Basic Soil Mix
1/3 Organic + 1/3 Sand + 1/3 Porous Inorganic. For the Organic part, leaf mold, composted fir bark, or a planting mix like Supersoil can be used. Sand should be quite coarse. Never use beach sand. Porous Inorganic =art can be perlite or agricultural pumice.
Unglazed red clay pots are probably best for the beginner. Plastic, glazed or porcelain pots can be used but more care must be taken with watering. Any container must have an adequate drain hole. Use the smallest size pot that seems appropriate for the size and shape of the plant. Usually, a pot of one inch greater in diameter than that of the plant will be satisfactory.
A gravel top dressing is attractive and functional. It improves water penetration and helps to prevent stem rot and algae growth. It also keeps lighter particles, such as pumice, from floating over the top of the pot.
In some cases plants are grafted either to speed growth or because they are difficult to grow on their own roots. Follow culture recommendations for the stock (the bottom plant).
You will have to determine the best light conditions by watching your plants. Strong light is needed by most for best form and blooms. Most can also take full sun for several hours a day but others sunburn quickly in mid-day summer sun. Begin in filtered light and move into the sun gradually as you watch for sunburn and excess pot heat that can cause root damage. Few succulents do well in subdued light.
All need good ventilation so don't place them in damp unventilated locations. Please don't expect them to do well in terrariums because your chance of success is very low.
Remember that cacti and succulents evolved in nature to be very water thrifty plants. They still need water, but generally less frequently than most ordinary house plants. When you water, it is best to soak the soil mix thoroughly. Don't water again until the mix is almost dry. Water less frequently and allow the soil to become more dry when the plant is resting or dormant.
When the plant is actively growing, a diluted, balanced or low nitrogen fertilizer can be used each time you water. Schultz Liquid Fertilizer, or Peters Professional used at 1/4 to 1/2 strength normally give good results.
Mealy bugs, (spine, body and root types), spider mites and scale are the usual pests. Consult your local garden supply shop for appropriate pesticides and use strictly according to instructions.
Additional information can be found by contacting local plant societies, arboretums, botanical gardens or your public library.