight and some would prefer filtered light and some shade. Do check the kind of succulents you have and refer to the pictures above for a more detailed explanation on their sunlight requirement.

Watering : How much should your succulent receive? It basically varies again from the many types of succulents available. You should always water them generously untill water starts to drain out of the pot. A more detailed watering schedule below : 1 time (s) every week if they are placed outdoors and receives a minimum of 6-8 hours of morning sun1 time (s) every two to three weeks if they are placed indoors and receives minimum 4-6 hours of morning sunlightIf they are in a pot with no drainage, ie : glass jars/terrariums, extra care should be taken care while watering because excess water will have no where to go but to the base of the pot, most likely will result in bacterial, fungi growth and then leading to root rot. Try to water them sparingly around the root area. Using a syringe will help in directing the water to the root ball.There are generally no right and wrong watering method of schedule. Just remember that if they are placed indoors they should be watered less frequent than the ones placed outdoors because water evaporates faster outdoors. Please also be reminded that we should try to avoid getting water on the plant itself as it would cause the plant to rot.

Soil : What kind of soild should you use for your succulents?

Succulents and cactuses are plants that are commonly found in semi desert areas. They are often seen growing in soil that does not retain water and often lacking in nutrients and organic matter. Succulents and cactuses will prefer soil that are fast draining. We usually mix our own soil with coarse rocks, stones, vermiculite, perlite, lava stones. These substance will give the soil the ability to quickly drain water as these plants do not like having a wet feet.

What happens when the soil stays wet for too long? : The plants will suffer from root rot and risk being infested by mealybugs and aphids. Mealy bugs and aphids are pests that will basically kill your succulents slowly.

I dropped my plant and it broke : If it happens don’t blame yourself. Remember these plants are very forgiving plants. Should you accidentally dropped your plant, or snapped some of its leaves somehow, please do not worry as these plants can basically regrow into a new plant through the broken pieces.

Pick up the broken pieces and leave them in a shaded area and let the wound dry up. It will usually take somewhere between 5 to 7 days, and then another few days, weeks or even months to send our pink roots or little leaves like the picture above. Once they start showing new sign of life, you can just lay them on top of a shallow pot of soil while allowing them to do their thing on their own. They won’t need your help with watering while their old leave still remains as that is their source of water and nutrition. Keep them away from direct sunlight too. The process of propagating from a leaf to a decent 1 inch succulent can take up to 1 year. SO BE PATIENT!

Browning of the lower leaves is normal as it is a sign that the plants are absorbing old leaves for energy to generate new leaves. If you watered correctly

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