Succulents and Cacti 101: How to best care for your Succulents and Cacti | Carmen Whitehead | Skillshare

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Succulents and Cacti 101: How to best care for your Succulents and Cacti

teacher avatar Carmen Whitehead, Plant Parent & Enthusiast

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Succulent Project


    • 3.

      What's the Difference?


    • 4.

      What kind of soil should I use?


    • 5.

      When should I water it?


    • 6.

      Can this plant go inside?


    • 7.

      Propagating Succulents and Cacti


    • 8.

      Tools I use


    • 9.

      Final Words


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About This Class

What is the mystery surrounding Succulents and Cacti and how to take care of them?

Well, it really isn’t such a mystery or a secret to care for and maintain them. Even propagate them to make more! There are hundreds of varieties to choose from and knowing which ones are best for you and your home is very important.

My name is Carmen Whitehead and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. A location where succulents are very popular and accessible. I have a balcony garden that has almost 100 plants on it. Everything from prickly cactus, soft Echeverias, pokey Euphorbia, fuzzy Kalanchoe, and trailing Sedums. 

This class is for new succulent and cacti parents who want to start their journey on the right track. Or if you already have some succulents and want to expand your collection with cacti, but not sure which ones to select.

Just like with indoor houseplants, succulents and cacti have specific needs for them to survive and thrive. In this class we will cover the following subjects:

  • What exactly is the difference between Succulents and Cacti
  • It’s all about the Soil
  • To water or not to water?
  • Can this plant go inside or outside?
  • Propagation = Free plants

Succulents and Cacti are so rewarding and easy to care for when you have the right information. They are perfect for a beginner plant parent or for the person that wants a low-maintenance plant.

Great online store for succulents and cacti:

Amazon Store:

Meet Your Teacher

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Carmen Whitehead

Plant Parent & Enthusiast


Hi! My name is Carmen Whitehead and I am a plant parent and enthusiast, sometimes called a plant whisperer. I love taking care of my 150+ plants in my apartment.  I'm originally from the beautiful island of Cuba, but now living in Arizona.

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about their care and my mistakes in taking care of them. My classes are designed to provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need in caring for your plants. 

The classes will take you from a beginner plant parent, discovering succulents & cacti, dealing with pests, and more advanced planting techniques. 

Stay tuned for a new class every month! 

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: What is the mystery surrounding succulents and cacti and how to take care of them. Well, it really isn't such a mystery or a secret to care and maintained for them, even propagate them to make more. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from in knowing which ones are best for you and your home is very important. Hi, my name is Carmen white and I live in Phoenix, Arizona where succulents and cacti are very abundant and easy to come by. I have about 60 or 70 succulents and cacti, my balcony. And I have everything from rural prickly ones, some fuzzy ones, to some real soft ones that can give off beautiful color. This class is for the new susceptibility and cacti parent. If you've never had one and are interested in getting one, but not quite sure where to start. Or if you have houseplants already in looking to expand your collection into succulents and cacti, then this class is for you. Just like with indoor house plants, succulents and cacti have specific needs for them to survive and thrive. In this class, we'll cover the following subjects. What exactly is the difference between succulents and cacti? What about the soil? What kind of soil should I use? When exactly do I water them? Does this plant need to go outside or can I keep it inside about propagation, how does that work? And I'll also show you some of the tools that I use to help taking care of my succulents and cacti, little bit easier. Succulents and cacti are such rewarding plants that take care of. And when you have that knowledge on how to take care of them, you build that confidence. So let's get started on your first lesson. 2. Succulent Project: Let's talk about your class project. What I'd like for you to do is to take a picture. If a cactus or succulent that you've recently acquired, whether you just bought it or you've had it for a little while and posted on the projects page. Let us know what the name of that cacti are. Succulent is, what family it's in, what genus it's, and, and let us know also if you have an inside or out, how you take care of it and what exactly drew you to that particular plant. Okay, I want to see what you've chosen and why you've chosen it. Don't be afraid to look at the tags. You know, read what it says. Does it take full sun, can be inside, can be outside. Kate, use those skills that you'll learn in this class. And then let's share with the rest of the class in the project section. Okay, so let's get started with the very first lesson. 3. What's the Difference?: First of all, what exactly is the difference between succulents and cacti? Succulents are not their own distinct family or genus, but they can be found in around 60 families of plants. Cat died or tech TCA family make up one of those families. So all cat die or succulents, but not all succulents are kept die. Does that make sense? Cacti are simply a subcategory within a group of plants that are known collectively succulents. So all succulents are known as water story plants. They keep their water not only in their leaves but in the roots. That is how they surviving drought tolerant areas like deserts, very arid areas, mountains, very area and mountains. So when there's very little rainfall, they rely on the mist in the air to help draw in that water. So we'll talk about watering and little bit later. But it's important for you to know that plants, cacti and succulents store their water. So it's not always necessary to water them on a regular schedule. Now one of the difference between cacti and succulents is that cacti produce spines. It's worth noting that cacti produced binds derived from leaves. While other plants like roses produced storms from their stems. Some succulents are mistaken for cacti just because they have small thorns. So for instance, this aloe Vera here has little thorns on the edge of its leaves. It is a succulent just because it has little prickly there. Does that make it a cacti? They're sharp though, so you gotta be careful about that. Whereas these cacti in this spiral cactus here have actual spines coming out of little growth, call an aerial. So that is the difference between cacti and succulents. So now that we've covered the differences, let's move on to our next lesson, soil. 4. What kind of soil should I use?: Now all my succulents and cacti are in the same very fast draining, chunky soil mix that I'm going to show you a picture of here. And I mix that soil myself sometimes by adding some more nutrients or chunky Venus pumice or pearlite to a bag of store-bought succulents and cacti mix and make it a little bit chunkier. I want that water to go quickly through the soil, but not sit in there where the roots can get too much water. So you wanna make sure that your soil has a lot of chunky newness to it. Remember that they store their water in their roots. Now you don't need a very large pot to pop these in because many succulents and cacti have a very shallow root system. So you want to make sure that you don't pop them in a very big pot. Now this pod here may look big for just this cat died year, but I've got three year. I could even put two more in here if I wanted to. And that's plenty for this size pot. But if I were to put one in there, it would be too much soil. One little cactus. This not okay. It does here in this little five inch pot is just the right size. You see how it's about an inch from the edge there. That's how you want to pop them up into your soil about an inch on each side. So remember you can buy, store-bought big box store but soil and mix some more pearlite or pumice into it to make it a little bit chunkier. I like to do that because I don't think that they put enough chunky penis into the big box ones. There are some out there that are little bit higher price already have those elements in them along with some nutrients in them. And those can be a little bit more expensive. So purchase what you can afford for your succulents. And if you're just starting off, I wouldn't spend too much money on buying a big bag of soil and K, So work with what you have and sometimes even leaving them in the nursery pot for a little while. Letting the plank get acclimated is the best thing before you read pot it. Now, I don't report mine until I see that there's actual roots coming out the bottom, or I see that the pot itself too small for the plant. I just repeated this Haworth ulema folia from a three inch pot into this four-inch pot, I think truly think it's a five-inch bought because it was just too small for that pot and it had been in it for a year already. So that's when I repeated it, gave it some fresh soil and some fresh new trends and now it's happy as can be. So remember, you can always mix your own soil with adding some pumice, some pearlite, some even some orchid bark to make it a little bit chunkier. So now let's move on to the next lesson, which is an important one, watering. 5. When should I water it?: Now remember what I told you at the very beginning. All of these plants, cacti and succulent or drought tolerant. They store water inside their leaves, inside their roots. So they are used to being without water for long periods of time. The biggest way or the number one way that you can kill your plant is by over watering it, giving it so much water that it just cannot handle it. It gets root rot in, it dies. All of my, well, most of my cacti and succulents are outside of my balcony. Living in Phoenix, Arizona, particularly the summertime it gets hot here. So during the summer time when they're outside for me in my area, I water them about every seven to ten days. I use regular tap water. Unlike my house plants where I use filtered water, these succulents and cacti are very hardy. They can take regular tap water, even well water. If you want to use distilled or filtered water, that's fine too. So in the summertime I water every seven to ten days. I usually do stick my finger down in there. I can feel this one's drive this one's needing some water here soon. And it's about watering day for all of my cacti outside too. Now, if they were inside, if I have this jade plant inside where the temperatures are cooler, I've got my air conditioning on. It's not as hot. The water does not evaporate as much. I've got it in a Terracotta pot which is porous in. It can evaporate some, but still inside it would evaporate as quickly. Then I may go every two weeks or every 14 days in watering the plants, the cacti and succulents inside. Again, I'll use my finger to check it. Or another method that I'll go over in a little bit to check it to see if they need water. So that's a way that you can tell it's going to be different if you have them outside or if you have them insight. Now, in the wintertime, I really back off because it's cooler outside. The water is not evaporating as quickly. Many of them are going into dormancy, so I'm not going to water every seven to ten days. I may go every three to four weeks. So it's crucial that you keep an eye on them to make sure that they're not looked at, the leaves aren't looking wrinkly. That's a way to tell if the leaves, like on this jade plant, if they're looking wrinkly, that means it's thirsty. Or if it's looking droopy. So that's a way to tell. But in the wintertime you will back off on watering because they simply don't need it as much. In particular the outside in the rain on, then you really want to back off and if they do get rain and it's going to rain for him for like two or three days. You may want to pull them in under shelter or put an umbrella, patio umbrella over them because that will mean too much water for them. And remember, that's the worst thing for them. Now if they're inside in the winter time, well, you're gonna go probably every five to six weeks, a month to six weeks without watering them because again, they may be dormant. It's much cooler inside. Snack going to evaporate as much. Okay. But again, you're going to check, look at the leaves or the wrinkly, are they not? Do they feel plump? Put your finger down in there. Does it feel moist? It does leave it alone. Wait a few more days. That feels drive in its time. I always used to this moisture meter. Just put it down in there into the pot. I can see this is in the red zone already. So that means that this plant is ready to be watered. When I do water it, I let that water run all the way through to the bottom and out the bottom hole. Now if you have a saucer underneath to collect the water so it doesn't get all over the place, then you're going to want to dispose of that excess water that came out the bottom. You don't want to leave the pot sitting in water because they don't suck the water back up into the pot and that will be too much water. And we know what happens when they get too much water. So now that we've talked about watering, Let's move on to the next lesson, which is, do I have this plant inside or outside? 6. Can this plant go inside?: Now succulents and cacti or heat lovers there from arid climates, from deserts, even if their firms higher altitudes, it's still an arid climate. So you want to make sure that if you live in an area or a region where there is a lot of moisture, a lot of the winter, you get snow. You want to bring these plants inside. Even if you have them outside for the summer, they won't take anything less probably than 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside in the winter. Now, living in Phoenix, I do leave pretty much all of my cacti and succulents outside in the wintertime because we don't get below 35 here very often. But sometimes we will get a frost notice and it will dip down maybe into 29 or 30. When that happens, I do put some frost cloth over them to protect them from frost because that will burn their leaves and burn their roots. So that's not too often that I have to do that during a winter, maybe one or two nights. Other than that, they are fine outside. They can all handle down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Now in the summer time, even though these are heat lovers being an a region where it can get to in the summer time this weekend we're about to get up to a 110, you know, so I know that I'm going to open up my patio umbrella in a couple of other umbrellas out there that I have to shade them from really hot sun, morning sun. I have a nice spacing patio. So morning sun they can handle because it's not too hot then and it gives them just enough light that they need to process and photosynthesize. But afternoon, some once the sun starts getting noontime and one o'clock, it's starting to get intense. So I have that umbrella there to shade them. Now once the sun goes over the building the afternoon, they're all in shade there. Just fine. If you live in a climate where that sun is not that intense than they can be outside. But let's say you're in an apartment like I am and you don't have a balcony. You can have them inside, but you want to give them enough light, enough sun to keep them growing and not getting to what they call elongated. See how this one's getting a little bit skinny. I need to give this one a little bit more light. Here's the niche of barrier that's kinda of growing a little bit long. And I'm going to show you how to propagate this, how to fix this, what they call elongation or stretching because it's not getting quite enough sun and I'm going to probably have to move that one. But I'm going to show you a little bit later on how to fix that. So let's talk about wearing your home is the best place for your succulents and cacti in the Northern Hemisphere, it's going to be a south-facing window, east or west facing window to get some sunlight on them. You want to make sure that it's more morning light then afternoon intense sunlight, unless you can move it back a little bit from the window. So it doesn't get that intense light and just gets bright indirect light. That should be enough for it. But all of these need at the very least, bright indirect light to be able to survive. If you don't have any of those things that you can provide for, you can look into supplementing your light with a grow light, just a little bulb that you can put in kind of directly onto those cacti and succulents. And that will help them grow and give them enough light. That's crucial for, particularly in the wintertime when the sun shifts in our Southern Hemisphere, friends are enjoying the summertime. Us in the northern hemisphere dealing with shorter days, longer nights, less sun. So sometimes supplemental light as far as grow lights can help you out quite a bit in the wintertime. Now when you bring a plant home, it's not always known to you exactly where it will do. It's very best. You may need to move it around a little bit. Two different windows are different areas in your home to see if that plant does well. They're meaning is that growing does have signed of new growth, healthiness to it? Or is it dropping leaves like flies in getting Yoda leaves and not doing well? Sometimes you have to move that plant to find its best area. So now that we've covered whether you can have your plant inside a route, Let's talk about propagation and fixing that edge barrier. 7. Propagating Succulents and Cacti: Now there are several ways that you can propagate your succulents and cacti, depending upon the type of plant that you have, will probably be depend on the method that you use. Now, this Callen coli paddle plant, down at the bottom there has a little pub that you can see. And once that gets a little bigger, all kind of wiggle that little pop off. It's already growing roots there and target off and separate it from its mother plant. And I can put it in another pot and get another plant. Propagation is the best way, the easiest way to get three plants. Another way of doing it is leaf method. These beautiful, nice big juicy leaves on this Jade, I can just pop one off, place it on a flat surface of dry soil and it will start getting roots right at the very tip there of where you popped it off. It will grow another plant from that little leaf, the mainly full eventually die off. But before that happens, you'll have a nice little jade plant growing from Matt leaf here for this, it should vary a ruffles. It's growing long because it's stretching a little bit. So what I'm gonna do is cut it right about here. No, show you here in this video. I'm going to cut it right about there. Let that stem callus over the top portion of the Rosetta, let that callus over. And when it does callous or dry, I will place that into dry soil, wait about 14 days before I water it, and then it'll start routing and that top portion will be a new plant. Now, the bottom stem where I've cut it, that will signal my cutting. The plant will signal to the main plant, Hey, we've got a send out some more rosettes because the top portion was cut off. So it will start shooting of little rosettes on the side of the stem. And those can be taken off eventually once they get bigger and placed into other soil. Now, for cactus prickly ones like this, it's a little bit different. Many of them do give off pups along the edge and that's a way that you can take them off. This one right here is, it's kinda small to see, but it is giving off a little pup right there. And once that gets bigger, I can take it off and put it into some dry soil and it will grow and it'll all have a new cactus. So those are ways that you can get free plants that you can add to your collection or give to your friends and family as gifts. And it's really fun to do because you can watch the plant grow and give off new plants. It's really amazing. Here's another example, this Horthy lemma folia. You can see the pups on the edge there. I haven't taken them off, but if I wanted to, they are big enough that I can take those off and put into another container. But on this particular plant, I've decided to let it give full and have lots of pumps all around it. So you don't have to take the pups off if you want to leave it and have a nice full plant with lots of other little pups all around it. That's fine too. So now that you know how to get free plans, let me show you some of the tools that I use to help me in taking care of my plants on a daily basis. 8. Tools I use: Okay, so let me show you some of the tools that I have handy here in my plant room. And they're different depending upon the plant of what I use. Obviously cactus, I want to use something that I protect myself with. So I do have a couple of gloves here that i where they are lettered aligned and they don't know if it's a big spike or big pokey. It, you know, and I squeeze the plant or a little heart it may go through, but this is for me, and particularly since I'm right-handed, I'll put it on my left and and use it to hold the plant lightly at least. So I have some control if I'm putting soil in or something like that. Now sometimes I'm reporting the cactus and I just need to grab it a little bit more. I'll use these tongs. These you can get at the dollar store. These have rubber on the end. I have all sorts of different sizes. This would be good for like these little ones here where I just need a little way to handle them. But if I have a bigger cactus, I do have some bigger ones that I can use, but they helped me keep it steady if I don't want to wear the gloves and I can move it around and repost it, hold it steady while I put soil in. So these little tongs, you'll find him probably in the barbecue section as opposed to the nursery section. But they work wonderfully, especially for cacti. And when you're dealing with something small, you need small instruments. These tiny little shovels help in moving soil around as opposed to using a bigger spade or a little or gardening shovel. When you're dealing with such tiny pots or little plants, these smaller little shovels work wonders to, I do have now these scissors here or I believe I got amendments sewing section. I'd like that they had a bigger handle, but they also have very narrow, precise blades here where I can work. If I want to cut something, I can get right in there and with a small blade and cut it. And speaking of small sometimes if I need to get some leaves that have died in there and I, you know, my fingers may be just a little too big to get in there. I'll use these little tweezers to get in there and pull that little dead leaf out, you know, just give it a nice grooming. But that helps a lot. This little tweezer and getting small little things out of there. After reporting, I like to clean my plants up. So I use this tiny little brush. You can use brushes for, that are for painting, brushes that are for camera gear. You can get some at the dollar store and the little paint section for kids. I have a whole bunch of those but in different sizes. But this one here I can use to take off any soil from the leaves after I've repeated it, because I like my plants to look nice and clean in works on succulents. They could all work on capitis. And it works beautifully just to keep them nice and clean. Now you have seen already this moisture meter. Now this one here records both moisture, light, and pH balance. I'll be honest with you. I only use it from moisture. I rarely use it for lightened pH balance, so I just always have it on the moisture section. Put it in the pot, check to see if the if it needs water. And I use this for both my succulents and my indoor house plants to probably the best investment I made. Now, again, talking about small plants. Many times. I this big jug, watering jug is just too big for my little pots. So I will have this little squeeze bottle to get in there. And I don't necessarily like to water on top of the succulents. I like to water the soil instead of the succulent, especially if they're outside in the sun because of you leave water on the leaves and it's very sunny outside. It can, the water beads, they can act as a magnifying glass and really burn the leap. So I like to water directly into the soil. And with this, I get real targeted action and getting my water in there. Now for my larger plants, I will use the larger watering can, but this has come very handy to know. All of these are available in the description below. The links are below where you can find them online. But many of them, like I said, I did find at the Dollar Store. So those are the tools that I use to take care of my cacti and succulents on a daily basis, whether I'm watering, reporting or just doing basic maintenance on them, they really do help me. And I hope that those suggestions will help you too. 9. Final Words: Well there you have it plenty friends. I hope that these lessons help you gain the confidence you need to try out some cacti and succulents for the first time or add them to your collection. And if you do have any questions, remember to come back to these lessons or drop me a line in the discussion box, I check it all the time. I'll be happy to answer the questions for you. Looking forward to seeing your projects and your pictures, can't wait to see what you've selected. Thanks so much. Bye bye.