Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: New to plants - starting with succulents!

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Name: Karen
British Columbia
Dec 28, 2017 12:42 AM CST
Hi! I just got a haworthia today, and am planning on getting some echeverias soon, and I have a few questions since I am completely new to growing plants, so hopefully you guys can help out. :)

I have been doing a little bit of research, but a lot of questions still come to mind when I read a few guides, and there are some inconsistent information sometimes so I thought it would be best to find a forum to clarify a few things:

Watering - the watering recommendations seem to vary a bit from site to site so I am not too sure. I've seen recommendations from as frequently as once a week to once every other month in the wintertime.

Most are unanimous about the "water when soil is dry" but since I am a newbie I can't really tell if it's dry "enough" to water now, or if I should wait more. Like I said, I just got this plant today at a grocery store so I am not sure when it was last watered. The soil feels relatively dry to me already, but still very slightly moist.

Is it alright to use tap water? I live in Vancouver BC, I believe we have soft water. Rainwater seems to be best - there's snow here now, would melting some snow be the same as using rainwater?

Soil & repotting - It is still in the plastic pot it came in, so I will be repotting it soon, but what kind of soil mix would you guys recommend? A lot of sites I've seen mention that I should repot in the Spring or Summer, why is this? Would it be alright if I repot now even though it's Winter?

Leaves - what exactly are healthy haworthia plant leaves supposed to feel like? I expected it to be a bit springier/squishier, but the leaves here are quite stiff and hard, almost feels like hard plastic. Is this normal, or is this plant underwatered?

Tips - the tips of the leaves are browning a little bit; just slightly. Is this normal for this plant or is it a sign of under/overwatering?

Temperature - I keep my room quite warm in the winter, about 25 C (77 F), would this be alright for the plant (and echeverias too, in the future)?

This is as much as I could get my camera to focus and I know it's not that clear, but you can kind of see the tips are a bit white/brown here:

Thumb of 2017-12-28/popatochisps/ee2a65

I know that's a lot of minor, nitpicky questions and I know these are quite hardy plants, so maybe I'm overthinking this, but I really would like to know what is the best for these little guys, so any help is much appreciated!
[Last edited by popatochisps - Dec 28, 2017 1:05 AM (+)]
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Name: Sue Taylor
Northumberland, UK
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Dec 28, 2017 2:28 AM CST
These are such popular plants as theyre easy to look after and fairly forgiving. Like you they're growng strictly indoors here in the UK. Water sparingly, particularly in winter but don't just give a dribble of water, give the plant a good soaking periodically and let the compost almost dry out between watering. Nothing kills these plants faster than overwatering. Winter is a time when they will be resting, so they need little watering no feeding and no repotting. You can do that in Spring. Tap water should be fine.
Keep them in a fairly warm and bright situation.
Do have a look at the posts in this forum as you will get some good advice here.
Enjoy your plants!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Dec 28, 2017 11:01 AM CST


Welcome to the world of succulents. You have chosen a pretty easy plant to start with.

The soil will feel relatively dry at the top when it is still moist at the bottom (the last part to dry out is the bottom, and that's what matters). So you will not get a complete sense of what's going on by touching the top. You can try putting a moisture meter or a chopstick in there, or you can try lifting the pot and judging by its weight. Ideally try not to brutalize the roots by pushing things in there each time you water... once you get a sense of how fast the soil dries out, it will be very predictable under those same conditions.

But I can tell you from experience that given the warmth you describe, and assuming good drainage and lots of light (more on this later), you can easily get away with watering well once a week year round. Sue has given you some excellent advice about overwatering and this is the season when that's much more likely to be an issue. The reason why everybody's water recommendations are so different is that each location demands its own specific adjustments to care.

Winter dormancy basically does not happen for Haworthias like yours if the temperatures remain mild and the light remains strong. We are fortunate to live in a mild climate so I leave my plants outside year round. If your indoor plants are not getting cold at night and receiving sun through the window for hours a day, you can safely assume they are not going anywhere near dormant unless you starve them of water (which of course you can do if you want).

The main issue this time of year is low light, and short of moving the plant right next to your sunniest south-facing window (where ideally you want it to be able to "see" the sun for hours each day) there's not much you can do without providing artificial light. In BC light is going to be scarce in winter, so watch your plant carefully for changes, exercise restraint with the watering can during low light conditions, and do your best to max out the natural light that's available to it.

The tips may die back a little (no big deal) and lower leaves will die off over time, as part of the natural process of senescence. The leaves should be fairly hard when fully pumped up. Those aspects are not going to be real useful in guiding care of your plant, I think. The thing to track is the moisture in the soil, with the goal of waiting for it to dry out before watering, but not sit for any extended period bone dry. These plants are quite drought tolerant so if you err on any side during winter, it should be on underwatering.
Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Dec 28, 2017 11:11 AM CST
Hi Karen, Welcome!
I can't offer advice on your pretty Zebra Haworthia (Haworthiopsis fasciata) but we have many knowledgeable members who can help. The couple of Haworthia that I have, stay outdoors year round and they usually only get watered when it rains; with our high year-round humidity here in Florida, they seem to thrive on neglect.
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~

Name: 'CareBear'

Sempervivums Hostas Dog Lover Irises Amaryllis Cactus and Succulents
Region: Pennsylvania
Dec 28, 2017 11:28 AM CST
Welcome to the group. I use a very gritty soil mix because I over water my plants. I know better but I never listen to myself. Some of my haworthia are in pure grit. During the hot summer, some of mine shrivel up and loose their roots. They quickly regrow them when conditions become back normal for them. Summer is my worst time and they take on some redish tones. Winter seems to be their growing season, keeping them at around 60 degrees or so and mine are in bright light not direct sun.
Your plant is called Haworthia attenuata var. 'Zebra', Some misidentify them as H. fasciata but after much debate it is now all lumped into attenuata. Supposedly fasciata has no tubercles inside the leaf.
Some of mine;

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/65a44a

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/3fd13a

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/f8941e

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/e14bdf

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/94e3e4

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/8a5fa1

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/d44c78

Thumb of 2017-12-28/Stush2019/d5f691

Name: Karen
British Columbia
Dec 29, 2017 5:26 AM CST
Thank you all for the advice and info so far!

I picked up 3 more little succulents today, and a bag of cactus mix - I would have taken more time to browse but I was in a rush today after picking out the succulents themselves, so I regret not taking a better look before grabbing this, but I got this bag of "Pro-Mix Premium Cactus Mix".

Thumb of 2017-12-29/popatochisps/d29d3b

It promises to "provide good air porosity and fast water draining", but I'm skeptical since it's peat-based and doesn't feel very gritty.

I am also a bit worried about light levels - I'm sitting my plant in a south-facing window but even during the day I can barely see the sun myself (it's pretty cloudy here generally, but lately it's very misty, maybe even smokey - think there might be a forest fire somewhere nearby). I hope it's enough. I saw some cheap LED lights supposedly for plant growth on Amazon (in the $20-$30 range) but I'm not sure if they are any good; I'd link one but I can't do that with my account yet.

The new succulents:

Thumb of 2017-12-29/popatochisps/1012d4 Thumb of 2017-12-29/popatochisps/e83eeb Thumb of 2017-12-29/popatochisps/8f4e14

Two of them came with ID tags (the rosettes) but I am not 100% sure what the other one is - it's kind of like a pachyphytum oviferum, but the leaves aren't that fat so I don't know.

I'll be repotting them tomorrow with the new soil, wish me luck. :)
Name: 'CareBear'

Sempervivums Hostas Dog Lover Irises Amaryllis Cactus and Succulents
Region: Pennsylvania
Dec 29, 2017 1:18 PM CST
My haworthia is not in that bright of light but those others do need as much light as you can give them. Haworthia does do better in super bright light but like sanseverias they don't need it. I have a lot of my succulents under LED lamps. At 5000 k brightness level. They seem to do good but nothing is as good as the real thing. I had the cheap shop lamps and upgraded to LED 4 ft. bulbs that fit right into the shop lights. Purchased on line at 'Light-up' for about $6 a bulb.
Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids Tropicals Region: Mexico
Dec 30, 2017 12:59 AM CST
Thank you for that great light info @Stush. I will be checking that out. Happy New Year.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Dec 30, 2017 11:41 AM CST


Karen, my understanding (not having used the product) is that the ProMix for cacti has extra perlite mixed in, and should work for your purposes. If at any time you want a faster draining mix you can add more perlite or pumice to about 50% of the total. The mixes based on composted bark tend to be long lasting and retain good drainage for a while. You can make almost any organic component (including peat) work well with the right amount of fine gravel (perlite, pumice, etc) mixed in.

Your new yellowish plant looks like an Aeonium (look for the fine marginal hairs) and it will grow fairly large and branchy given time and space. Aeoniums tend to be winter growers and slow down in the summer. They make excellent starter plants for propagation so when your plant grows lots of new heads you can consider chopping one or two to start new plants (best done in the fall).

The Aeoniums Database

When you repot your new plants, be sure the new pots have holes at the bottom, and ideally they should be wider than they are deep. Aim for a size just bigger than the rosettes, and repot in relatively small jumps in size for best results.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Dec 30, 2017 12:10 PM (+)]
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Name: Karen
British Columbia
Jan 3, 2018 3:30 AM CST
Thanks for the tips! I repotted them a few days ago and I hope I did it right - the containers I bought are a bit small though and I know that's not ideal since they don't have much space to grow, but hopefully it won't be too big of an issue for now. Crossing Fingers! I am always so scared I've done something wrong.

Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/03e327

I also got a snake plant (I've just been looking for things that are easy to grow - I'll stop after this one since I should make sure none of these guys die in my care before I get any more plants, lol), and repotting it today, I wasn't sure if the roots were right? They feel a little soggy - I read up on it later and maybe I should have just let them dry out before repotting, but I hope these aren't the beginning signs of root rot.

This one worried me the most since it's kind of a darker, orange colour:

Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/c1ef63

It was also very difficult to get this one to 'sit' properly in the soil since it doesn't have a long, sturdy root like the other two, and I had to add a lot of soil to its base, and use the top dressing rocks to get it to stay propped up. I hope it will take root 'cause it feels kind of flimsy, like it'll fall over in the pot if I move it too much right now.

I think this one is healthy:

Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/fdd3dd

And the longest one, in 2 photos to show the top and end:

Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/af8429 Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/5003e8

This one felt a little mushy at the end, but the colour seems right.

What it looks like repotted:

Thumb of 2018-01-03/popatochisps/a34d02

I'm noticing the tips are a little brown and "crispy", and there are some browning spots and tiny holes on a few of the leaves - does this indicate anything bad? If you click the above photo you can see a bit of it already, but I can provide clearer pictures if necessary.

I read somewhere you should disinfect the pot before repotting but I did not do that for all of my plants, is this a big deal?

Thanks again for reading, guys - I know I ask a lot of questions but again, pretty clueless and new to all this and I'm always super worried I'm killing my plants and I won't know until it's too late! Sticking tongue out
Name: 'CareBear'

Sempervivums Hostas Dog Lover Irises Amaryllis Cactus and Succulents
Region: Pennsylvania
Jan 3, 2018 10:45 AM CST
Starting with succulents is good because if you forget to water them, they will do okay. But on the other hand, if you over water them, they will rot. All looks well so far except;
Your Snake plants was over watered and must let any cut roots heal over at least a day or two before re-planting and then water in a few days later. Only water when soil is very dry.
Speaking of soil; Use only for cactus and succulent which is more freer draining. We some times add extra pumice or perlite to the mix.
It looks like the pots all have drain holes in them. Don't let water accumulate in the saucers for any length of time.
Should be okay.

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