11 Tips for Growing Beautiful Indoor Succulent Gardens
Are you thinking of expanding your indoor succulent garden? If you approach it the right way, growing a succulent garden indoors can be both rewarding and fairly straightforward. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton shares her top tips for creating a beautiful indoor succulent garden this season.
Succulents are beloved by gardeners around the world for their fuss-free nature. Generally, the less attention you give your succulents, the better they will grow. This has also made them popular among beginner gardeners, especially for keeping indoors.
Unfortunately, succulents don’t make great indoor plants. The conditions they prefer don’t quite match up to those in our homes. This means most succulent plants will underperform and may even face an early death if their needs aren’t met.
If you’ve struggled to keep succulents live indoors, or simply want to improve the design of your existing indoor succulent garden, follow these essential tips.
Keep it Bright
Most succulents are accustomed to a full day of sunlight in their native habitats. Some can tolerate partial shade better than others – like Jade Plants or String of Pearls – but most need a minimum of six hours of direct sun to grow well and maintain their compact shape.
Full sun positions are tough to find when growing indoors. But ensuring your succulents get plenty of sun is key to strong growth. If you see yourself as a succulent black thumb because your plants always stretch and die off within the year, this could be the reason why.
Before you find the perfect spot, make sure you check the requirements for your chosen succulent. Some are more sensitive to harsh light, while others may need closer to eight or ten hours of direct sun per day to truly thrive.
Supplement with Grow Lights
Few of us have the perfect south-facing sunny window that allows us to grow succulents indoors. In my case, the only window in my home that would receive a full day of direct sun is unfortunately shaded by an avocado tree. This eliminates the one space I could have used to grow succulents indoors.
But if you don’t have the right position, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your indoor succulent garden dreams altogether. You can grow succulents in any part of your home with the help of grow lights. These can be adjusted to the needs of your plants, ensuring they always grow their best.
Grow lights can also be used to grow a range of other plants typically reserved for outdoor growing like herbs and vegetables. Although it can be a costly investment, it is a worthwhile one.
Choose the Right Container
Container choice is crucial when growing succulents indoors. If your container is too large, the plant will look small and diminished. The extra soil in the container can also hold onto moisture in areas where the roots don’t reach, increasing the risk of root rot.
On the hand, if your container is too small, the growth of your succulents will be restricted. You’ll need to repot more often to prevent overcrowding.
Drainage is also important to consider. Succulents cannot survive without drainage. However, despite this, many are sold in cute containers or even glass that causes water to pool inside.
I’ve made the mistake of purchasing a succulent in a hanging glass container. I hoped if I watered it very carefully, that it would survive. Needless to say, that didn’t work out too well.
Make sure your chosen container leaves a little additional space for root growth. But you don’t want so much room that the sizing between plant and container looks out of place.
Always pick containers with drainage holes before planting or drill your own drainage holes if you are recycling old containers.
Plant Multiple Species Together
Filling large containers with unique combinations of plants is usually reserved for outdoor containers. I’ve met very few indoor gardeners who ever combine their houseplants or succulents in a single container to make a new and exciting plant feature.
Once we bring plants home, we may dress them up with a decorative pot, but that’s usually where the creativity ends.
Growing smaller succulents indoors provides the perfect opportunity to flex your creative muscles by planting different species together. Many succulents prefer similar growing conditions and make great companion plants.
This allows you to take a few smaller plants (that admittedly may not look that impressive on their own) and turn them into a captivating decorative feature bound to turn heads.
The most important piece of advice I give for succulent growers (and all houseplant owners) is: avoid overwatering at all costs.
Overwatering or lack of drainage is one of the biggest houseplant killers. Roots do not like sitting in soggy soil. Lack of airflow and excess moisture will quickly cause the roots to rot, ultimately killing your plants if not controlled.
Overwatering is even more of a risk when it comes to succulents. Thanks to the conditions in their native environments, most succulents prefer their soil to remain dry rather than moist. The roots are incredibly sensitive to overwatering, eventually traveling up the stem to kill off the entire plant.
Make sure you allow the soil to dry out completely – or almost completely for some species – before watering again.
Check for Pests and Diseases
Another risk to consider when growing succulents indoors is pests and diseases. In humid environments and around other houseplants that may attract certain pests. The chances of encountering these issues are relatively high.
As many gardeners will already know, preventing pests and diseases from attacking your plants is far better than trying to remove a problem once it has taken over. Vigilance is important to stop minor issues from becoming major issues and spreading throughout the rest of your succulent garden.
Check your succulents regularly for signs of pest and disease damage. Isolate and prune any problematic plants and apply treatment if needed. The right environment and care can help limit pest and disease issues, along with adequate airflow around each of the pots.
Add Pops of Color
Indoor gardens are usually dominated by green. There may be a few variegated plants or a unique color from an interesting cultivar, but green is by far the most common color you’ll see.
Starting an indoor succulent garden provides the perfect opportunity to add pops of color to your indoor space. Along with their unique geometric shapes and structural look, several succulent species and cultivars come in a wide range of colors not typically seen indoors.
You can have one species for almost every color of the rainbow or choose one or two of your favorite colors for a more harmonious look. This will make your smaller succulents instantly stand out amongst the rest of the plants in your indoor garden.
Decorate with Gravel
Another design tip that can neaten your indoor succulent garden and unify the plants is covering the soil with gravel. Many nurseries sell individual succulents with a layer of gravel on top already, but if you’ve propagated or replanted your succulents you can add the gravel yourself.
This simple trick is an instant makeover for succulent gardens, creating harmony between each container. I prefer to use fine gravel over larger pieces for a smoother finish.
You can also choose the color of your gravel to personalize each pot. I lean toward muted tones and love shiny black gravel, but you can find options in almost any color you can imagine.
Vary Texture and Shape
To improve the visual interest and overall design of your indoor succulent garden, place plants with varying textures and shapes next to each other. There are so many succulents with unique looks and interesting textures that can be highlighted with contrast.
For example, a small container overflowing with String of Pearls vines has quite an organic look. Placing this species next to a structural Echeveria or Haworthia with their pointed leaves and geometric shapes will emphasize the unique properties of both plants. Similarly, the smooth leaves of a Jade Plant provide great contrast for a sharp Aloe Vera plant.
Get creative with combinations and test out different placements until you find the perfect design for your space.
Fertilize as Needed
Succulents are typically slow-growing plants happy to grow in gritty soil without many nutrients. However, over time as the plants use up the available nutrients in the soil, they can benefit from a nutrient top-up or soil replacement to maintain growth and help the plant thrive.
You’ll be impressed by how much better your succulents grow when nutrient deficiency is never a concern.
The amount of fertilizer needed will depend on the species of plant. The typical recommendation is to fertilize with a balanced fertilizer every few months in spring and summer when most growth occurs. I prefer to dilute fertilizers to half strength especially for sensitive succulents to avoid the risk of overfertilizing.
One of the greatest benefits of growing succulents is that they are incredibly easy to propagate. Many species do the work for you by producing pups that can simply be removed and replanted when they are large enough.
Others can be propagated from a single leaf to dramatically expand your succulent collection without spending a cent. All you need is a few tools and your favorite succulent species to get started.
Growing a thriving succulent garden indoors is not difficult, even for beginners. As long as their basic needs are met and common concerns avoided, they are likely to become your favorite houseplants.