I haven’t met a gardener yet that doesn’t love succulents. With their chunky leaves and water superpowers, succulents have become an urban gardening icon. However, these fun plants often meet an early end due to improper care.
In this article, we’ll go over how to keep succulents alive, indoors and out. The goal is to understand what your plant needs to live as long as possible. We don’t want to lose any more plants!
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What’s The Average Succulent Lifespan?
Succulents are so diverse that it’s difficult to find a one-fits-all answer to this question. There are thousands of different varieties with their own needs and habits. But how long do succulents live? As a gardener, you should get to know your plants. Read up on their life span, how fast they grow, and what they need in terms of sun, water, pots, soil and the like.
You can sometimes find average succulent lifespans online or at a garden center. However, there are many plants with unknown ages, simply because they haven’t been observed in nature long enough. Here are a few succulents with known life spans:
|Jade Plant||70-100 years|
|Hens and Chicks||3+ years|
|Aloe Vera||5-25 years|
|Living Stones||40-50 years|
|Christmas Cactus||30+ years|
Some succulent plants have factors at play that drastically affect how long they live. For example, many hybrids, such as Echeveria Perle von Nurnberg, have short lifespans.
Some succulents don’t live long but grow offsets to replace themselves. A great example is Chicks and Hens. The main plant only lives around 3-4 years but sends out lots of offsets during its life. You may not even notice the main plant’s death because of how many offsets take its place.
Monocarpic plants, like aeonium kiwi, die after flowering. Depending on how fast the succulent matures, it may live for many years before it blooms. If your succulent begins to flower and you don’t want to lose it, the best thing you can do is take some cuttings for propagation. Think of it as one generation fading out while another takes its place.
Understanding Succulent Growth
Succulents are typically slow growers. That doesn’t mean their growth is all the same, though. The majority of succulents cycle between dormancy and a growing season each year.
Plant dormancy is very similar to hibernation in animals. During a certain season, succulents go into survival mode to make it through extreme weather conditions. They slow or stop their growth in order to conserve energy. Because of this, succulents usually don’t need as much water or sun while dormant.
If your succulent is an indoor plant, it may not go dormant if the temperature doesn’t change. Your plants are fine, but not in sync with their natural habits. Most succulents won’t flower unless they’re allowed to go dormant.
The growing season is when succulents get to work. This is when they’ll form new leaves, send out offsets, and flower. Succulents typically appreciate extra water, sunlight, and even fertilizer during this time.
Succulents native to the Northern Hemisphere usually go dormant during the winter and grow in the spring and summer. On the other hand, native southern plants typically shut down when it’s hot outdoors in the summer.
Keeping Succulents Alive
Now that you know how long your succulent can live, we can focus on helping it get there. The key is to keep your succulent’s conditions as close as possible to its natural habitat. That care usually follows these general guidelines:
Water your succulent whenever the soil is completely dry. Give your succulent a deep drink until water runs out of the drainage hole. This is called the “soak and dry” technique. Succulents can usually bounce back from underwatering, but overwatering is a death sentence. Before you water again, be sure the soil in your pots has dried!
Give your succulent plenty of sunlight. However, most species cannot tolerate direct sun. Indirect or bright, filtered light is usually the best. If it doesn’t receive enough sunlight, your plant may begin to stretch out, or etiolate.
The soil should be very well-draining. There are many specialty succulent and cactus mixes that are perfect. You can also make your own mix by mixing one part potting soil with one part perlite. If the mix retains too much water, the roots will begin to rot.
Fertilizer depends on the variety of succulent you have. Some appreciate multiple doses a year while others don’t need it at all. Plants that do need fertilizing usually prefer one that’s balanced or low nitrogen.
Keep pests and diseases well away from your plants. Know the signs for common succulent pests such as mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects. Diseases are usually rare in succulents, but nearly all are prone to root rot. Prevent this by watering properly and keeping the stem and leaves dry.
Remember that these care tips are general and vary from plant to plant. For the best instructions, look into your succulent’s specific needs.
Helping Your Succulents Live Longer
Proper care will definitely benefit your succulent. To really extend their life span though, do the following:
- Keep a consistent watering schedule
- Use good quality soil, repotting into new pots as needed
- Let your succulent acclimate when moving it to a new location
- Take good care of the roots
- Propagate so your plant can live on through its descendants
Remember that you’re in charge of your plant’s longevity. When you get a new succulent, taking the time to read a 5-minute article about its care can make a huge difference. So learn about your plants, track its progress, and take notes! Your succulent is depending on you.
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