These are your plants whispering . . . the above title is no oxymoron. Moreover, the assertion that all succulents, including cacti, thrive on neglect holds no more water than a dead succulent. Although neglect may not kill succulents a quickly as some other plants, you as the caretaker must strive for greater than half-dead. Advanced growers will tell you that any succulent collection requires a willingness to learn from one's mistakes. Another fundamental point of understanding is that succulents have certain cultural needs, many of which follow an annual cycle of change. Such dynamic requirements are in relation to water, light, temperature, and nutrients. The final aspect worth mentioning on this brief page is that of soil.
Most succulents follow one of two growth strategies, depending on the climate of origin. Though some exhibit opportunistic habits, many are deemed either winter or summer growers. Winter growers actually begin growth in autumn, slow a bit during mid-winter, and then resume growth briefly in early spring. They grow best when night and day temperatures fluctuate between 45 - 55 degrees F, respectively. Furthermore, they inhabit climates similar to our own, with warm dry summers and cool wet winters. Conversely, summer growers become active in mid-spring and go dormant by mid-fall. They mostly inhabit summer rainfall deserts, or subtropical semi-arid zones. Many fleshy leaved succulents, such as jade, ice plant, and many aloes are winter active while many true cacti are spring/summer active. For either group of succulents, our climate disfavors growth for about half the year. When dormant, summer growers need protection from winter rain, while winter growers need protection from intense summer sun.
During a species' period of active growth the requirement for factors essential to growth (light, water, and nutrients) will be greatest for that species. Most need at least several hours per day of bright, but not intense sunlight for proper development. When temperatures exceed 90 degrees F, one must be cautious about sunburn on tender young plants, or soft leafy succulents like echeverias. Sunburn can occur at lesser temperatures when, for example, a shade acclimated plant is moved into drastically sunnier conditions.
The topic of water is folly to generalize, and takes some practice. Bottom line: most succulents hate prolonged sogginess anytime, or prolonged dryness during active growth. Water the roots thoroughly and with a frequency that allows the top 50% if your mix to dry in-between watering. Decrease your frequency in the dormant period. Failure to do all of the above can result in an unpleasant surprise, or weak growth at best.
With regards to nutrients, feed your plants a few times throughout the growing season. Use about half the label rate, and avoid formulations high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen produces weak, lush growth that insect pests enjoy.
A proper succulent mix is loose and crumbly with superb drainage. It also contains nutrient and moisture holding substances such as organic matter, and/or fine textured soil particles. Avoid pure sand for most succulents as snd Hal little nutrient value. Pumice is the finest additive money can buy to improve drainage. A 50% by volume blend works well for most succulents.
For more info join your local cactus and succulent society to chat with other enthusiasts, participate in monthly programs, peruse the club's library, etc.