SUCCULENTS & SUNSHINE | LIGHT REQUIREMENTS
As cute as they are, they don’t always make the best indoor house plants. That said, if you love them as much as I do, you’ll grow them anyway! And you should!
With a little bit of information, you’ll be able to keep your succulents growing happily indoors. Choosing succulents that prefer low lighting will make a big difference in the success of your indoor succulent garden. For example, Haworthias and Gasteraloes are two genus of succulents that do especially well indoors.
For those of you with cold winters, bringing your succulents inside before it snows will actually be a good thing for them. Most succulents are dormant during the winter. They need a period of cold to help them produce better blooms in the spring and summer.
6 Hours of Sunlight
When succulents are indoors it’s often hard for them to get enough sunlight. They generally about 6 hours a day.
You’ll want to keep your plants as close to the window as you can, but be careful not to let them get sunburned if the light from the window gets too hot. This tends to happen most with south-facing windows (which tend to get the most light if you’re in the northern hemisphere).
I’ve kept my succulents in an east facing window, right up against the window, and they have done really well. If your succulents aren’t getting enough light they will start to stretch. Colorful Echeverias are especially prone to stretching indoors.
If they do stretch and outgrow their space they may require pruning or trimming. As they get older, they can get top heavy and fall over even in a large pot. There are no special techniques for pruning succulent plants, other than using sharp tools to avoid any infection.
Pruning off the top of any plant will allow the other buds to grow – sometimes with impressive exuberance. This has the effect of making the plant bushier, as each lower bud grows to form a new smaller shoot. You can direct the growth by cutting just above a bud facing the right direction.
So go ahead, prune your succulents and don’t be afraid – most succulent plants are very forgiving and you can always propagate the pieces you cut off to make many more beautiful succulent plants.
There are several reasons why you should prune your collection of succulent plants:
Many people dislike the look of a succulent plant that has a long corky stem with a ‘palm tree’ effect, the rosette of the plant forming a tuft on the top. To make a new plant with the low growing rosette form that most collectors treasure, you must behead or decapitate your succulent plant.
It sounds harsh, I know, but you have to be cruel to be kind – and in this case, the plant will respond with a miracle – more baby plants that you can propagate lower down on the stem – so don’t discard it.
Look at the picture and follow the instructions below for exactly how to do it:
What tools will I need?
Most succulents are thin enough that a pair of scissors will cut through the stems, but occasionally you’ll need something a little sturdier (especially to behead Echeveria with their woody stems).
My recommendation is a pair of Felco pruners. These are ‘bypass’ pruners, which means they don’t crush the stems of the succulent plants, and also you can buy parts for them, such as the blades and springs. I’ve still got my second pair that are now going on thirty years old! Caution; there are lots of pruners that look similar; don’t get sucked in to buying a knock off – they’re cheaply made and wont’ last.
My other go-to pruning tool is a pair of Japanese bonsai scissors – keep these dry – they’re not stainless steel, so they’ll rust. A quick wipe after using with an oily rag will protect them.
How do I Trim the Stems of Succulents?
Clip the stems of long overgrown succulents in the places indicated by the red lines: a) These top rosettes will root quickly and give you many nicely shaped new plants for almost instant gratification – plant them right into a succulent planter for immediate impact.
b) The long sprawly stems are useful too – so don’t be too hasty to throw them away. Stick them (right side up of course) into some potting soil, and they’ll root and send up new growth.
c) Now you’re left with a pot of dead sticks – but are they really dead? You’ll be amazed at the life left in these seemingly used up dregs. Water carefully (not too much) until they show signs of new growth, then fertilize them, and stand back!
But where exactly do I cut the stem?
Here’s a diagram for where to make the cut – just above a set of leaves. Don’t leave a long stub of the stem, because it will just start to rot (and look weird).
Pruning Succulents – where to cut
For stems without leaves where it’s hard to see where the leaves used to be, just cut them and let them make the new shoots, then retrim them a bit shorter if necessary.
What happens next?
It’s hard to believe the miracle of new growth, those tiny shoots that will emerge. This is what it might look like;
Pruning Succulents – what to expect
Generally, the top most shoots will be the larger ones, those lower down a bit smaller. Those hidden, dormant buds are where the magic happens but only once the top of the plant is cut off.