Something Special: how to care for succulents by michael mcdowell

imageThis is a great post from potter, Michael McDowell today who makes these creamy white handmade pots/vases and shares with us his experience with succulents (one of my favorite plants). You can find more of Michael's beautiful pieces at his table at Poppytalk Handmade and at his Etsy shop,

Doing craft fairs where I sell my vases, I've run into a lot of people that think they don't have a green thumb or will kill a succulent or cacti no matter how easy they may be to care for. I spend more time with these people to show them some tips that I use with success...and if I can do it, you can too! Seriously, I'm not a plant expert nor have I ever been trained in plant care but I have learned some valuable lessons by trial and error over the years that I would like to share with you.

I think the most important thing is to purchase your succulents and cacti from a nursery or from a reputable seller like (where I get most of my succulents). More often than not, when I purchase one from a retail chain or home center they seem to die no matter how hard I try to keep them the quality and variety is much better at a nursery.

I simply place a few stones at the base of my pot for drainage, and then use a high quality soil like Miracle Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Soil. You don't want to cut any of the roots like you may with other house plants...just put a layer of soil over the stones, unpack your succulent or cactus and start putting more soil around it. I'll usually pack it down a bit and add a little water once I am done to get it started. Incidentally, many varieties of succulents are easy to separate or to take cuttings from, here I have some Crassula waiting to be re-potted that are still thriving today.


A general rule of thumb is that succulents require less water than many traditional houseplants that you find at garden centers and grocery stores. When placing succulents indoors, you need to water about every one to two weeks or when the soil is dry in the summer (every three weeks in the winter). You can also tell your succulent needs water if it starts to droop. If in doubt whether the soil is dry, don't water. I also don't over-saturate the soil, maybe a little more than 1/8th of a cup is enough in my vases. I think my succulents love my vases because they are smaller and i've heard that succulents like to be snug in their environment.

As far as light goes, I don't have any of my succulents in direct sunlight. To be fair, I have skylights in my place which does give them plenty of indirect light that they thrive on.


My most favorite succulents (and the one's i've had the most success with) include:

Haworthia Fasciata (pictured above, love the stripes!)
Aloe Jucunda (really, any of the aloes are nice)
Haworthia Tenius (for my baby head vases)
Crassula Hobbit (awesome, like a little tree!)

You can also find more suggestions on Apartment Therapy L.A. ( from one of my favorite bloggers Laure of at home at home (  

No matter what, I hope you wont be afraid to take a chance on succulents, you may become addicted like I am and will end up filling your home with them!

Post by Michael McDowell of

Jan Halvarson


etre-soi said...

this is just the post I needed :) I was planning to buy some succulents this week as all other plants die with me no matter what I do.
I'm loving the shapes and styles of succulents and thanks for the advice.

Sarah Lynn Knowles said...

wow. great post. these sound like something i could actually keep alive!

Jane said...

Amazing! I was just googling "how to care for your succulent" yesterday with not a lot of luck!

Thanks for posting this!