They may not have lush tropical foliage or fast growth, but cacti and other succulents have other advantages as houseplants. Their water-storing capability allows you to miss watering them a day or two without having a dead plant. They thrive on the low humidity and warmer temperatures of most homes. Slower growth means they have a smaller footprint and do not need constant maintenance. Many of the most common succulents also share an ability to grow well under the lower light conditions often found indoors. Succulents other than cacti do better than cacti in bright indirect light without much direct sun.
Crassula ovata, commonly known as Jade Plant, can exist indoors for decades and reach a considerable size. Its glossy green leaves and sturdy succulent trunk and branches provide interest enough without flowers. Older Jade Plant does flower, but conditions have to be just right. You can grow it in only bright indirect light, but its growth habit is more compact, and leaves get reddish edges in winter if you grow it in an area with morning sun. Jade Plant does not need frequent repotting, growing best when slightly potbound. It requires well-draining soil, and using a soilless mix meant for cacti and succulents is best. Water the plant when the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil is dry. Jade Plant grows outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 through 11.
Sansevierias, commonly known as Snake Plants, are ideal for growing in low-light situations. They have been houseplant favorites since Victorian times. Member of the Agave Family, Sansevierias have leathery mottled or striped sword-shaped leaves in shades of gray, green, yellow, and white. Size ranges from dwarf varieties to plants that have long erect leaves. Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii', commonly known as Bird's Nest, is 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) tall and 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) wide. Its variegated leaves are arranged in a cupped basal rosette that looks nest-like. Erect leaves of taller cultivars can reach 5 feet (1.5 m) and have different color patterns. Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii', commonly known as Striped Snake Plant, is probably the most widely grown. In USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, Sansevierias make outdoor shade garden plants.
Valued for its abundant long-lasting bright flowers, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, commonly known as Flaming Katy, has fleshy, green leaves with scalloped margins. Each stem is topped with clusters of single or double flowers. Flower colors are red, pink, rose, orange, yellow, and cream. Florists produce blooming plants year-round, but Flaming Katy blooms typically in winter as a houseplant. Native to Madagascar, Flaming Katy is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 through 12. Use it as a patio plant during warm seasons, but return it indoors if temperatures approach the 30s. Give Flaming Katy a sunny spot for the best flower and leaf color, but it will also tolerate bright indirect light.
Although Echinocactus grusonii, commonly known as Golden Barrel, eventually becomes large, it remains a widely grown houseplant. Symmetrical clusters of golden spines and a compact spherical body give it ornamental value even if it does not bloom for the first time until it is about 15 years old. Native to central Mexico, Golden Barrel can grow outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11. This plant needs direct sunlight to keep the rounded growth habit and brightly colored spines. Water your cactus whenever the top inch (2.5 cm) of potting soil is dry, which will be less frequent in winter, and use a well-draining cactus soil mix. Repot when the plant touches the pot rim and give it just the next biggest pot. Mix controlled-release fertilizer into the soil when you repot or give the plant half-strength balanced fertilizer in spring and mid-summer.
- Succupedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus