How to care for succulents - 5 expert tips to keep these low-maintenance plants perky

Knowing what they like - and what they don't - is the key to successful succulents

succulent in a large pot against a pink wall
(Image credit: Future)

These popular plants have won legions of fans, as much for their low maintenance upkeep as their beautiful hues and charmingly chunky leaves. So knowing how to care for succulents is something even those without green fingers can do.

Of course, succulents is an umbrella term for a variety of plants that can store water in their leaves and stems. This resourcefulness is why, succulents are among the best houseplants for beginners. 

Adapted to harsh climates, where water is scarce, these hardy fellas can handle it if you forget to water them for a week or two. Not that we'd encourage neglecting them. In fact, with a few tips from our experts you'll see how easy it is to help your succulents thrive. 

'Succulents make excellent house and office plants as they’re unfussy, are able to live in most conditions, and are perfect for those on the forgetful side,' says Richard Cheshire, plant doctor at Patch.

'They come in all shapes, colours, and sizes. Some of the most popular succulents are aloe vera plants, Chinese money plants, euphorbia cacti, sweetheart plants, and echeveria. There’s plenty to choose from, so you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect succulent for your space.'

HOW TO CARE FOR SUCCULENTS

Set of 2 Stratton plant pots

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

1. GIVE THEM A SUNNY SPOT

Kalanchoe Tomentosa

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Unlike many other types of plant that don't like sitting in direct sunlight, succulents love sunshine.

'In the wild succulents are found in arid climates, like deserts, where they are exposed to intense midday sun and a severe lack of water,' says Maddie, plant manager at The Stem (opens in new tab). 'As with all indoor plants, a succulent will thrive if you can replicate the conditions of their natural habitat, so keep them in a spot that gets plenty of natural sunlight.' 

'Close to a south-facing window is best,' adds Jemma Charman, co-founder, Green Rooms.

2. WATER THEM SPARINGLY

string of pearls

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

If you water your houseplants weekly, leave your succulents off the rounds. 'When it comes to watering, succulents have evolved to withstand drought, so they’ll need watering sparingly,' says Richard Cheshire, Patch (opens in new tab)

'They only need a drink once a month (potentially even less if your living space is well heated). Succulents will soon tell you if they’re not happy, so you’ll be able to turn things around quickly. 

'If you’re not giving them enough water, you’ll notice that their leaves are starting to look slightly shrivelled. If you overwater your succulent, their leaves and stalks will go a little mushy.'

'String of pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) is certainly a plant of the moment, with its long trailing stems covered in plump little pearls. Many people don’t realise it is a succulent and instead, treat it like a tropical plant, giving it far too much water and often killing it in the process,' adds Jemma Charman, Green Rooms (opens in new tab).

3. OCCASIONALLY DAMPEN THEIR SOIL

Succulent mini garden

(Image credit: Dobbies)

'Succulents are definitely not for the overzealous waterers,' says Jemma Charman, Green Rooms. 'In winter it is best to err on the side of caution and not water, then increase the frequency of water in spring and summer, but only once the soil has dried out between watering.

'You can water succulents from underneath to avoid their fleshy leaves from sitting in water. Sit the pot in a dish of water for several minutes until the water has been absorbed and the soil is starting to look damp. Be careful not to leave them sat in water for too long as this will result in root rot.'

4. GIVE THEM PLENTY OF DRAINAGE

Hillesley plant pot

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

It's tempting to just leave your succulent in the soil that it came with but a little extra attention in that department will help it to thrive.

'They like a free draining soil mix with lots of grit or sand mixed into it,' says Jemma Charman, Green Rooms. 'So add a little at the bottom of their existing soil.'

5. REPLANT THEM IN TERRACOTTA POTS

succulents in terracotta pots

(Image credit: Alamy)

Seeing a row of terracotta pots brimming with foliage looks lovely, but there's a reason these pots are popular with gardeners. And it's not just because terracotta the color of the moment. Rather than leave your succulent in its plastic pot, it's worth replanting it. 

'We advise planting succulents in terracotta pots with drainage holes, as the terracotta is particularly porous meaning it will not retain too much water in the soil, helping to stave off root rot,' says Jemma Charman.

DO SUCCULENTS CLEAN THE AIR?

Yes, there are many houseplants that clean the air, and this includes succulents such as Aloe vera, Snake plants and more. Although how many you need is up for debate. 

ARE SUCCULENTS EASY TO TAKE CARE OF?

Yes, they are among the best houseplants for beginners, requiring minimal maintenance. They can even handle a little neglect, if you're prone to forgetting to water them, as they are adapted to dry climates. Just make sure they have some sunshine and a little water when the soil is dry.

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.