First there was Charlie. Then Ralph. Then the one who broke my heart the most—Jeffrey. No, these are not lovers of the past, but they were heart–throbs none the less. Over the years, I’ve attempted, unsuccessfully, to grow and care for a number of succulents that have all withered away a few short weeks after I've welcomed them home. 

Like many trying to find independence in college, a thriving plant represented a milestone for me. A tall cactus or well–watered house plant proved I could take care of not only myself, but also another living thing. While I’ve supplied all the TLC a lonely plant could ever desire, I have somehow managed to accumulate a plant graveyard, instead of a thriving garden. Determined to change this and set my track record straight, I set out to the farmer’s market on 36th Street to get proper tips on giving succulents the care they need.

Amid the frenzy of students lining up to get their daily fill of fresh fruits from Beechwood Orchards and cookies from Big Sky Bread, I met with Pat from PetAl Plants & Flowers to learn how to keep my succulent alive and happy. 

A local from South Jersey, Pat told me PetAl grafts all of their succulents and cacti plants only a few miles away in Barrington, New Jersey. Pat then gave me a run down on the best practices to grow and care for succulents.

“The biggest mistakes students make with succulents is overwatering.”

Originating primarily in dry areas, cacti and succulents are designed to retain water in their fleshy stems and leaves. As a result, Pat suggests, at the beginning, to only give your succulents a few tablespoons of water once a week. After your succulent’s one–month birthday, he says to begin watering about two to three times a week. Larger cacti can be watered once a month.

Following Pat’s guidelines, hold back on the watering and show your plant love in more sustainable ways. In addition, make sure to keep your succulent on a windowsill with direct, bright light. Just like many of us, succulents love to be in the spotlight and need an unobstructed source of light.  

Whether you’re contemplating owning a succulent for the first time or giving plant parenthood another try like myself, these tips can help your plant grow happily and healthily. Stop by the PetAl plant shop on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to get more tips from Pat and your own plant to welcome home.

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