my indoor succulents are not doing so well

vanessa.rossiAugust 13, 2014


I am growing a few succulents indoors and some of them seem to not be doing so well. I'm guessing the problem is the lack of direct sunlight (I thought they didn't necessarily need direct light). But I'm new at growing plants at home and thought I should ask for advice.
My succulents are all on small window pods (see picture). They do have drainage holes. The window gets southwest light. As you can see on the picture, the plants get lots of indirect light, but never direct light. Because they're kept indoors, I only water them once a week. I use a cactus & succulent soil mix I bought at the nursery. Didn't add sand or perlite to it.
None of them showed any significant growth, but I got them about a month ago and have no idea how fast they grow. I also have some herbs I bought on the same week and they grow like crazy! The burrito tail developed little spots and some leaves are a bit soft (see picture). Any clue of what those spots mean? Not enough light? The elephant food is also getting a bit soft.
The window pods are really tiny so I couldn't fit the whole plants in them. I left part of them in the soil and pots they came in. Both the elephant food and the burrito tail that remained in their original pots seem to be doing fine. They also only get indirect sunlight. Even though I'm concerned about the light, I'm wondering if that is maybe a sign the problem is the soil and not the light?
I read somewhere that if you're keeping outdoor plants indoors, it's a good idea to put them outdoors once a week and let them get some direct sunlight. I am wondering if my succulents can benefit from that or if that will cause leaf burn, considering they're not used to direct sunlight.
Thanks in advance for the help!

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What's in the soil? If you're not using a gritty mix I can guarantee you that once a week is way to much water for regular soil for succulents inside. Plus they don't look like they come up high enough out of their containers Some look a little over potted to me. Which will retain more water leaving them at a higher risk for rot. Looking at the containers (which I like the look of them but for the right size plant) to me some look to be setting too deep in them so I wouldn't think they would get enough air flow hence making it harder for the soil to dry out. Can you take a picture of the drain holes? As far as the plant, the areas that are marked up, were they by chance touching the glass of the window?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:45PM
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Oh almost forgot my succulents that aren't kept outside ALL day, I put out for two hours a day without any problems

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:47PM
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Also the one that's marked up also looks REAL plump so it could be from over watering and the marks are from it splitting from too much water

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Some of the marks on the 'plump' one look like a mechanical damage; shrivelling could be over-or underwatering, or simply old age (especially if that's lower leaves).
Yes, the containers look little deep for most succulents (they are nice thou); did you put soil directly into them or is there a pot-in-the-pot? That would be better, I would think. (You said that what you left in pots looks better-probably not so deep). But maybe opening is too small for a pot to fit in?

Don't add sand! Better to add lots of perlite or grit if you can get it. And don't put any rocks on the bottom either (as sometimes recommended by nurseries-for drainage...)

If it was me, I would keep them on the balcony - looks like you get good sun there. But don't just put them outside if they were inside for too long; they should be acclimatized to much more sun.
I can't tell exactly what all of them are, so ID them first to make sure of their light requirements.
Some succulents grow slower, and if your herbs seem to grow much better - maybe they are in more light? See if they actually grow, not just stretch for light. And if you are watering all of the plants at the same time, then I think herbs are getting right amount but succulents too much water.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 10:50AM
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deva33 Z5 SE Iowa

I think those pods are really neat! I also agree with the advice above - add some grit to that soil and get all the old soil off of the roots. They aren't going to grow as fast as herbs, so dont worry about that part. But definitely get them in some gritty mix, then dont water for a few weeks, I let mine be dry for at least a few days before watering. If you ar short on cash/time and dont want to do the full on gritty mix I suggest you at least have 1:1 perlite:cactus soil. GOOD LUCK!!!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Thank you so much for the replies!
I'm a newbie at growing plants and am not entirely sure what gritty mix is. I googled it and compared the components to the ones from my packaged soil. It seems they're a bit different. Here's what my packaged soil components are: "this product is regionally formulated from Canadian sphagnum peat, Canadian reed sedge peat or composted bark, horticultural perlite and washed sand." Should I look for gritty mix? What do I do then? Replace the entire soil or mix the gritty mix with the soil the plants are in now? Remember they were all put into those new pots with the new soil only a month ago.
The leaves don't touch the window at all. LilBit7765 pointed out the containers might be too big for the plants. I had never thought about it and at first thought you were right. But then I put the pot the plants came in and the pot they're in now side by side and they're pretty much the same size (see pic). As for them being settling deep in the pots, only the roots are inside the pot, the entire plants come out of them (see pic). Rina asked if there's a pot inside a pot. They're small, there's no way I can put a pot inside a pot like I do with my other plants.
LilBit7765 Asked for a pic of the drainage hole. There it is. The hole is small, but water does come out of it when I water.
As for the growth, my herbs grow really fast, but yes, they're outside and get direct light all day.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 1:13PM
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a_shau(San Francisco 8b)

hi there - so i've been lurking to wait for more info and pics of your plants. actually, they seem to look pretty good, what are the indicators that they're not doing well - the fact that they're not growing quickly?

generally succulents will be slow growers, especially if they're not getting a lot of sunlight. your herbs are growing quickly because a) herbs (and it seems lots of leafy plants) grow quickly in general and b) they're outside getting a lot of sun.

just reiterating what everyone else has said, but i definitely would not water them at the same rate as the herbs.

Also, the burrito tail, and any succulent that has particularly fat and juicy leaves will need less water than other succulents (elephant snack) because they are retaining a lot more water in those plump leaves.

finally, in general, while the container size might not seem large, I think people are just wondering about the soil ratio - basically, if there is too much soil (due to not enough of a gritty mix, or due to a too-large pot and etc), then water stays in there longer than it takes for the roots to take them in, which then causes root rot.

One thing about the pots (which are super cute btw) is that even though the pots have drainage holes, the way they are constructed (tall with a smaller opening) means less top surface area, which means slower rate of moisture evaporation, and so the soil will stay wetter for longer.

anyway, all this just to say: water them a little less, like maybe just once every 2 weeks, and the watering doesn't have to be a total drench. if water is not coming out of the hole, that's ok!

definitely if you can "let them out" and sit in the sun sometimes, i am sure they'd appreciate that.

see how that goes before you go crazy trying to mix up the soil and disturb your plants. definitely if you figure out how to create your gritty mix then by all means do, but for now, yeah, less water and a some more sun.

also, sorry for being wordy - not trying to be too technical, but i just tend to like understanding reasons for why things work the way they do.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 2:33PM
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