SUCCULENT Q&A


Books by Debra

Succulent Photos



Succulent Information

Should you have questions concerning succulent care and cultivation, basic information is on this website's Succulent Information page. My books also offer extensive info.

One of the best ways to ask me a question is on Facebook. Not only will I respond, but you'll likley get comments from others in my network of gardening experts, designers and horticulturists. I also have a YouTube channel.

For specific information regarding succulents that thrive in your area, contact your local chapter of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America. 

Below are some FAQs. You may find your own question answered. If not, please let me know and I'll do my best to help. -- Debra Lee Baldwin

Q: At the talk you gave you mentioned a soil amendment that is also used in horse stalls, but I can't remember what it was.

A: It's pumice, a crushed volcanic rock, sold under the brand name "Dry Stall."


Q: Is there a rule of thumb how much water succulents need? I've had cactus rot on me.

A: Yes: The fatter the succulent or the fleshier its leaves, the more water it stores in its tissues and the less water it needs (and will tolerate). Cacti in general are less tolerant of overwatering than smooth-leaved succulents.


Q: Do succulents need to be cut back and replanted?

A: Echeverias, aeoniums and most rosette succulents form new leaves from the center of the rosette, and older leaves dry and fall off, exposing an ever-lengthening stem. So, yes, they'll need to be cut back if you want to keep the planting dense and low to the ground. The tighter you want a composition, whether garden bed, wreath or container, the quicker you'll have to cut it back due to plant growth. And don't fertilize. If they're not fed, they tend not to grow too rapidly.


Q: How do you know how much sun exposure to give succulents?

A: It depends on the climate and locale. Along the coast of California, from the Bay Area south, most succulents are fine out in the open year-round. Inland, it's a different story; most succulents will need some sun protection in summer (especially in the afternoon) as well as some frost protection in winter. But often all that is needed is the right microclimate, such as a lacy tree canopy. Incidentally, even in their native habitats, young cacti won't tolerate open exposure. They grow in the shade of nurse plants until they're large enough to handle the rigors of the desert.


Q: When echeveria leaves get brown and dry under the main head, is that normal, or is it lack of water, or perhaps seasonal? Should I clean them up or leave them on?

A: It's normal. You can do either, the plant doesn't care, although dry leaves do offer greater protection from sunburn and climactic extremes (if those are issues).


Q: To control erosion on slopes, is it best to have succulents with some root system (as opposed to shallow-rooted ice plants)?

A: Red apple ice plant and pickleweed (carprobrotus) will diffuse the impact of rain, but unlike mesembryanthemum groundcovers, the plants have a single taproot. If planted atop a steep slope, the weight of the stems and leaves may pull the roots out of the soil---especially when it's sodden---further destabilizing it. Mesembs, which produce masses of brilliant flowers in spring, have a web of roots formed by stems that root as they grow along the ground. So, despite being shallow-rooted, they're a better choice for steep slopes. 


Q: Are succulents compatible with roses?

A: Yes, but not cacti, which won't tolerate the extra water that roses require. Don't plant the succulents right at the base of the rosebushes. Create basins around the shrubs to hold water, fertilizer, compost and mulch. Keep in mind that many succulents (such as columnar euphorbias) may look odd juxtaposed with rosebushes. But rosette succulents (such as echeverias, graptoverias, aeoniums and graptopetalums) look fine with roses, in the garden or in bouquets.


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