Succulents and cacti bring a rich, exotic look to any landscape with their full, fat leaves and interesting shapes. They’re also some of the easiest plants to grow, especially in Southern California. These wonderful plants have adapted to thrive in drought conditions.

They store water in their stems and leaves. While succulents and cacti do need a healthy root system to support their weight and supply the water they store, the root system doesn’t need to be as developed as other plants. Succulents and cacti aren’t completely dependent on their root systems compared to plants that are constantly “drinking.”

With water restrictions and drought in Southern California, using plants such as succulents and cacti is a great way to have a lush, beautiful landscape. These plants thrive in the sunshine and dry air we have. On top of that, they actually like to be planted dry!

There’s no fuss, no muss, and no bother if you plant succulents and cacti. All they need is dry, sandy soil; though they’re so adaptive that they will thrive in any fast-draining soil. Planting them dry causes the root systems to branch out searching for water, which brings the plants greater stability.

Here’s a handy guide to planting succulents and cacti:

  1. Always select an area that gets bright, full sun for at least part of the day. Partial shade is OK.
  2. Prepare the soil by removing any other plants and breaking up the soil. If you’re planting in containers, dump out the old soil now.
  3. Make fast draining, succulent- and cacti-friendly soil. You can do this by mixing equal parts of sharp builder’s sand, gravel or pumice and either garden soil or potting mix. Easier still is using a good all-around mix, such as Kellogg Garden Cactus Mix (available at your local Hydro-Scape).
  4. Design your garden. You can either plant your succulents and cacti close together for a garden that looks well established right away or plant them several inches apart to give them room to spread out. While the latter option saves money, you should be aware that it might take a few months to a few years for your garden to fully fill out.
  5. Don’t water them for one full week. This allows their roots to harden and gives them an opportunity to recover from any transplant damage. When you do water, do so until the soil is completely moist. This usually takes no more than five minutes, depending on the size of your garden.
  6. After that, you only need to water your succulents and cacti two to three times a month during spring and summer and once every other month in fall and winter. Take note of your plant variety. If you have any winter growers; you will need to water these more often during their growing season. Always check the soil before watering. It should be almost completely dry. Don’t overwater as that promotes root rot. However, if your plants are shriveling at all, this is a sign they may need more water.
  7. Tap water can be especially hard on your succulents in container plants. Place in fresh soil periodically. Rainwater is best. Consider installing a rainwater harvesting system to catch the rain. There are affordable, smaller solutions for homeowners who want the advantage of watering their plants with collected rainwater. Check out our rain-harvesting systems from Atlantic Water Gardens.
  8. According the University of Minnesota, succulents and cacti only need fertilization once in spring and once at midsummer. Fertilize with a half-strength houseplant fertilizer that is rich in phosphorous.
  9. Regularly weed your garden to keep any unwanted plants from using up valuable nutrients, space and, of course, water.

There you have it! A simple guide to planting and caring for Succulents and Cacti.