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Watering and light

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Mammillaria supertexta
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

Watering

All plants need water in order to survive. Too little water, and the roots will dry out and the plant may eventually die; too much water, and fungal diseases may appear. So it is important to know how much water each species needs. If in doubt, hold back on watering.

Contrary to popular belief, succulent plants need quite a bit of water in summer, because that is their period of active growth. They need to be watered deeply, and the soil should be allowed to dry out almost completely between waterings. Plants grown outdoors in summer will require more water than those kept indoors. Never place a saucer under the pot of a plant grown outdoors, for water will pool in the saucer.

In late summer and early fall, gradually cut back on watering. In late fall and in winter, it is best to allow the plants to go dormant by keeping them dry and cool. Plants kept at temperatures below 12°C in winter should not be watered at all. After a period of dry rest, resume watering gradually.

Light

Most succulent plants require bright light. This is why it is best to grow them outdoors in summer. With a few exceptions, mature plants require full sun. A few genera, including Gasteria, Haworthia and Sansevieria, require bright but indirect light. Young plants should be protected from full sun when grown outdoors.

Indoors, plants should be placed in the brightest windows in your home—a south- or west-facing window is best. The light may be too strong for some plants in spring (March-April) and summer, however, causing the foliage to become discoloured or scorched. An east-facing window is best at those times.

Succulent plants overwintered at temperatures below 10°C require very little light. Some, like Cereus, can even be stored in the dark all winter long at low temperatures (8-10°C). Some plants with a winter growing period that are native to the southern hemisphere, like lithops, require bright light and lots of warmth for part of the winter. Artificial lighting should be used to supplement natural daylight in this case.

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