How to Plant Succulents for Fastest Growth

How to Plant Succulents for Fastest Growth

Planting Succulents to Grow Fast

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.

{Please note, some links in this post may be affiliate links to sites that pay me a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. This commission is at absolutely no cost to you. I only recommend products and companies that I have worked with and truly love! ~Kat}

Do Succulents “Like” Crowded Roots?

how to plant succulents for fast growth

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

planting succulents in fast draining succulent soil is essential for healthy plants

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

gather succulents for planting

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

Before planting succulents examine 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

massage succulent plants roots prior to planting

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

dividing succulents prior to planting

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.

Spread out succulent roots so they grow out and down when you plant them

I continued to divide and prepare each succulent for planting.


Planting Succulents

How to plant succulents with roots out and down over succulent soil in hole

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

Planting succulents for faster growth with space between the plants

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

Space between succulent plants encourages faster growth

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

Extra space between succulent plants encourages faster growth

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.

Monitor Planted Succulents

Planting succulents for fast growth leaves extra space - water carefully

This is the smaller pot I planted up with succulents to give you a different view. I planted the whiskey barrel and this pot on April 1st, 2019. In a few months, I’ll take photos of each for comparison and add those shots to this post.

Update

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!

Happy gardening!

P.S. Please subscribe for more succulent care information, and I’ll send you my FREE e-course, 7 Steps to Succulent Success! Thanks!

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Planting succulents for fast growth
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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Annie

    Looking forward to putting your directions to use for summer. Love the cat!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Annie,
      Glad you like the post! Hitchcock found it fascinating! 🙂
      ~Kat

  2. Patricia

    I found this post very interesting. Succulents are my favorite group of plants. I hope I was able to subscribe properly because I’m very interested in your information. Thank you.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Patricia,
      Thanks so much!
      I did double check and you are subscribed – I hope you find the information helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions! 🙂
      ~Kat

  3. ELAINE

    I have a large volcanic rock that I would like to have my hens and chicks planted. It was fine for a few years, but they no longer grow there. What am I doing wrong? Love your directions. I’m new to this. ????

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Elaine,
      I have a planter made in a hollowed out volcanic rock – it is a very cool setting for succulents! If you had them growing in it for several years, try disposing of the soil, cleaning it out well and starting fresh with new succulent soil. Although succulents thrive on nutritionally poor soil, they do need some nutrients. In the volcanic rock, they go through the soil nutrients more quickly than if they are in the ground or in a wooden container. If you don’t feed them once or twice a year, they will need fresh soil every couple of years.
      Thanks for your questions!
      ~Kat

  4. Madeline Allen

    I found a lot of information here and am still not understanding very well on how to water .I recently received a few succulents as a gift as I touched the leaves at all they fell off from center so sad obviously they had been overwatered and had rotted from base how can I check to stop this from happening to all ? I have not given any water to any and won’t but like to get what is left healthy ? Can you help thank you Madeline

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Madeline,
      So frustrating, I know. Be sure to check the leaves – they may be worth trying to propagate! Some varieties (Echeveria Black Prince, for instance) drop their leaves at the first sign of overwatering, so the leaves have a chance to form new plants!
      The basics of how to properly water succulents is to water ONLY when the soil is DRY. Then water well, and let it fully dry.
      You also MUST use good succulent soil. This is critical.
      So be sure you start with good soil. Then water only when the soil is dry.
      Let me know how it goes!
      ~Kat

  5. Dawn giosserano

    I found all your information very pleasing I have learnt a lot about succulents thanks Dawn

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Dawn,
      That’s awesome! Thanks so much – you made my day! 🙂
      ~Kat

  6. Liz

    I dont see an update photo?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Thanks SO much, Liz for reminding me!
      I have snapped a photo and update the post. I also realize, to my chagrin, that the Portulacaria, Sedum and Crassula – in fact all the succulents I planted in April are summer dormant succulents! (Not the best choice for this exercise!) I clearly didn’t think this through, did I? 🙂
      ~Kat

  7. Marian

    I am in Jax Fl. How can I grow giant succulents? How long does it take to be giant size? I planted my collection directly in the ground shaded by a tree but still get enough sunlight in the morning. If they get leggy I cut the rosette parts and put them back on the ground. Will this method help them to continue yo get bigger?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Marian,
      It largely depends upon the variety. Some top out at just 6 inches or so, at which time they begin to multiply For really large succulents, you need some that can and will grow big. In your climate, I would recommend planting Crassula ovata in the ground, Euphorbia tirucalli and Portulacaria afra for plants that grow tall – each of these succulents can reach 5+ feet tall in your area. If instead of height you mean large leaves, consider Kalacnhoe luciae and Aeonium ‘Sunburst’. Each of these produce large leaves on smaller plants.
      Have fun!
      ~Kat

  8. Marian

    Yay! Finally got some direction. Really appreciate your input. Been doing a lot of research on which ones I should work with and so far this is the only advice i got. Thank you so much.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      You are most welcome, Marian!
      There are many other varieties that will do well for you, but for BIG plants, these are a great start!
      ~Kat

  9. Janice Thousand

    Hi Kat,
    Just found your post. I recently purchased several succulent. But a bit overwhelmed as to planting in the ground, around large boulders and driftwood. I see so many beautiful rock/driftwood plantings. Should I add sand to my soil and build it up around my settings. I live in Missouri., and of course I know I will need to take indoors in the winter. Any help will be appreciated

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Janice,
      I’ll be happy to help you with this!
      Before planting your succulents in the ground, first set the nursery pots where you want to plant them. Watch them for a few days to be certain they can handle the amount of light they get there.
      Whether to add sand or pumice to your soil depends upon what it’s condition is now. You definitely want to have fast-draining soil for your succulents. If you add sand, be sure it is not beach sand unless you wash it first. Builder’s sand won’t have the salt content of beach sand.
      Tell you what – why not join my new Facebook group where you can post photos and ask questions and get help from succulent enthusiasts all around the world!
      We would LOVE to have you join us!
      ~Kat

  10. Ivy

    Hi Kat,
    My friends will be getting married in 15 months and are doing it on less than a shoestring budget. When I found out Succulents were 90% of what the bouquets and arrangements would be out of, I thought it would be cool to see how much money I could save them. I think altogether we purchased under 10 plants. The plan was to either propagate or take cuttings from them. I can’t believe I have gotten this far! I have a bad reputation for not being able grow anything, and now I have over 150 plants. My friend has just in the last few days decided to use lots, and I mean lots, of the succulents that have really pretty rosettes and also those that can spill out of the bouquets. Unfortunately I have no idea how many different succulents have rosettes and how long they take to grow. The couple I have are not very large, but I’ve only been at this a couple of months. Could you you please give me any advice or info? Really, I need to know the names of succulents that have rosettes, that I can grow to the size I would need them, by the time I need them. The wedding in planned for September of 2021. It was planned for this year, but when COVID happened they postponed their wedding a year, freeing up their date for another couple, who’s wedding had to be completely canceled because of COVID. So if I wasn’t doing this for our really good friends anyway, I would have been as soon as I found out what they did. I have even been trying my hand at making my own succulent soil. I have been finding directions for making your own soil online and tweaking them just a little, since I found that what works best for my string of pearls doesn’t work that great for my sedum. I’d tell you the name of the sedum, but, I’d have to know the name of it to tell it to you. Anyway back to what I was posting about. Do you think I have enough time to grow plants large enough for use in wedding bouquets and centerpieces? I could really use all the help we can get. If I can help them save money with this, then that’s just that much money they can add to another wish list item they would have to otherwise cut corners on or eliminate all together. Your post has by far been the most helpful and informative for me. Thank you

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Ivy,
      Wow! You have some terrific friends, don’t you? And you are doing a beautiful thing for them.
      Yes, you have time enough to grow your succulents into beauties for their wedding!
      The best way to learn what varieties you have is to join my new Facebook group here. We would love to have you!
      Will you be making the bouquets and centerpieces? We can also help you with succulent design! 🙂
      ~Kat

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