Succulents are a popular option if you love houseplants, but don’t have a green thumb or enough time to care for them. These hardy plants are usually low-maintenance, require minimum care and also add a nice decorative touch to brighten any space.
Despite my passion for adorning my home with beautiful houseplants over the years (and failing to keep them alive), my miniature succulents have stood the test of time. And it’s all because of this one hack that saved my succulent. Now, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to knowing how to care for succulents to keep them alive, it really is a case of trial and error.
However, this underrated plant-care trick has done wonders for my favorite succulents. Best of all, it doesn’t require any major effort, and only takes seconds to do!
The one hack that saved my succulent is simply: pebbles.
Otherwise known as topdressing, this is when you place a layer of decorative white pebbles or stones to cover the top of potting soil. Besides making my plant look pretty, these small (yet mighty) stones are great for blocking any water from evaporating from the soil. Evaporation often causes plants to dry out.
In addition, heavy topdressing with pebbles, stones or gravel not only prevents root rot or fungal issues, but also keeps the soil from moving when watered. This is particularly handy since succulent soil mix is very light and tends to disperse easily — making a mess.
Once I’d noticed my succulents didn’t look as perky as they used to, and in desperate need of TLC, I simply sprinkled a handful of white pebbles to cover the soil, making sure to evenly distribute it. I bought these from my local garden centre, but you can easily find them online like these CJGQ White Rocks for Plants ($13, Amazon (opens in new tab)), that you can also use for vases.
Within a week, I was impressed by the noticeable change in appearance. Not only did my plant look revived and healthier, but it seemed to have grown in size. I also found watering the succulent easier, as the moisture simply absorbed into the pebbles, without spilling out or sitting on the top soil. Win-win!
Considering I hadn’t changed any of my usual plant care habits, I’m convinced it’s all thanks to my "magical" white pebbles. What's more, gardeners recommend top dressing potted plants to make them look more professional. So if you ever need an inexpensive plant boost, this one hack may keep your succulents alive.
What can I use to topdress my succulents?
Topdressing can really add a stunning, decorative touch to succulents or other potted plants, and come in various colors, shapes and sizes. The most popular topdressings for succulents include colorful pebbles, polished white rocks, slate, charcoal and even green moss.
If you have an aquarium, you can use any extra aquarium pebbles to add character to your succulent.
You might want to check out how to repot succulents, and if you want to grow more, here's how to propagate succulents.
For more planting tips, tricks, and how-tos, check out our guides on how to care for a poinsettia, how to prune hydrangeas, how to grow strawberries, how to care for an orchid, and 5 things to get your garden ready for spring.
Succulents do not need soil or anything else that retains excess moisture. Top dressing increases the chances of root rot by retaining too much moisture, and in no way does anything to prevent root rot. Too much or too frequent watering is the leading cause of death for succulents.
When watering succulents, saturate the soil (so water is dripping from the drainage hole) then, let the soil dry completely, wait a week, and water again in the same manner. In addition, I suggest using terracotta pots to allow the soil to breath and prevent trapping excess water.