Whether you want to learn how to plant succulents for the very first time, or you’re confident growing and planting succulents but want to know how to get them to grow faster — you’ve come to the right place! I’ll show you step by step how to make succulents grow faster by the way you plant them. Whether you’re growing them for a wedding or for gifts and you need them to size up quickly, or you just want to enjoy larger, lusher succulents. That’s the subject of today’s post.
Planting Succulents to Grow Fast
Do Succulents “Like” Crowded Roots?
As I’ve said before, succulents are very different from most plants — so much so that experienced gardeners often have more trouble growing them than total beginners do. Succulents thrive in close plantings that would soon kill other plants. That’s why you’ve likely heard the advice “succulents like crowded roots”. They will certainly tolerate crowded conditions beautifully. But they don’t need crowding in order to flourish.
The unique metabolism of succulents leads them to adjust their growth to make use of all the available resources. Where nutrients, root room and moisture are scarce, the plants will remain small. Where they have more room, abundant light and water, they will grow larger, faster. So the key to how to plant succulents for faster growth is to provide them with more resources and the proper care those resources require.
Succulent Soil and Drainage is Critical
While you can grow succulents in regular potting soil or in containers without drainage, it is very risky and certainly not a good plan when you’re learning how to plant succulents or you want fast growth. Start with a container that has good drainage. If you’re planting a single succulent, get a pot a good 2+ inches wider than your plant’s width, and be sure it has good drainage. For several plants, get a large pot — I’m planting a whiskey barrel. If your container does not have drainage — fix it! Learn exactly how to drill your own drainage.
Fill your container with fast-draining succulent soil. Whether you make your own or use a pre-packaged commercial soil is up to you. But be sure it is gritty and drains well. I always add additional pumice to my succulent soil. And of course, I always add worm castings, both to fertilize my succulents and to protect them from insects. Keep additional succulent soil on hand for use as you plant your container.
You will need:
- Fast-draining succulent soil
- Large pot with drainage
- Succulents! 🙂
When you are planting several succulents in a single container, be sure they share the same lighting and watering requirements!
Gather Your Succulent Plants
I plant up containers of succulents and make various crafts like succulent pumpkins and Christmas ornaments for sale. So I work with a variety of plants, and there are some I find myself using over and over again. These are some of my favorites because of their gorgeous stress coloring, cool textures and intriguing growth habits. I want to grow these varieties larger more quickly, so I’ll always have them available to use. Starting at the 3 o’clock position and moving clockwise, I am working with gallon pots of Portulacaria afra variegata, Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’, Crassula perforata, S. rubrotinctum again, Crassula platyphylla and Crassula arborescens undulatifolia.
Although I started out with six 1-gallon potted plants and a couple of 2-inchers, I decided to plant fewer in the whiskey barrel. To show you the difference the extra resources make, I also planted up a smaller pot with two of the gallon pots and the two small Crassula perforata plants. You’ll see them near the end of the post. When I update this post a few months from now, we’ll compare and contrast the two plantings and their progress.
It’s All About the Roots
I like to plant my succulents when their soil is dry. It just makes them easier and cleaner to handle. Slide the plant out of its pot. If it is reluctant to release the pot, squeeze the sides of the pot, rotate it and squeeze again. It will slide out.
Here, you see how the roots of this Portulacaria filled the pot and changed direction to conform to the confines of the pot. The plant ran out of resources and adjusted its growth. If we don’t redirect the roots outward, they could stay in this configuration, continuing to grow in confined circles. Certainly, it would take them much longer to explore the larger container we’re planting it into. Now, we want to encourage the roots to grow out and down, to discover the wide resources now available so they stimulate the plant to put on a spurt of faster, sustained growth.
Massage the Succulent’s Roots
Gently massage your succulent’s roots, allowing loose soil to drop away. Set aside good, clean soil for use in your garden. If you just wanted to plant the succulent, there would be no need to go further. At this point, you could transfer it to the new pot. Since we want to make the succulent grow faster, we’ll take another step.
Dividing Succulents for Faster Growth
After massaging the plant’s roots, divide the succulent if it can be done easily. Not all succulent varieties can be divided, but most gallon size pots will have multiple plants growing in them. By dividing your succulent, you’ll give each individual plant more resources, thereby encouraging it to grow faster. Massage the roots of each individual plant you’ll be planting, so the roots will spread out and down.
As you divide your plants, you may break a stem or have some leaves pop off. Don’t worry! Treat broken stems as succulent cuttings and set them aside along with individual leaves for propagation.
I continued to divide and prepare each succulent for planting.
Dig a hole in the succulent soil that is deep enough to accommodate the roots and maintain the soil line where it was in the pot. Using some of the soil you removed from the hole, form a small cone-shaped mound of soil in the bottom of the hole. Your succulent will sit on that mound of soil. Spread the roots out and down all around the mound. Backfill with soil to cover the roots and firm it into place. Even out the soil line around and between the plants.
Planting Succulents for Fast Growth
As you can see, this is an important step that needs careful study! When you’re planting succulents for fast growth and not for artistry, space the plants equidistant in the large pot, so they each have plenty of room to grow. My final planting is not going to be an attractive arrangement, my point is to generate as much growth as possible.
Continue Planting Succulents
It’s not important to alternate types of succulents when you plant them. Since I want to be able to harvest from this planter as I need the succulents, I wanted to mix them up, so I would never have to create large bare spots when I remove a plant. Arrange your succulents as you choose, just be sure to give them plenty of room if you want them to grow quickly.
Watering Your Succulent Planter
This is my finished succulent planter. The Sedum rubrotinctum are all planted along the edge where they can spill over and trail. The rest are intermingled and given plenty of room for faster growth.
Although I was careful, some of the roots may have become bruised as I was dividing them. Plan to wait a couple of days before watering your newly transplanted succulents. This gives the root tissue time to heal and cuts down on any risk of root rot.
Always remember that planting succulents in such a large container with so much empty space makes careful watering even more important. All of that extra space between the plants means there is a lot of soil with no roots in it yet. That soil can hold far too much excess water, with no roots to make use of it. The excess water could risk rotting your succulents. Water your succulents only when the soil is dry. Unlike in smaller, fuller planters, don’t provide enough water to run out the drainage holes. At this stage, just aim to water several inches deep to reach all of the roots you just planted. As the plants grow larger, you’ll increase the amount of water to keep pace with their growing needs.
Fertilizer Makes Succulents Grow Faster
Fertilizer will make succulents grow faster. It is important to choose the right fertilizer for succulents, and not to over-do it. Succulents have evolved tho thrive in harsh conditions with nutritionally-poor soil. Too much fertilizer or a food that is too strong will burn your succulent’s roots and damage them. It’s unlikely to kill your plants, but it will surely delay the fast growth you’re seeking much further than using no fertilizer at all.
I particularly like using Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea for my succulents. It is well-composted cow manure tea from organically raised cows, and simply perfect for succulents’ needs. I generally fertilize just 2 or 3 times a year, in early spring, early fall and sometimes early summer. But, if you want to make succulents grow faster, you can use it to fertilize succulents as often as once each month. Just steep a Moo Poo teabag in a 5-gallon bucket of water for 24-36 hours. The water will turn a caramel color.Use this to water your succulents, when their soil is dry, in place of one of their regular waterings. Your succulents (and every other plant in your garden) will love it!
Remove Succulent Blooms
When your goal is to make succulents grow faster, don’t let them bloom! Flowering takes a lot of the plant’s resources and energy. If you snip the flowering stem at its base as it forms, it prevents the plant from blooming. More importantly, it causes the plant to re-direct its energies back into growing more plant rather than flowering. This means, you’ll get a larger succulent, faster! 🙂
This is the whiskey barrel shot, taken November 15th, 2019. You can see considerable growth from all the plants, especially the Crassula and the Portulacaria. I cleverly chose varieties for planting in April from succulents that are dormant in summer. Sigh… Yet you can see good growth as the plants are fully awake. My thanks to reader Liz for reminding me to take a photo to update this post!
There you have it! A step by step How to plant succulents for fast growth. I will follow up in coming weeks with how to plant a thick, lush planter. Many of the steps are similar. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I love hearing from you and I’ll get right back to you!
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P.P.S. Why not join my Facebook Group for succulent-lovers? We talk succulent care, propagation, succulent identification and design. It’s a warm and welcoming group that would love to meet you!