I normally don’t lean toward writing instructional newsletter articles, but I have been bit and infected by the succulent bug. I just know there are people out there who would like to read and see how to plant a succulent garden without getting injured by spines. Well, I really should say, I am going to share how to plant spiny succulents and keep injuries to a minimum. So, I hope you find this photo demonstration helpful and I hope it helps those worried about being “poked” get past that fear and create a spiny garden of their own.
NOTE – Not all succulents are cacti, but all cacti are succulents. Even some succulents that look like cacti, aren’t.
First things first – Proper soil is key to keeping succulents. I start with good soil and mix in expanded shale (haydite). Your soil does not need to be organic, but it’s fine if you want to use organic as I did. What’s really important is the texture of your soil. It should be very loose and light. Expanded shale is my drainage additive of choice. Succulents in general require really good drainage to keep water from sitting on their roots. You don’t have to use expanded shale, many succulent gardeners use sand, crushed granite, perlite, or other materials to increase drainage of their soil. I like to use a mixture of 1/3 expanded shale to 2/3 soil. This seems to keep my dry land succulents happy. If I am planting succulents that might need a little more moisture, I reduce the amount of expanded shale to ¼ and increase the amount of soil to ¾ for my mixture. For the purposes of this demonstration, I used approximately 1/3 shale to 2/3 soil because most of the plants I chose for these containers prefer dryer conditions.
Second things second – Proper lighting is important too. Most succulents will do well in bright light (some will do great indoors near a window) and many will do well even in our full sun here. However, if you purchase a cactus or other succulent and it has been partially protected from the sun, don’t just place it in full sun right away. It’s always good to gradually increase sun exposure over a period of time to make sure the succulent can take it.
Third things third – Water is necessary, but because succulents store water in their stems, they don’t need regular watering like other plants. Even in the heat of the summer, minimal watering is key. Let succulents dry completely and for a period of time before watering. Never allow water to sit in a succulent pot.