What’s The Key to Successfully Rooting Your Succulents Without Rotting Them?
Water LITE, water often.
Succulents without roots will live off their fleshy reserves until they get the signal to shoot out roots. What gives them this signal? The humidity felt through the soil, letting them know that water is near. You can achieve this by lightly watering around the base of the plant.
The amount of water will vary depending on your soil mix and your succulent environment, but it should coincide with how many hours/days you’d like your soil to be wet. In this case, I want the soil to be completely dry by end of the day or the next day at the latest and I want to introduce water every 7 days if temperatures are comfortable and every 4 days if temperatures are hot.
My goal is not to keep the succulent’s bottom bark wet because that’s how we get rot; it’s to keep the humidity in the soil that lingers for days after the soil feels “dry”. We want the humidity to trigger the roots to poke out and go searching for water.
You may notice your plant perk up a bit once it’s got a tiny bit of root growth and is able to absorb water. This is an exciting time! Feel free to gently unpot your plant and take a look at the root progress. Some growers don’t believe in disturbing the roots as it can slow their growth but, if you are new to rooting, there is power in experience, so I encourage you to become very interested in each stage. Once you get to know your plants, you’ll understand what they need, when they need it, and won’t second guess yourself.
Danger Zone: Don’t Allow Your Succulent to Rot
This next phase is where a lot of rots tend to occur… Your plant takes a sip from her new roots and is feeling fabulous when it goes from metabolizing its own leaves (to stay alive) to searching for water. Only, its roots have not grown enough to sustain its beauty on their own. This results in the plant looking THIRSTY. This is NORMAL and a great sign! A common mistake at this stage is, bumping up the water which rots the bark. Continue watering with rooting in mind and I promise your plant will be fine.
Give it another week or so and then check your roots again. If they are an inch in length or more, I move to top watering once per week (for outdoor succs and every two weeks for indoor succs) to its field capacity (until water drips out the bottom of the plant). I baby them for another couple of weeks like that until I see them start to perk up again, and then I throw them into the normal water rotation with my mature, rooted succs.
The above is the exact schedule I use to root all the succulents that come into my shop. Some types take 2-3 weeks while some of the round leaf types like Cotyledon can take up to 6 months. As I mentioned above, don’t be afraid to remove your pot to see what’s going on under the soil!
Let’s Talk About Soil!
What do succulents need from their soil?
- Nutrients (or you can just use liquid fertilizer, but I prefer to build it in)
- Tailored to fit your watering schedule or the water requirements of your plants
Before we get into it, I just really want to say very quickly, DO NOT put sand in your succulent soil. Please, for the love of all things beautiful, keep the sand and your succulent soil away from each other. What does sand do to your wet skin at the beach? It sticks to it! That is exactly what it does to those juicy little succulent roots. It sticks to them, weighs them down and it suffocates them. It’s a no, for me.
The following is the soil mixture I use for most of my plants. The exceptions being round leaf types such as, cotyledon and moonstones.
- 10 Parts palm, cactus, citrus soil, or any premix bulk cactus, palm soil
- 4 Parts coco coir
- 3 Parts cherry stone (chicken grit. If your chicken grit is treated with probiotics, please wash it thoroughly)
- 2 Parts worm castings
- 1.5 Parts pine bark fines
For round leaf types, I use a mixture of 70-80% chicken grit and 20-30% of the above recipe.
These soil mixtures above work for me in the environment I have my plants in, but you might want to tailor them a little for your own environment. My plants are outside, greenhouse grown, but it does get very warm. I have a lot of plants, as you can imagine, and I want to be able to water them on specific days. I currently bottom water my plants once every two weeks and adjust their soil to match their watering requirements which is why the round leaf types get so much more grit in their soil than most of my other succulents.
Watering Requirements Of Rooted Plants
Most of us in the succulent world have heard people say that it’s better to under-water a succulent than it is to over-water it OR that they’ve never killed a succulent by ignoring it, but they’ve got a graveyard out back full of succs they’ve rotted out via over care.
Let’s find a simpler way of thinking about this. To figure out the water requirements of specific succ types, we need to take this conversation to the leaves.
- Broad, thin leaves that don’t hold much water, like sempervivum, will need a more frequent schedule because it doesn’t carry its own reserves (can be weekly, depending on their soil mix). They also need a grittier soil mix to pull the water off within a couple of days so that their thin leaves don’t rot.
- Broad, chunky leaves like echeveria, hold a good amount of water. These guys can go for at least a couple of weeks if kept outdoors.
- Round, chunky leaves like cotyledon and moonstones, are completely inflated with water so these guys can and LOVE getting thirsty in between drinks. If you’ve got a round leaf that has grown long in the leaf, its’ because it’s getting watered too soon. Wait for the leaves to look wrinkled so it’s not taking in excess and stretching out.
If you have a lot of succulents, I highly recommend organizing your water schedules by manipulating your soil, so all your plants are on the same schedule or close to it. I’ll cover tips on that in a future blog!
Thanks for hanging with me! I hope you had a succie time!