How to care for succulents

Rose Ray and Caro Langton of RoCo share their top tips

How hard is it to kill a succulent?

Surprisingly easy, if (like many of our customers) you love them too much. The biggest killers are over watering and poor drainage, particularly if your succulents aren’t getting lots of sunlight.

In fact, can you ever save a dying succulent?

Yes you can; succulents are brilliantly resilient and if you change your care routine before disease sets in many will bounce back. As a last resort, you can take leaf or stem cuttings from any healthy parts of an ailing succulent and use them for propagating brand new plants.

What’s the hardiest indoor plant to have?

Probably cacti, they really are the best choice for the forgetful plant enthusiast. That said, our book has a section called The Immortal Companion which features some of our other favourite plants that will put up with being ignored: the ZZ plant, snake plant, fishbone cactus and cast iron plant are great choices.

Rose and Caro

How often should you water your succulents, and what’s the best way to do it?

In early spring, succulents become active after a period of rest, producing lots of new growth and often flowering. Throughout spring and summer months, it is best to water them roughly once a week, either by sitting their pot in a tray of water until the surface of its soil feels damp, or from above with a spouted watering can, taking care not to splash leaves and stems.

We never mist our succulents, since most types (with the exception of forest cacti such as the rhipsalis) are used to hot, dry conditions. The most important thing is good drainage after watering, which prevents root damage.

In the autumn and winter, succulents can be left to rest, and you can reduce watering, only giving them some if their soil completely dries out.

What are the best indoor plants to own (in your opinion)?

We love a mixture of different succulents, tropical foliage plants and air plants, since the conditions in our house are so varied. We’re got a particular fondness for trailing cacti at the moment, such as the fishbone cactus, rhipsalis and the amazing monkey’s tail cactus.

What’s your top tip for indoor plant success?

Get to know your plants – they will give you clear signs when they are happy or suffering. We learnt a heck of a lot through simple observation, and we believe this is the best way to start to get to grips with each one’s unique needs.

Which indoor plants are best for low light (if any)?

Most plants require at least a little indirect light; very few will tolerate near darkness. However, many do very well in low light conditions, such as the ZZ plant, ivy, snake plant, cast iron plant, and many ferns, pothos and philodendrons.

What do brown leaves mean? Can this be rectified?

Frustratingly, there are many reasons your plant’s leaves might turn brown, from erratic watering and over fertilising, to just plain old age. However, browning of leaves normally means either too little or too much water. To tell when it is time to water a houseplant, we suggest inserting your fingertip into its soil. If the top 3cm is completely dry, it is time to water.

What’s your favourite place to go for botanical inspiration?

Within London, the Barbican Conservatory, Kew, New Covent Flower Market and Columbia Road Flower Market are places we regularly visit for inspiration. The British Library and Kew’s library are both brilliant for botanical research, and we spent many days behind stacks of archived plant journals and illustrations whilst writing our book.

Outside London, we love exploring glasshouses and conservatories whenever we visit a new city. The Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam and University of Oxford Botanic Garden are both incredible.

RoCo’s debut book House of Plants: Living with Succulents, Air Plants and Cacti is out now, published by Frances Lincoln

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