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Growing things: it’s not my strong suit.
BUT, I have been getting better over the years, and with a record-breaking number of seven plants in this house still thriving (office, laundry room, kitchen, dining room, AND the living room), my skills with indoor plants are ever-expanding. So, I decided last week to retry keeping succulents alive for May’s small DIY project.
Thinking back on previous succulent casualties, I think my biggest mistake was probably a combination of over-watering and not having great drainage. So this time, I’m using a new trick to help solve both of those issues — and best of all, it’s ridiculously simple (my favorite kind of solution).
One of the most annoying things about plants is that they can die. I think they’re gorgeous and absolutely necessary for the home (enough to keep trying even after killing them before), but they… you know… need things to stay alive. And once they die, it’s like burning money to me. So I buy plants that are really cheap, but I also try to buy the correct potting materials. The good news is that both of these things can be easily purchased at a home improvement store or big box chain.
What you need (some links contain affiliates):
- succulents in plastic containers (with holes in the bottom)
- decorative pots
- cactus potting soil
- tiny pebbles or vase filler
I picked up these really cute tea cups at Goodwill a little over a week ago and thought they’d be great for some little plants. I’ve been working on a larger plant project out on the patio (to reveal at a later date), so when some of the smaller plant bits broke apart from larger plants with roots intact, I realized it would be the perfect time to try to pot these little guys. But I wondered: how do I get great drainage if there are no holes? As tiny as these pots were, I wasn’t keen on drilling into the bottom.
The answer hit me when I realized that my success with indoor plants has really changed ever since I was
lazy smart enough to keep them in their existing plastic containers and just plop them inside more decorative pots. I originally chose to do this thinking that they’d probably die like all of my previous indoor plants, so why bother repotting them when simply removing & tossing the plastic pot is easier? To my surprise, they all stayed alive, largely in part to the extra space & drainage they get from staying in the plastic pots (most people will tell you to always add pebbles or even packing peanuts to elevate the plastic container from the bottom of the pot, but I’ve still had pretty good success for over a year now without this since I’ve been really careful not to over-water). The best part though is that you can’t even tell which plants are potted and which aren’t unless you look for it!
I never said I was smart about this gardening stuff. I just try until something works.
Anyway, I wanted to take the same concept with these succulents, but the main issue was that these tea cups were tiny. That meant that whenever I tried to use the ol’ plop-the-plastic-container-in-the-pot-and-walk-away method, the plastic stuck too far out of the cup to be hidden.
A pair of scissors changed that pretty fast.
I had some tiny decorative pebbles left over from another project (I bought them at the dollar store, FYI) and put one on the bottom of the cup. I found that just one flat-ish one worked well to elevate the hacked off container just so (even if it was a little wobbly/crooked, the potting soil would stabilize the rest), and used that to allow for some drainage at the bottom. This also eliminated the need for me to have to go out and buy things like sand, activated charcoal, and other drainage materials I didn’t feel like tracking down.
Next, I stuck in the plant and filled in the surrounding area with cactus potting soil. Since succulents are a desert plant, it needs soil that drains really well, and this stuff supposedly does the trick.
Then, just pick a spot that gets plenty of filtered/indirect sunlight (my laundry room window ledge seemed perfect). I’ve read in a few different plant forums that unlike repotting other plants, it’s a good idea to wait about a week after repotting a succulent before watering because it allows the roots time to heal before exposure to excess moisture (they thrive in arid climates, remember?). The cactus soil was a little humid in the bag to begin with, so it’s probably enough until next week.
Time will tell if this works, but I have also bought some succulent plant food that I can distribute with just a pump from the container, so I feel somewhat prepared to take care of my new green pets.
They look awesome at the moment and brighten up the new laundry room shelves, so I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Got any of your own tips for how I should care for these guys growing forward (plant pun, couldn’t help myself)?
If you do want to get a group of them together, my babysitter finally got fed up with me killing all my succulents so she mixed the potting soil with the contents of a (clean) diaper. You just cut it open and mix it really well with the soil and then plant your succulents in that. I still have stones at the bottom for drainage but the diaper absorbs any excess water and then slowly releases it. Succulents have been alive and well for 6 months now!!
Thanks for the tips, I can see where I have been going wrong, (my plants are usually dead in a matter of days)! Yours by the way look really healthy. Thanks for sharing.
Well done to you for keeping your plant alive. Why oh why do some of us find it so hard to keep them alive. I struggle to understand. I love plants, but I confess that keeping them alive has never ever happened.
Your succulents loos lovely!
Not only can’t I keep plants alive. It looks like I also can’t spell anymore. And it is not even ten in the evening here in the the UK; so I can’t blame it on fatigue…
nice! I used the upside down plastic container bit on a few succulents I repotted this week. All that dirt in the kitchen finally pushed me to build the potting bench that’s been on my to do list for 6 months. Now I can get all kinds of garden-y stuff done without destroying my kitchen!
Thank you so much for these tips!! I have bought the same exact potting soil and fertilizer and you really helped guide me on the right track to not kill my succulents. I was not sure if I should throw away my plastic pot the plant was in when I originally bought it in and you convinced me to not throw it away. I really found this helpful and engaging!! Thanks :)
Thanks so much for your comment, Nika! Glad I could help.