Fertilizer For Succulents: A Guide To Fertilizing Succulent Plants

Drought tolerant succulents are known for their fleshy, thick stems and leaves.

The leaves and stems work to store nutrients and moisture for the plants to use during hot, dry weather.

Succulents kept as houseplants or in a terrarium are known for being very easy to care for because they require only infrequent, deep watering.

Assorted succulents in need of liquid food

Many gardeners believe these plants require very little succulent fertilizer or none at all.

However, the infrequent, deep watering of indoor succulents washes nutrients from the soil meaning they do need occasional fertilizing.

More details: How often do you water succulent plants?

In this article, we’ll discuss how and when to fertilize your indoor succulents. Read on to learn more.

Organic Fertilizer For Succulents

It’s easy to over fertilize succulents and cactus, it’s always better to err on the side of too little than too much.

If you use organic cactus fertilizer, you are less likely to over fertilize.

Examples of good organic fertilizers for use on succulent houseplants include:

  • Dry steer or cow manure mixed into the soil or manure tea – (we like cow manure it contains lower salts)
  • Dry, finished compost or compost tea
  • Worm castings

How To Fertilize Succulents With Dry Fertilizing

To use worm castings, dry steer manure or finished compost, mix these ingredients into your potting medium when you initially pot your succulent plants.

Make the potting medium about one quarter finished worm castings, compost or dry steer manure.

This should keep your plant happy for a full year.

At the beginning of the next growing season, mix a little more worm castings, dry compost or steer manure into the top 1″ – 2″ inches of your succulent potting soil mix to give your succulent a boost of nutrients.

Show Your Succulent Care With A Drink of Tea

To make steer manure or compost tea soak a generous amount of either material (or combination of the two) in clean water for 24 to 48 hours.

Learn more on Making and Using Compost Tea

Rainwater’s best if you can get it; otherwise, use tap water but allow the water to stand for a few days to allow any chemicals to dissipate.

Add your steer manure or compost after this period’s up. Allow the mixture to steep for 1-3 days.

Some gardeners like to bring the mixture to a boil and simmer it for a while to kill any bacteria, fungus, or insect eggs lurking in the organic material.

If you boil your compost or manure tea, allow it to cool completely before using it.

To use the tea, strain it so only the liquid remains and use this to water your succulents.

Toss the solid matter into your compost heap or use as a top dressing on plants.

Use this organic liquid plant food mixture at the beginning of the growing season and once or twice more during the season.

Also during the growing season when watering succulents, allow the tea to run out of the ‘drainage holes’ of the pots.

Just keep in mind too much water will cause roots to rot (add perlite or pumice in the soil mix to improve drainage), too little water will weaken the plant.

Do not to feed your succulents within a month of the beginning of the plants’ dormant season.

This will vary from one type of succulent to another.

Some are more active and bloom during the spring and summer, while others are more active and bloom in the wintertime.

Fertilizing Succulents With Compost Tea

What If You Don’t Have Manure, Compost, or Worms?

Compost or manure tea fertilizer can be purchased in easy to use teabags! Sustane Compost Tea Bags (Amazon)

It’s also possible to use commercial liquid fertilizer with your watering can but do so carefully.

Keep in mind succulents are very sensitive to salt and most fertilizers contain quite a bit of salt.

Avoid using a slow timed-release fertilizer for succulents, cacti, or aloes because these types of fertilizers tend to continue releasing even during the plants’ dormant season. This harms the health of your plant.

Instead, use a water-soluble fertilizer designed for use with succulents and follow packaging directions carefully.

If a specialized product is not available, use cottonseed meal fertilizer or choose a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer (8–8–8 or 10–10– 10).

Read the instructions carefully and then use only half or a quarter the amount of fertilizer recommended.

If the instructions say to use a tablespoonful of the concentrate per gallon of water, use a half tablespoonful or even a quarter tablespoonful (this is a little bit less than a teaspoonful) per gallon.

If you get a special fertilizer just remember nitrogen encourages growth while phosphorous and potassium help the plant to bloom.

For more on fertilizer read our plantcaretoday.com article: What Do The Numbers On Fertilizer Mean?

This should help you find the right fertilizer.

How Do You Know How Much To Dilute?

Succulents requiring infrequent deep watering (e.g., Echeverias, Agaves, Lithops) would appreciate a half-strength solution. Just make sure to avoid overwatering.

Succulents needing watering more frequently (e.g., Christmas cactus, Easter cactus and the like) would do better with a quarter strength solution.

If in doubt, always go with the quarter strength solution.

Remember when applying a commercially produced fertilizer like Miracle-Gro succulent plant food to the potting mix it’s better to give too little than too much fertilizer.

Do Outdoor Succulents Need Fertilizing?

An outdoor succulent should not need to be fertilized.

They glean nourishment from the atmosphere and from the soil in which they grow.

Garden treatments such as mulching in the wintertime help add nourishment to the soil.

There are types of succulents such as the cold-hardy Sedums and Sempervivum (houseleeks) varieties growing in USDA hardiness zone 3.