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What To Avoid When Shopping For Succulents (And What To Buy Instead)

How to Shop for Plants, How to Plantcolleen jordanComment

Succulents are incredibly easy plants to care for. All they really need is a little bit of water and enough sunlight. They are very tolerant of neglect, and often some of the most forgotten about succulents can be easily coaxed back to health. However, when shopping for plants, there are signs to look for that will tell you that a succulent will not thrive or may require more work than expected. Earlier in this series we showed you how to shop for healthy succulents and signs your succulents might need more attention. Here we'll show you warning signs to look for when shopping that will tell you a plant might need more care so you can make the best decision  before buying. 

Glued-On Plants

Glued-on plants aren't bad on their own, but can require more care than the care instructions may have you believe. There are some beautiful boutonnieres and corsages sold for events (meant for use for probably only one night use) that make use of glued on succulents, like the gorgeous ones from Passionflower Sue, but these items are sold as accessories, not home decorations, and can be planted after the event is over. The items that require more care than the instructions allude to are the items sold as home decor with a live but glued plant. Succulents are not like air plants (tillandsia), and cannot get their needed nutrients from light misting. They have root systems that require them to be planted in soil or a growing medium for them to obtain nutrients and water. Succulents that are glued onto ceramic or wood will become etiolated and under-watered, and will die rather quickly from not getting enough nutrients and light.


If you do happen to acquire one of these plants, you can still rescue it however. These plants can be removed gently from their bases, and any damaged portions removed. You can then use the plant and any leaves that may have fallen off for propagations. The good thing about arrangements like these, if that you may be able to skip some steps in the propagation process. The cut end of the succulent will have most likely have already calloused over and begun to form roots (in its search for more nutrition), leaving you will a little fat plant that is ready to be planted in some soil!

What To Buy Instead
If you want a similar look, consider purchasing some air plants instead. You can attach them to ceramic and other surfaces with epoxy type glues like E6000.


Glued-On Flowers

Another tactic that sellers do to fool new succulent growers is gluing paper or dried flowers to succulents. Sellers do this to fool buyers into thinking that the cactus is flowering. These flowers can damage your plant once it grows or when it is removed. Real succulent flowers are far more colorful than these simulacrum of real flora that will fade and fall apart overtime. If glued on flowers are your aesthetic, that’s fine too, just remember that the glue will damage the plant as it grows or if it is removed.


What To Buy Instead
Most succulents and cacti naturally only bloom for a few days. If you're looking for something floral, consider getting a kalanchoe or certain varieties of sedum like the flowers in the vase below.

Hexagon Desk Planter
Quick View

Painted Succulents

The worst (in my opinion) tactic that sellers use to fool new succulent parents is selling painted succulents and cacti. These plants are going to die very shortly after bringing them home, and you’ll often see them dying on store shelves. The reason painted succulents are bad is because the paint blocks sunlight from reaching the leaves, leaving the plant unable to photosynthesize and feed itself.


What to Buy Instead
If you are looking for a colorful succulent, instead consider one that is naturally colorful like a moonstone or graptopetalum, or even just plant your new succulent in a colorful pot. Several sellers on Etsy and Amazon sell naturally colorful succulents.

This is the lovely succulent I picked up at @floragrubbgardens last week!

A post shared by Colleen Jordan (@wearableplanter) on


After overwatering, bugs are the second fastest way to kill your succulents. Depending on your climate and area, succulents are susceptible to several types of insects like flies, mealy bugs, aphids and many more. Flies are mainly just a pest, but can quickly spread to other plants. Mealy bugs will make quick work of eating your succulent leaves, and aphids will also eat leaves and quickly begin to affect other house plants and food.


Organic methods to controlling bugs in your succulents exist and are very effective, and in my opinion more effective in the long term than using pesticides. To get rid of aphids, you can wash off your plant with a powerful rush of water and apply a mixture of water, dish soap, and cayenne pepper to the leaves to keep them away. Mealybugs can be removed and killed with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove their webs and kill the bugs. Periodically check your plants and repeat as necessary. 

Plants treated with Neonicotinoid Pesticides

I am not a stickler for organic gardening and (I will occasionally use miracle-gro on underperforming backyard tomatoes, or even use an organic pesticide if I see aphids or caterpillar lopers on my squash), however, I really beg you to not purchase plants with neonicotinoid pesticides that have been applied.

The best way to keep bugs from harming your succulents is to inspect all plants before you purchase them, and avoid buying ones visibly affected by insects. Once you bring your plants home, keep all new plants separated for a week or two to make sure there were no eggs brought in with them.  

There is increasing evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides affect bee populations and are the cause of colony collapse disorder. If you need to use pesticides, research the ones you use first.

What To Buy Instead
Instead, buy any other plant not treated with these pesticides. To be sure that you're avoiding them, shop at organic nurseries or ask the staff where you are shopping what pest control methods they and their suppliers use.

Over-watered Succulents

Giving succulents too much water is the fastest and most effective way to kill them. Too much standing water in the soil can lead to a condition called root rot which can spread up the plant and quickly kill it. 


You can easily tell an overwatered succulent by looking for mushy and translucent leaves, or looking for black rotted segments. An overwatered succulent can only be saved by cutting off the affected areas with a sanitized sharp blade, and letting the cut area callous over and re-root. 

What to Buy Instead
Look for succulents and cacti with dry soil when you're shopping.

Grafted Cacti

Moon cacti, those cacti you see that are a colorful sphere on top of a taller cactus are really cool, and are actually two cacti grafted together. I think these succulents are beautiful and are really interesting, and don’t want to discourage you from getting them, but want you to know more about them to avoid heartbreak after a few years.


Moon cacti are two cacti grafted together, that have fused together and share nutrients and a vascular system. The colorful cacti on the top, called a Hibotan cactus, although it is very colorful, is considered an albino plant. It’s colorful colors come from a lack of chlorophyll, the needed chemical for plants to photosynthesize and thrive. The hibotan cactus, since it lacks chlorophyll, can only thrive when grafted onto a root stock cactus. After about two years, depending on growing conditions, the rootstock cactus will reach the end of its life, or may begin rotting or drying out sooner. When this happens, the hibotan is still viable, but will need to be regrafted. Plenty of tutorials exist to show how to do this should you wish to perform this task. If you decide to purchase a moon cactus, just know that this is problem will arise in the future.

What to Buy Instead
Moon cacti still make great plants, but if you're looking for something with less long-term maintenance, consider another colorful succulent or pot.

Signs Your Succulents Needs Extra Care and Love

How to Plant, How to Shop for Plantscolleen jordanComment

In our previous post, we showed you what to look for to know that the plant you're selecting is healthy. We know that plants make people happy, so today we're showing you some signs that mean a succulent isn't as happy as it can be and needs a little extra love and attention. To help you when shopping for succulents, we created this guide so you can be more informed shopper when you're buying plants and to diagnose issues you're having with your succulents after you take them home.


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The easiest way to kill a succulent is by over-watering it, but succulents can be damaged by too little water as well. Succulents store water in their leaves, and can handle being under-watered better than other plants can, but like Goldilocks, still need that amount of water that is just right. You can tell that a succulent is under-watered if it has limp and wrinkly leaves, and may have dropped some as well.

Underwatered plants can still be healthy when you begin to water them again, just make sure to not overwater the plant.

Etiolated Growth

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Etiolation describes a plant that was grown without enough light and has subsequently become stretched out and pale. Etiolation occurs when a plant is grown without sufficient light for a period of time and grows out in search of more light. Succulents like this can still be perfectly healthy, they just may not the aesthetically pleasing plant you were hoping to instagram right away. You can't fix etiolation once it has happened, but luckily with growing succulents, you can always slice off the bottom of the plant, and begin propagrations from the cuttings and leaves.


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Like humans, succulents can get stressed, too. Stress comes temperatures or water conditions that are not ideal for the plant. Stress in succulents can take many forms, from the tips of the leaves turning red (like the photo above), or the entire leaf changing colors. Some gardeners will intentionally stress their succulents for aesthetic appeal, and this can create beautiful effects when done correctly.

Seeing signs of stress in your succulent does not mean that your succulent will imminently die, it just means that your succulent may need some extra care or need to be moved to a new location. In most cases it means that the plant is under-watered or receiving too much light. While some succulents can be stressed temporarily for looks, this is something that should not be done long term as the plant can begin to rot or die if left like this for too long. Also something of note, is that if you buy a beautiful subtly colored succulent at the store, it may be exhibiting signs of stress, and may change colors once you get it home.

Physical Damage


Once again, like humans, plants are delicate and can get injuries. Plants can get physical damage from insect and animal bites and from trauma like being dropped. Last fall I had an unfortunate incident where some squirrels feasted on and knocked over several of my plants, so unfortunately this is a problem that I know too well.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent physical damage to your plants, but with some care and planning, you can do your best to prevent it. This may seem like really simple advice, but be careful and don't drop your plants when you are moving them around. When selecting a location for your plants, keep them on a sturdy base where they can not be easily tiped or knocked over by people or animals. And finally, if you're keeping your plants outside, considering installing netting or wiring to keep squirrels and other critters from dining on your succulents. Deterrents like coyote urine and shaky stuff can also be used to deter backyard fauna from inquiring about your plants.

If your succulents have physical damage they will never fully heal. In most cases they will begin to callus where the trauma occurred but may also begin to rot. With calloused plants, they will bounce back and be healthy again in time, they just won't be as pretty as they can be. If you see signs of rot, using sharp shears or a razor, cut off the rotted sections and either replant or try to start over from a cutting.

If you see signs of this in a plant at the store, this does not mean that the plant is unhealthy, only that it was damaged at some point in transit from the grower to the the store.




While plants need sunlight to perform photosynthesis, some plants can get too much sunlight. While some succulents can be planted in bright sunlight, not all can handle full sun (defined as 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day) or can suffer in too much sunlight. Leaves that are sunburned will appear brown or black, and may begin to shrivel or callus. The best way to fix sunburn in your plant is to move it to a place with less sunlight or less bright light. Sunburned leaves will never fully heal, but unaffected parts of the plant will still be healthy.

You can distinguish sunburn from rot by looking at other signs in the leaves. A recently sunburned plant will still have fat and full leaves that have begun to turn black or brown and may still be glossy. Older sunburn will be black or brown and dry or shriveled, or even completely desiccated. Leaves that are showing signs of rot and too much water will appear mushy and wrinkly.

If you see sunburn in a plant at the store or that you own, this does not mean that the plant is unhealthy and will quickly die, but that it was probably cared for improperly and exposed to too much light at some point. Keep in mind that often sunburned segments will shrivel off, so while the plant may not be pretty, it could still be healthy and continue to grow for years and years. The best way to refrain from buying sunburned plants is to buy from small independent nurseries and sellers and to avoid big box stores where this type of damage is more likely to be seen.

Hopefully these tips help you diagnose and treat issues that your succulents may have. In our next post we'll be showing you what to avoid when shopping for plants and succulents so that you make sure to always take home a plant that can be your companion for years to come!

How to Shop for Healthy Succulents and Cacti

How to Plant, How to Shop for Plantscolleen jordanComment

When you’re shopping for succulents, there are several signs to look for to make sure you are buying the healthiest plant that you can get. There are no definite rules on what to look for when shopping for plants, but these tips will help you determine which plants are the healthiest when you’re out shopping. This post is part of a 3 part series on how to shop for succulents. In this post I’m going to focus on signs of healthy plants, and in the next two posts I will share with you warning signs of unhealthy or uncared for plants, and what to never buy.

Plump and Full Leaves


Looking at the leaves is one of the easiest ways to tell if a succulent is healthy. Succulents are often called “fat plants” because of their plump and full leaves. Succulents store their water in ways different from most plants by storing most of their water in their leaves. The appearance of the leaves will give you a status report of the recent health of the plant. If the leaves are full and plump, than the plant is currently getting the right amount of water, and unless there are signs of insects or physical damage, the plant is in most likelihood currently healthy. If you see mushy or black leaves on a succulent, the succulent was overwatered and will most likely die soon (seriously, don’t buy an overwatered succulent, it will only lead to heart break). Wrinkly leaves mean that the succulent has not received enough water. Succulents with wrinkly leaves can still be healthy and plump back up in a few days when properly watered.

Close Leaf Spacing


We’re going to keep looking at the leaves for more clues about the health of the plant. Looking at the leaf spacing will give us clues about the longer term growing conditions of the plant. When you’re looking at the succulent you want to buy, pay attention to the spacing of the leaves along the stem. Leaves should be closely spaced together and tightly overlapping. Etiolation, or the far apart spacing of the leaves, is a sign that the plant has not received enough sunlight. Etiolation on a succulent is not a sign that it is unhealthy, just that it was not receiving enough sunlight for a portion of its life. You can buy an etiolated succulent and still have a perfectly healthy plant, it just might not be “instagram-worthy” right away. If you do buy an etiolated plant you can also cut off the bottom of the plant and remove the lower leaves to propagate smaller plants.

Dry Soil


When you’re shopping for succulents, you’ll also need to look at the soil for clues about the health and care of the plant. If the soil is dry and you don’t see any signs of mold or mushy leaves, than the plant has never been properly watered and you should have healthy roots and soil. If you see soft wet soil or any signs of mold or mushy leaves on the plant, this means the plant has been overwatered and can cause root rot, a condition where the roots stayed wet for too long and have begun to rot and cut off water to the plant. 

Also, look for succulents planted in a well-draining soil mix that includes perlite or sand. If you don’t see these in your soil, but the soil is still dry, you can always replant it with a fast draining soil mix when you get home.

Bright and Even Coloring


 The coloring of the leaves will also give you more clues about the health of the plant. Not all succulents are green or brightly colored, but look for even coloring of the plant. Some succulents might be light green, dark green, pink, purple, or even black, but what matters is that the leaves all have consistent and even coloring. Some species will also have a gradient in their leaves (like the succulent in the picture) where the color might change color towards the tips. As long as the coloring doesn’t show signs of sunburn or stress, and is consistent throughout the plant, this color is a sign of good health. 

Farina Bloom


 Farina bloom is a light, dusty, sometimes waxy, flour-like coating over the leaves of some succulents. Not all succulents have farinaceous bloom, but several species of crassula, pachyphytum, and echeverria do. If you see a flour-y coating on the leaves of the succulent, make sure that it is mostly undisturbed and has not been dusted off. Farina acts like sunscreen for succulents who love bright sunlight and should not be removed. The farina bloom is something that occurs on the leaves as they grow, so once its been removed it cannot grow back. If this has been removed, it does not mean that your succulent is going to die, but you should take more caution in the amount of light it receives and pay attention for signs of sunburn. Leaves that have had the farina removed could still be used for propagation of new plants.

I hope you liked this guide of what to look for to ensure you’re buying healthy plants! The next part of our series will focus on what to avoid when buying succulents, and will give you more tips and photos of what to look out for when buying plants and signs that some plants might need more love.


DIY, How to Plantcolleen jordan2 Comments

Succulents are really easy plants to care for. They're not only easy to keep alive with just a little bit of water and access to sunlight, but they are also simple to plant. Succulents can thrive indoors year-round and can live outdoors in most climates. The easiest way to grow and propagate these plants isn't through planting seeds, but by taking cuttings from established plants. Planting them yourself gives you better creative control over how your arrangement looks, and is an inexpensive introduction to gardening that you can do without access to a backyard or porch. If you've ever been curious about how to plant your own succulents, you're in luck because we're going to show you what to do!

What You'll Need:

  • Succulent cuttings or leaves. If you don't have them from a cutting you took, you can get them from Amazon and several sellers on Etsy.
  • A well-draining soil. For this tutorial I'm making my own using 1 part potting soil mixed with 1 part sand, but you can also buy pre-made soil mixes made for succulents and cacti.

  • A planter or tray to plant in.

  • Water.

  • Small river stones  or rocks (optional).


What To Do:

Gather Your Succulents To Plant

We're going to be planting a variety of types of succulents from both cuttings and fallen leaves for this tutorial. Gather together what you would like to plant. You can either clip cuttings from an established plant or use fallen leaves. You can also find cuttings at most florists and online if you can't find them elsewhere. I purchased mine from a seller on Etsy, but you can find them on Amazon, too.

Prepare your succulents for planting.

Preparing your succulents is the most important part of this process. You want to make sure that you have enough of the stem to plant beneath the soil to support the plant. Remove any extra leaves from the bottom of the stem. For larger cuttings, about an inch of bare stem is fine, and you can use less for smaller cuttings. 

Next, look at the bottom of your cutting. The plants should have a "callous" on them, meaning that the bottom of the plant has dried out. This forms a few days after cutting the succulent, so you should wait a few days before planting freshly cut succulents. You can speed up this process by leaving the cutting on a paper towel or paper bag for the end to dry faster.

The great thing about succulents is that you can plant their leaves, too, so save the leaves you removed from the stem. Check for rotten parts of your succulents. Any part of the plant that is black has rotted, and this can spread to other parts of the plant and will eventually kill it. The rotten portions can be removed simply by cutting it.

Mix your soil.


If you're not using a pre-mixed blend of soil for succulents, you'll need to prepare your soil so that it will drain well to allow your succulents to thrive. I mix one part potting soil with one part sand, which allows the soil to drain well. I also like to keep some small rocks on hand to place around the base of larger plants to help anchor them in the soil.

Pour your soil mixture into a pot or tray. I'm recycling a baking pan that I can no longer use for baking as a planting tray.


Now we've gotten to the fun part! Make a small hole in the soil, about an inch deep. Place your cutting into the depression, and cover with soil.


If you're planting more than one cutting, make sure to place them about 2-3" apart.

Make sure your plants get enough water. Succulents don't usually need a lot of water, but while they are establishing their roots, you'll need to water them every 2-4 days, depending on how dry the soil gets. Don't be surprised if you see the leaves start to look a little dried out at first, this is the plant using it's stored energy resources while it builds new roots. In about four weeks you'll start to see new growth. Once the plants have established their roots and begin to grow, switch to weekly watering or only when the soil is dry.

Admire and Show Off Your Work!

Great job! Show off your green thumb and your amazing handiwork to all your friends! Once these plants have established their roots and started growing in about 3-6 weeks, they'll be ready for repotting if you choose. Plant them in a small mason jar or colorful pot, and they make a great holiday gift for coworkers and friends!


How to Grow Healthy Succulents: Extra Credit

How to Plantcolleen jordanComment

This is the second part of a two part series teaching you how to easily grow and care for succulents. Earlier this week we showed you the basics and today we're teaching you a few extra tricks that will keep your plants flourishing (and impress your friends)!

Water with hydrogen peroxide.
One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to water my succulents with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water (I use a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide). Hydrogen peroxide is basically water with an extra oxygen molecule that is looking for something to do. The peroxide will help to oxygenate the soil which is healthy for the roots and help to flush out any stagnant water. It will also help to kill any harmful fungi, microbes, or insect eggs that may be in the soil. I don

Feed your soil.
Soil is like a living organism, and growing plants in soil will in time deplete its nutrients. In order for your soil to keep your plants healthy, you’ll need to give it some nutrition from time to time. Succulents planted in the ground probably won’t need fertilizer, but potted ones will. All fertilizers contain some combination of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and succulents like fertilizers with a high amount of nitrogen. For my succulents, I've been really happy with the succulent fertilizer made by Miracle-Gro.

Don’t be afraid to use fertilizers on your plants, but remember to use them sparingly and in low concentrations to avoid burning the plant. There are a variety of conventional and organic fertilizers that you can find that work great for succulents, so find the one that you feel happiest with.

This succulent came contaminated with aphid eggs that hatched. Keeping it separated from my other plants kept it from spreading.

This succulent came contaminated with aphid eggs that hatched. Keeping it separated from my other plants kept it from spreading.

Keep new plants separate from the others
When you get a new plant, you don’t know how it’s been maintained earlier in its life up to then. While it may look healthy, it may be harboring insect eggs or have rotten parts that you may not see. 

Common problems that any new plant can have are mealybugs or aphids. Plants can also have dying roots caused by over watering. Keeping your new succulents separate will protect all of your plants and let you easily deal with any problems that may arise.

If you do find any bugs on your new plants, this problem will not be serious if you take care of it quickly. For mealy bugs, I dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub it on any affected leaves and where I see plants. For aphids and mites, you can use an organic insecticidal soap  or trying rinsing the plant with strong water. Trickier infestations may require a contact pesticide.

Succulent clippings cut from larger plants.

Succulent clippings cut from larger plants.

Don’t be afraid to trim or prune your succulents.
Is your plant getting too leggy from not enough sunlight? Trim it! Don’t be afraid to cut the bottom few inches off the stem and try to start over. You can follow our guide for growing cut succulents that takes you through what you need to do, so don’t get intimidated! You can also pull off any lonely leaves, and grow a new plant from the leaf.

How to Grow Healthy Succulents the Easy Way

How to Plantcolleen jordanComment
A young succulent clipping thriving in healthy soil.

A young succulent clipping thriving in healthy soil.

This is the first part of a two post series we'll be doing to teach you how to easily grow and care for succulents. If you haven't already guessed from our instagram feed, succulents are our favorite plants. They're really easy to keep and grow if you just follow a few easy steps. Today, we'll be sharing with you the basics of picking and growing healthy succulents, and Thursday we'll share with you some tricks that will help you go above and beyond.

First things first, pick a happy and healthy looking plant.
When you’re shopping for a succulent select a plant that has fat, green, pert leaves. This is the easiest way to tell that the succulent you’re picking is healthy. If the leaves are brown, wilted, or drooping, this doesn’t mean the plant will immediately die, but is showing signs that it hasn’t been well cared for. Set yourself up for success and pick a plant that is already healthy to bring home.

One of the recent trends in succulents is that you may find a plant that has been painted or has decorations (like a face) glued on to it. While this is partially a matter of personal taste, I would stay away from purchasing these plants. Paint on the leaves can prevent the plant from absorbing enough sunlight and glued on decorations can hide or cause damage to the leaves.

One thing to remember about succulents is that being another color is not a sign that the plant is unhealthy. Some growers will intentionally under water or expose their plants to too much light to create stress colors. These colors also don’t mean that the plant is in imminent danger, but is something for more advanced growers to try. Also, if you buy a plant that is showing stress colors, it may go back to being green shortly after you take it home and care for it properly.

Choose the right soil.
For growing your succulents or cacti, you want to get a good well draining soil for your plants. You can buy a pre-made mix or make your own. Most gardening stores and nurseries will carry this and can help you find one based on how you’re keeping your plants or even one made specially for your region. If you want to make your own, there are plenty of tutorials you can find online to help you out.

Pick a pot with good drainage.
Once you’ve got your plant and your well-draining soil, you’ll need to get a pot or planter that also helps with the water drainage. Pick a plant with either a hole in the bottom for drainage or an unglazed ceramic pot that will help wick away moisture.

Recent succulent clippings getting lots of light.

Recent succulent clippings getting lots of light.

Make sure they get enough sunlight.
Remember succulents naturally grow in sunny desserts, and really like sun! Whether you’re keeping your plants indoors or outdoors, make sure they get plenty of sunlight. Your plant will start to get “leggy” or change color if it isn’t getting enough light, and this is a sign that it will need more.
In the winter, I simulate sunlight with a grow light to provide my succulents with enough of the frequencies of light they need to stay healthy. For my setup, I use an LED grow light that I found on Amazon, a clamp light, and a Wemo programmable plug that I can monitor remotely and adjust based on how my plants are doing.


Water sparingly.
Remember that most succulents and cacti naturally grow in the desert and live in dry environments. Those fat leaves of theirs store water and evolved for the plants to thrive in the desert. Most succulents that growers unintentionally kill were over-watered. When you water your plants, soak the soil thoroughly and allow them to fully dry between waterings. You’ll know that you’ve over-watered your plants if the leaves look mushy or become translucent.

Be patient.
This may sound a little too simple, but remember to be patient! Succulents are plants, and if you make any changes to get your plant healthier, it will take a few days or even weeks to see any results.

Further reading:
The internet is full of knowledge of how to care for succulents. We've learned these tricks through the past few years of maintaining plants, but there are plenty of places where you can learn more. We really liked these articles, and we think that you might, too: