How to care for all of the succulents in your life

Anthony Marcusa

Air plants only flower once in their life. Blooms may be brightly colored and stunning, lasting hours, days, or even weeks. They begin the end of an air plant’s life cycle, but also produce pups for the future.

Caring for succulents is relatively easy. They're a family of drought-resistant plants that are found around the world, after all.

There are over 600 species of succulents, and while they generally follow the same caring guidelines, it's important to be able to recognize what they could need from time to time and how they may change their desires through the seasons.

Here are some guidelines to follow when caring for your plants. When done right, they should live long and healthy lives, and may even propagate. When done right with extra love and some luck, they may even bloom.


Rooted succulents

It's important to differentiate between rooted succulents and air plants, also known as Tillandsia. While air plants fall under the wide scope of succulents, those rooted in soil and those not have different light and water requirements.

Light: Succulents love direct, bright sunlight for extended periods of time. It's best to place them by windows where they can get the most sunlight possible. In areas without such access, LED grow lights will help. In general, colorful succulents may struggle to get enough light indoors, while green succulents should survive without any problems, even during darker months.

Drainage: Before watering your succulents, they must be housed in pots with proper drainage. That means you need a hole at the bottom of the pot to allow some water to escape as well as drainage soil. Gravel and rocks are useful underneath the soil for added draining (they can also be colorful and decorative in a glass container). Succulents are drought-resistant by nature and embrace dry environments; water-soaked soils can lead to root rot and death.

Watering: Unlike air plants (as you'll see), rooted succulents should be soaked, not misted. Focus on the soil and the roots while avoiding watering the leaves or stems, especially if the succulents are in the sun. Most succulents can be watered every five to seven days, but it's best to check that the soil has dried out first. Don't water soil that is still damp. Do not water your succulents daily.


Air plants

These unrooted succulents have different requirements than other succulents, so it's important to know that you'll need two sets of care instructions if you plan to keep both. 

Light: Tillandsia (air plants) require bright, indirect light in order to survive. Avoid placing them on windowsills or hanging them from the ceiling in front of windows. Pretty much any place is a safe bet provided it's not in the sun's direct line. If you live in a basement apartment or want air plants in an office space that doesn't get much, or any, natural light, you're still in luck. Air plants can survive in rooms with fluorescent (not incandescent) light bulbs, as they mimic the spectrum of natural light.

Watering: There are two methods of watering air plants that can be done separately or in conjunction with one another. The option you choose can be based on personal convenience, but how your plants respond should be taken into consideration.

Misting: With a spray bottle, mist your air plants wherever they may be once a day or every couple of days. Misting is a safe method because you don't risk the plant sitting in water, which leads to rot. When misting, cover the entire surface of the plant.

Soaking: This can be done once every one to two weeks. Submerge the air plant in room temperature water for 10 to 20 minutes. When you remove them, gently shake off excess water, and then let them sit to dry upside down. This is to prevent root rot, which can kill the plant. It's best to soak them in the morning so they can dry by the afternoon and continue their respiratory cycles as normal in the evening and night. They should dry within three hours -- brighter spots with good air circulation will expedite this process.


Tips for succulent and air plant care

Overwatering is worse than underwatering: When in doubt, err on the side of less water. Air plants in particular will turn crispy and brown to let you know if they need more water, and they should rebound. If it's overwatered, the base may turn brown or black and leaves can fall out. But by that point, it's likely rotted and too late.

Correct for humidity: During the drier and hotter times of the year, succulents and air plants will need more watering. When it's humid and there's a lot of water in the air, they will need less.

Seasonal changes: Rooted succulents know how to prepare for winter: It's almost like they hibernate. They require less watering in the fall and winter, but once spring rolls around, they will need more than usual.

Judge your surroundings: Just because the weather outside is one way doesn't mean it's the same inside. Keep in mind how hot or cold your apartment or home may be, how much light is getting in, how dry or wet the air may be, and how air circulates. This will inform watering.

Succulents are unique: They're living creatures, and each may have their own quirks and desires. So listen to them and watch how they respond to the elements. Don't be afraid to move them around or change water habits to help them survive and thrive.


Succulent care shopping list

LED grow light: Succulents need light, and if you want them living and blooming in a basement apartment, for example, a grow light may prove useful. We like BESTVA's 600W Grow Light to care for a group of succulents.

Humidifier: If you have a large home and lots of succulents and air plants, investing in a humidifier may help them thrive and save you a lot of work. This Honeywell console model is comprehensive and helps keep the air moist and comfortable.

Mini humidifier: A standard humidifier may be too much for some, understandably. If that's the case, go with a mini version instead.


Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.