To mist or not to mist – this is a common dilemma among succulent growers. Misting seems to garner mixed opinions among gardening enthusiasts, triggering debates over whether the practice promotes healthier growth or causes harmful side effects.
While some people swear by the amazing benefits of misting, not all plants respond well to this practice. Adding extra moisture to the soil and foliage can also increase the risk of plant diseases and pest infestations.
So, if you are sitting on the fence when it comes to misting your own succulents, read on to gain some insight!
Do succulents benefit from misting?
Misting is a method of temporarily boosting the humidity level around plants. This is done by spraying water on the plants’ foliage and the surface of the soil. According to a legion of growers, this simple solution benefits most tropical plants by mimicking the humid environment of their natural habitats. Additionally, misting keeps the leaves clean of dust and helps prevent overwatering.
However, not all plants will benefit from misting – especially succulents. While there are some cactus species that thrive in rainforests and may enjoy some added moisture through misting, most are native to desert regions and should never be misted. Such succulents do not require lots of watering at all; all they need is adequate airflow, sparse watering, and low humidity levels – typically around 40 to 60 percent.
When desert succulents are placed in extremely humid environments, problems can arise such as stem rot, pest infestation, fungal diseases, and compromised root growth. For this reason, many gardening aficionados strongly discourage misting succulents. Examples of desert cacti include Rebutia, barrel cactus, cholla cactus, Astrophytum, and Mammillaria.
Having read the above, you will understand why it is important to know the proper care requirements for your particular species of succulent before blindly following any tips you find on the internet! If you have a rainforest cactus, then misting can be beneficial. If you are growing a desert cactus, you should never mist it.
When should I mist my succulents?
As mentioned, cactus species that thrive in rainforests can appreciate the extra moisture that misting provides. For example, the fishbone cactus, crab cactus, Rhipsalis, and Phyllocactus should be misted near the roots to foster proper growth.
It is best to mist these succulents once or twice a week. You can mist every three to four days if you are growing them outdoors during summer. However, you should avoid misting them during their dormant season.
Below, we have summarized the best times to mist your succulents to reap the most benefits:
1. Before pruning
Misting the soil before pruning your succulents is actually beneficial in many ways, keeping them well-hydrated and helping to strengthen their stems. Remember that cutting off leaves and stems can be stressful for a plant, and if you prune when the soil is bone dry, this might cause further trauma.
2. When applying fertilizer
Misting plays an important role when you fertilize your succulents. It helps spread the fertilizer evenly through the soil, especially if you are feeding your plants with a dissolved fertilizer. You can also use a manure tea fertilizer if you prefer something which is one hundred percent organic – simply sprinkle it onto the soil and mist with water.
3. After replanting
Replanting can be stressful for your succulents, and makes them vulnerable to injury and root damage. They will also need time to adjust to their new pot. To reduce transplant shock and aid your plants’ quick recovery, you need to ensure that they receive the correct care – proper watering, adequate sunlight, and the right temperature.
If you are repotting a young plant, you need to take extra care as its stems and roots will be very fragile. Misting can help by keeping the soil moist without the risk of overwatering your succulents. Do this once or twice per week. Watch out for signs of mold or root rot, as these diseases can badly compromise the plants’ growth!
Mature succulents are easier to repot since they are more established and less fragile. Hence, you can reduce your misting to once every two weeks to keep them hydrated.
Common problems caused by misting succulents
Misting can be problematic for some succulent varieties due to their different water requirements.
As mentioned, desert cacti are not native to areas with high humidity and lots of moisture. These succulents have specially adapted roots that reach deep into the soil to access the nearest water source. They are also excellent at storing water in their stems, keeping them upright throughout drought periods. For these reasons, they do not need misting and you should avoid the practice.
Some issues caused by misting and overwatering succulents are summarized below:
1. Poor root growth
Succulents like desert cacti have wide root systems that help them survive in very dry regions. Hence, these plants do not require constant moisture – they are actually happier without much water. Some cactus species can even go without water for several months!
Instead, these plants need their soil to dry out completely before their next watering. This process is critical for proper root development; it helps the cactus grow stronger and more established as its roots spread deep into the soil to harvest leftover moisture.
On the flip side, misting your cactus will discourage proper root growth because sprayed water cannot penetrate deep into the soil. Misting the soil and stems can also lead to other problems like pests and fungal growth.
So, instead of misting, water your succulents every one to two weeks during summer, reducing the frequency to once a month when they enter their dormancy period.
2. Pests and fungal diseases
Misting inhibits proper air circulation and keeps your plants’ stems wet for longer periods. This moist, humid environment promotes fungal and bacterial growth, which can cause several plant diseases.
Some signs you should watch out for are soft and mushy stems, discolorations or dark spots on the plants’ epidermis, dark fluids oozing from the stems, and algal growth on the top layer of soil.
The decaying plant parts and excess moisture can also attract pests like fungus gnats, which will cause further damage to your ailing succulents.
3. Root rot
Root rot is, by far, the leading cause of plant death – and that includes succulents. Wrong practices such as overwatering and too much misting can keep the soil saturated for extended periods, filling in the air pockets with water and preventing the plants’ roots from absorbing oxygen.
Misting the leaves or stems can also promote rotting due to excess moisture. These plants have thick, hard-walled tissue adapted for water storage, and this can become soft and fragile as molds and bacteria begin to take over.
So, if you notice your succulents drooping or wilting, it might be a sign of too much watering or misting. Stop misting and reduce your watering frequency to prevent further damage to the plants’ roots and tissues.
How to water your succulents without misting
Watering your succulents the right way will make caring for your plants a breeze. Instead of misting, water the soil thoroughly to keep your succulents looking vibrant and healthy.
Here are some quick tips to prevent both under- and overwatering your succulents:
- As with other plants, water your succulents only when the soil is dry, but not bone dry, to prevent root damage and plant dehydration.
- Water your succulents from below, not above, to keep the stems and leaves dry.
- If your succulent has become too dry due to prolonged neglect, soak the pot in water until all of the soil has become damp again. Make sure that all the excess water has drained out completely before returning it to its saucer.
- Avoid overwatering your plants. Water approximately once every two weeks during summer and once a month during winter for optimal growth.
So, should you mist your succulents? The answer might be yes or no, depending on the type of succulent you are growing.
Plants that originate from rainforests might appreciate the extra humidity from misting. However, it is best to skip this task if you are growing desert succulents. The key is to really know your plant before making a misting decision, so research your succulent species and understand its native habitat!
Image: istockphoto.com / Danica Jakovljevic