Hey plant friends! Have you ever gone to a store or garden center, and you saw that cute succulent and just had to bring it home? But you don’t have a window with enough sun, or maybe you love it so much and you might just maybe have given it a little too much water? And then your plant starts to really struggle. Well today I’m going to tell you about a succulent that’s a bit easier to care for! Let’s talk about Haworthias.
Haworthia is a family of succulents, and just like any family, there’s a variety of looks and shapes. There are spiky ones and flat ones, There are solid ones, and ones that look like they have windows. But one thing that they all have in common is that they can tolerate less light. They still want a lot of bright light, but unlike most succulents, they don’t need to be directly in the sun all day to be happy. Haworthias will not survive the winter outside in Cache Valley or Logan, Utah, but they can be happy inside with you!
Pot and soil
When you bring home your cute succulent, it helps immensely to check the soil and the pot. At Garden Gateway we use high quality well-draining soil and pots with drainage, so you can rest easy about your plant that you get from us. But not all garden centers are created equal. Some soils don’t drain very well, leading to problems with water. Some pots don’t have drainage, or are rather small for the plant. Generally, it’s good to repot into better soil and a pot that has a hole in the bottom. Please don’t put rocks in the bottom instead of a hole, as this does not give any more drainage, and the roots can still go down there and rot in the extra water. Rocks only give you a false sense of security. It is not difficult to drill a hole in the bottom of pots, or find pots with drainage. As far as size of pots, a general rule of thumb for succulents is to put them in a pot that’s only a little bigger than the plant itself. They like to be snug. Other houseplants don’t like being rootbound, but succulents do, especially haworthias. As for soil, it’s important to choose or make a good one. While there are some soils labeled as cactus or succulent soil, some are still not good mixes for them. I find the greatest success with high quality potting soils like Black Gold, and then I add in some coarse sand or perlite to help with the drainage.
Water is something that a lot of people struggle with with succulents. I do want to warn you that, if you have your haworthia getting less sun like I mentioned, you’ll want to water less. But how do you know when to water? I’ll tell you! This information is good for all succulents, not just haworthia. A nice thing about haworthias is that they will start to shrivel and wrinkle when they are thirsty, so they tell you when it’s time. But not all succulents tell you, so one trick that many seasoned succulent growers use is that they take a chopstick (just the cheap ones they give out at places) and poke it into the soil all the way down to the bottom of the pot. When you pull it out, if there’s any wetness on it at all, don’t water. If there’s any water at all, the plant is still happy and has enough. If the stick is dry, give it a lot of water. Yep, you heard me right! None of that nonsense about sprinkling a little water. I’ll explain why. Succulents are like camels. They store the water in their body (leaves) that they need, so they need a good big drink to refill their stores. If you only give a little sometimes, they’re not getting enough and will struggle. Many succulent growers do what they call ‘butt chugging’ which is where they don’t pour water on the top of the soil or plant at all. To do this, you set the plant (in its pot with a hole in the bottom) into some water and just leave it for a half hour or an hour. This allows the soil and the plant to soak up as much water as it wants. Then you set the plant aside to drip out the extra water, and then return it to its home. Succulents hate sitting for a long time in puddles of water, which is why it’s good to let them soak up what they want, and then remove from the water. If you water it with a drainage tray, just empty it after a while. If the roots are sitting in too much water, they will rot and the plant will die.
There are a few pests that can infest your haworthia or other succulent. The main ones are mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale. Mealy bugs will look like fuzzy white stuff in the corners of your plant. Spider mites are webs and teeny little red bugs. Aphids are little green things with fat bums and long legs, and scale looks like black spots on the plant that you can scrape off with your nail. There are some natural and some chemical ways to combat these. Rubbing alcohol on cotton swabs is a popular way to fight mealy bugs. Washing the plant with dish soap and water, just gently pouring it over the plant in your sink, is another common way to fight most of these pests. Some people like to try a 1:1 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water in the soil, to kill any eggs or larvae that might be there. None of these methods will hurt your plants. If these don’t work, however, you might have to get chemicals involved. A common one, which isn’t actually a chemical, is diatomaceous earth. This can be purchased in most plant stores or hardware stores. You sprinkle the fine powder on the soil or even then plant, and don’t get it wet. Bonide crystals are a chemical that is very effective, just follow the directions on the container, as different ones have different instructions. And last, diluted neem oil is very effective at combating pests. If you use neem oil, just make sure that the plant doesn’t sit in the sun afterward, because it makes them more susceptible to sunburn. If you apply it in the evening, the plant will be fine to get sun by morning.
Many succulents you encounter can be propagated from a leaf. Haworthias are not this way. The main way to propagate them is that the plant will grow tiny babies underneath or between the lower leaves. It is better to leave them on the plant until they’re about 1” in diameter, then they can be removed. You can place the baby plant into some soil and water it whenever you water the mother plant. It will root and grow! The other way to propagate is through seeds. Haworthias get cute little white blooms on long stalks. If they are pollinated, the plant can produce seeds. Pollination can happen through insects, like bees or butterflies, or through artificial pollination.
I know this seems like a lot. But really, haworthias are really easy to take care of! You can water it, and then forget about it for a couple of weeks! You can even go up to a month without watering and the plant will still be fine, just thirsty. Indoors they rarely get bugs, and they propagate on their own. Easy peasy. Now go get that cute succulent you’ve been wanting, and thanks for gardening with the Gardening Moose!