There are many things I wish I had, and a green thumb is at the top of the list. Although I don’t have a green thumb, I do come from a family that does. Growing up it was common to find my mother’s knees in her flowerbeds early on a weekend morning, and my grandmother kept a beautiful bay window overflowing with succulents and other potted plants. Since we live in the city an outdoor garden is not exactly in the cards, but I do have some wide windowsills begging for some greenery.

This spring I decided to do some research and found there are few things you can do to increase your success at keeping succulents alive and healthy.

If you don’t have time for the why and are only interested in the how, skip the next three paragraphs.

Proper drainage is a key factor in the health of any plant. Without proper drainage mold and bacteria can thrive on the trapped moisture at the bottom of your planter. But not all planters have handy drain holes, in fact, most don’t. For pots that don’t have drainage built in, you can use a layer of pebbles at the bottom of your pot to create an in-pot drainage system.

Despite your best efforts to create proper drainage there is still a chance that excess water can cause moisture build up. This is especially common if you have a heavy hand when watering. Using active charcoal is a great natural remedy for this problem. Active charcoal has been heated at high temperatures, increasing its absorption and microbial properties. Adding a layer of active charcoal will help absorb any excess water and prevent bacteria growth and root decay.

For a final defense you can add Sphagnum Moss to your planter, more commonly known as live moss. Moss is a great natural filter. It will prevent chunks of soil from falling in between the tiny crevices created by the pebbles, preventing the ideal environment for bacterial growth. Moss also has a wonderful natural trait of absorbing water and releasing it when the plant needs it, keeping root rot at bay. Be careful not to use peat moss, this is moss that is already dead and will not provide any benefits for your succulent growth.

The H Potter Terrarium Kit comes with all the components you need to build a successful succulent planter. In the kit you are provided pebbles, active charcoal, live moss, and soil all in neatly packed sacks.

Setting up your planter is super easy. Once you have wiped the inside of your container clean and thoroughly dried it, add an even layer of pebbles. Depending on the size of your planter aim to fill ¼ of the container with pebbles. Then sprinkle a thin layer of active charcoal over your pebble layer. Next add a layer of live moss, about ¼ of the container, and fill the remaining space in the pot with soil patting tightly around your succulent.

Since succulents are in the cactus family there are many misconceptions about the best way to care for them. It is true that succulents do not need as much water as most houseplants, but many people go too long between watering. A good rule is watering them once a week. I like to water my plants on Wednesdays because it is easy to remember, “Water Wednesdays”. The soil should be damp to the touch but no excess water should seep up if you push down on the soil with your finger.

Another misconception is that succulents love direct sunlight. Although they do love lots of sun, direct sunlight is not ideal. Filtered sunlight is best to promote healthy succulent growth. Finding a bright room that gets sunlight all day but not direct sunlight is perfect.

By creating the proper environment below and above the soil even those without a green thumb can enjoy the beauty and joy of a home full of succulents.

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