Most succulents are green in color, but some varieties can turn shades of red, pink, or purple when stressed. These succulents that can display vibrant colors other than green include some aloes, aeoniums, crassulas, echeverias, sedums, kalanchoes, sempervivums, and euphorbias. One exception is agaves which typically don’t display any color other than green. This article explores how we can make our succulents display vibrant colors without damaging them.
Some succulents might change or lose the vibrant colors they used to have at the time of purchase. Some might slowly fade to green within a couple of months, especially when grown in the shade or in areas that aren't naturally well-lit. Succulents need bright sunlight all day or at least 6 hours a day to become “stressed” and display their bright colors. If you grow succulents indoors, south-facing windows are a must to allow your plants to receive enough sunlight, grow healthily and maintain their vibrant red/pink color. Make sure there are no objects like trees or buildings that stand in the way of natural sunlight for your succulents.
Succulents tend to prefer a temperate climate with the temperatures ranging from 60 to 80°F. Some can tolerate temperatures as low as 40°F or as high as 90°F. Gardeners sometimes use these extreme temperatures to “stress” their succulents into changing color. High temperatures from 80°F to 90°F can sometimes help maintain the deep colors for many succulents, especially for soft succulents. As the temperatures drop (but stay above 40°F) you’ll notice many colors will start to intensify. These colors are accentuated from the cold (but not freezing) temperatures over an extended period of time. Be aware that temperatures either too low or too high can do harm to your succulents. Temperatures lower than 40°F or higher than 90°F are never recommended.
Make sure your soil is porous and well-drained with at least 50% inorganic matter. If your soil mix is too organic, which means there is too much peat moss in it, the plant cannot grow well. Adding more soil conditioners such as perlite or pumice in your soil can improve drainage, promote root health, and prevent rot. Remember that your succulents can only maintain their vibrant colors if they are thriving in the proper condition. Check out our article on the right soil for succulents to get a better idea on how to adjust your mix.
Most people don’t know that succulents that are watered regularly often revert to shades of green. Those receiving a little less water than usual had to store water inside their leaves so the leaves become fatter, juicier and tend to “blush” or change colors. So try keeping your succulents thirsty and letting the soil stay completely dry for a few weeks later than your usual watering schedule to see if the magic happens. But be careful and don’t “stress” them too hard or you’ll do damage to your dear plants.
The right size of containers can also help maintain the vibrant color of succulents. Try not to under pot your succulents—give them enough space to grow and spread. At the same time, do not over pot your succulents. Being planted in a pot much larger than the succulent can hinder its growth because the roots spread out before the succulent has time to catch up. Plus, large pots holds too much extra water and promotes root rot while a smaller pot contains a smaller amount of soil, which can speed up the drainage process after each watering. Usually leaving a space about half an inch between the succulent and the edge of the container would be ideal for the health of your plant and the color it displays.
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