A Succulent Summer

by Kelle Sullivan // July - August - September

It’s finally summertime in North Carolina, y’all! The days are longer, the temps are rising, and so is the humidity. What does this mean for our succulents? So much! We need to talk about summer dormancy and what that means for watering and caring for your beloved plants.

HGTV’s Joanna Gaines has taught us that plants don’t need to stay on a shelf. Get those succulents outside and take advantage of your porches this summer. They thrive on the morning sun and most love the warm temperatures. Just be sure to put them in an area where you can shelter them from our frequent evening downpours.

Succulents are known for their incredible ability to store water and survive in harsh climates due to their thick, fleshy leaves. You can’t go on a vacation and leave your flowers unwatered, but you can certainly neglect your succulents and come back to see them even more beautiful than when you left them. Perfect for summer travelers, succulents are very easy to maintain, as long as they are planted in porous cactus/succulent soil, given proper drainage, receive daily bright light, and are not overwatered.

With this universal love of succulents comes lots of confusion about their active growing seasons. Most will go through phases where they grow less (dormancy) or grow more (actively growing), just like most plants. This is all based on the climate in which they are grown. When a succulent is dormant, it’s trying to survive and not grow. This means it prefers to be left alone and will not take in much water. Now if your succulents stay indoors year-round, they will not go into dormancy because the temperatures never fluctuate. Most succulents are very active in the spring, rest in the summer, become active again in fall, and rest again in winter.

I don’t know if plants have a memory of their native seasons, but the best rule is to know your plants and learn their cycles. Sempervivums (hen and chicks) are the most popular succulents that love the freezing temperatures, but not high heat, whereas echeverias can’t handle freezing temperatures, but will really show off their beautiful colors because of the stress of heat. Your succulents will tell you what they need; you just need to know what to look for. Are the leaves completely dried out and dying? No need to worry – this is a normal part of the growing process. Your beauty is creating new leaves while the other ones die. Simply pull them off gently and your plant will remain nice and happy.

OVERWATERING: Are the leaves looking yellow? This is usually a sign of overwatering. You can also tell if your succulent is overwatered if its leaves fall off by just touching them. As soon as you notice these signs, take it out of the pot and let the soil dry out – or go ahead and change out the soil completely. If you see signs of root rot, you can usually cut the top of the plant and save it, or take some of the leaves to propogate. This may not save overwatered succulents, but it’s worth a shot.

UNDERWATERING: Do the leaves appear limp or wilty? If so, pay close attention to the soil. If the soil is wet, this could mean it has too much water, or not enough. Only water when the soil is completely dry. If succulents are underwatered, they’ll usually perk up pretty quickly when watered. If the leaves are completely shriveled up, they may be too far gone, unfortunately, and unable to recover.

PESTS: Check for bugs, as humidity creates a breeding ground for mealy bugs – little white web-looking bugs that hide in the nooks and crannies of your succulents and can spread from plant to plant in no time. If you work quickly, you can save them by spraying your plants with plant pesticides or by using 70% isopropyl alcohol and dabbing it on the affected area. Just be sure to remove them from direct sunlight while they’re being treated or they will burn.

Remember, it’s called plant therapy, so don’t stress about them too much; it’s all about learning the practice of patience. If you have specific questions or concerns, feel free to message me or stop by. I hope you have a succulent summer!

Kelle Sullivan

The owner of Sully’s Succulents, offering succulent sales, classes, parties, and special events. For more information, check them out on Facebook (@SullysSucculents) or Instagram (@sullyssucculents).