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Succulent Container Gardening

I love to wander around craft shows and I’ve noticed an uptick in cacti and other succulents that people are selling in the cutest containers. The nice thing about these plants is they’re relatively maintenance- and pest-free. And you can choose the look you want - their shapes, textures, and colors vary from striking beauty to downright weird.

The most common pitfall in growing succulents is, if they’re overwatered, they’ll rot.

Gretchen Voyle is a retired Extension horticulture educator at Michigan State University. She says a good way to manage the watering is to understand the plant’s natural habitat.

"Once you know who you’ve got, you read about where their origin is. And if they come from a desert, you know it’s not going to rain every day, might not rain every week," says Voyle. "But, it’s going to rain on them, and then they’re going to dry, and they’re going to get rain on them, and they’re going to dry."

The growing media should be a cactus mix or something with sand in it that drains well, and the less organic matter the better.  Don’t use regular potting soil, it can hold too much moisture. 

Voyle says succulents can live in most any container as long as there are drain holes on the bottom. But the best choice is a terra cotta, or clay pot.

"And the wonderful thing for succulents is that moisture will translocate through the side of the pot. So if you accidentally over-water, water can leave the side of the pot, it can go through the bottom of the pot, it will evaporate off the top," she says. "Plastic pots? No. Water’s going to go out the bottom hole and a little bit of evaporation off the top, but terra cottas would be better."

Voyle says these plants are content to spend their lives indoors basking in a sunny south window.