by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady
Dear Gardening Gangster,
I have some succulents that I need advice on caring for. My house (during the winter) is warmed by a woodstove—a dry heat source. The leaves are falling off one of my succulents. The stem is still green, but the top is coming off. My other succulents still seem to be doing great and are growing new leaves. Any advice would be helpful. ~Sincerely, Faith in the Succulents
Dear Faith in the Succulents,
Wow, it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your trowel! Luckily, there are many ways to get your succulent back to health. Just like any patient at the doctors, succulents have many symptoms that can arise from a single problem. Here are some signs and symptoms as well as their solutions!
Signs of Overwatering
Leaves falling off
Sitting water (at the bottom)
Shriveling, limp leaves
Solution: If you are overwatering your plant, stop watering it and let it sit until the topsoil layer is completely dry. Then water it once every two days or once a week. Another problem may be drainage. Integrate pebbles or rocks into the soil or drill in drainage holes.
Signs of Underwatering
Extremely dry soil
Solution: Water your plant as normal, every two to three days or once a week.
Extreme heat. For this, move your plant to party in a shady, cool location with partial sun. Humidity isn’t as much as a problem, as succulents originate from a very dry, arid climate. They will survive! If you are worried, look to my last article for easy humidifier solutions. A wet sponge is the easiest one to use. Sure, I’ve forgotten to re-wet it to a point where it is drier than succulent soil, but in a matter of minutes, it’s soaked again.
Lack of nutrients. The easiest option is just to repot it in new soil, but that isn’t any fun! When you make your own, you can save money to buy even more succulents! (Or, whatever else you want to use it for, of course.)
Coffee grounds: This will provide a tasty drink for you and nutrients for your plant. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make everything—the house, plant, and my hand—smell amazing.
Garden “teas”: I hope you were able to enjoy drinking the fruits of your labor from my previous column about teas. It’s time to pay your plants back by giving them a tea of their own.
To make this garden tea, you must soak leaves (usually of weeds) in a bucket of water for a month. Common weeds can be used, but the most effective ones include comfrey, nettle and horsetail. Put rocks over the leaves so that they sink to the bottom and properly brew. WARNING! This does not smell pleasant—with comfrey being the worst offender to the nose. Make sure you put a lid or covering over it, so it doesn’t stink and so no critters start calling it home. You could also spray pungent essential oils (mint is one of the best ones to use) on the lid to attempt to cancel out the smell. As long as the water doesn’t freeze, the temperature of the tea does not matter (iced tea may be tasty for us, but it doesn’t bode well for plants).When you are done, strain out all the leaves and bugs (if any). Serve your planty friend the tea, diluted with water, and it will thank you, even if it can’t say anything! Make sure not to over-fertilize your succulent. With too much water, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients, the plant may suffer the same symptoms as listed above. Trying to keep your plant alive is definitely a balancing act. With succulents it can be a little easier, but problems still arise, which is completely normal