Succulents are the perfect plant for forgetful and sometimes neglectful gardeners. They do not require much care and are easy to grow inside as well as out. They come in a variety of colors and textures and look lovely, potted or landscaped.
Succulents are a diverse group of plants that come in many shapes. There are over 20,000 varieties with kinds suited for all growing conditions. They store water in their leaves, which tend to be thick and plump, although some have thinner leaves. Succulents often grow in dry climates without much humidity. They need to be watered but can stand periods of drought instead of pulling water stored in the leaves. Succulents do not do well in wet conditions as their roots will start to rot if sitting in water for too long. They often prefer warm weather, and most can not survive freezing temperatures. The stored water in the leaves will freeze and destroy the plant. Some species, however, can survive a freezing winter.
As with all plants, the four things to consider when caring for succulents are light, water, soil, and temperature.
Both indoor and outdoor succulents generally need at least 3 hours of direct sun daily. Morning sunlight would be preferable as the afternoon sun can be too harsh. Some succulents that receive too much sun may be damaged and look sunburned with scars on their leaves or a washed-out color. Especially in hot climates where the sun is the most direct, be sure to keep your succulents in areas with filtered sunlight.
Alternatively, succulents that do not receive enough sun may begin to grow or reach toward the sun. The plants may start to grow tall with the leaves more spaced out. Succulents that are colored may also turn green if not receiving enough light.
Succulents are made to grow in arid climates and, as a result, do not need much water. They instead store their water in their leaves or stems. When watering your succulents, be sure the soil is dry before you water. Soak the soil around the plant and do not water again until the soil is dry. If the roots stay wet for long periods, they may begin to rot, causing the plant to rot. You will tell this is occurring because the leaves will turn black and mushy and may start to grow mold. Generally, most succulents need to be watered only once a week. This will vary depending on your climate and soil conditions. If you are unsure how often to water your succulents, it is better to underwater rather than overwater.
Well-draining soil is vital for succulents. This is important as too much moisture will cause the plant to rot. If you grow your succulents in pots, be sure the pot has drainage holes.
When planting succulents, look for a potting mix for cacti and succulents. This mix is designed to drain better than regular potting soil. If you cannot find a commercial potting mix, you can make your own.
Most succulents can tolerate a large range of temperatures if they get the right amount of sun and water. However, the more delicate succulents should not be kept in temperatures above 95 °F (35 °C) or below freezing. The extreme heat will cause them to droop when the soil gets too hot and dry and below freezing will freeze the water in their leaves.
One of the excellent qualities of succulents is their ability to propagate easily. You can often start a new plant from a leaf or a plant cutting. Some succulents propagate better from a cutting rather than a leaf. The succulents with thick, fleshy leaves are best suited to leaf propagation.
The best way to remove a leaf for propagation is to gently twist the leaf from the stem. You will want the entire leaf, so nothing should be left on the stem. For succulents that propagate best from cuttings, use sharp scissors or pruning shears and cut off a stem right above a leaf. This can be either the top of the succulent or a new shoot.
After removing the leaf or cutting, you will want the end to dry out and scab over a bit before planting. If you plant it freshly cut, it may absorb too much moisture. Depending on your climate and humidity, this may take 1 to 3 days. The leaf or cutting may shrivel slightly. You will want to plant it before it dries out too much.
When the end of the cutting is dry, it is time to plant it. The leaf does not need to be planted and instead should be laid on top of the soil. Mist the cutting or leaf with water whenever the soil is dry. You do not need to soak the soil. The leaves will begin to grow tiny roots within 4 to 6 weeks. When you start to see roots, cover them with soil, so they do not dry out. Propagating new plants from leaves and cuttings is not a quick process as it may take up to a year for the new plant to be fully grown.
Often when you buy a succulent at the store, it may not be labeled. Or it will be labeled simply as "succulent" or "succulent variety." This can be frustrating as different succulents have different growth requirements. There are many avenues you can take to help you identify your plant. The first may be to simply ask the seller. If they are unsure, you may identify your succulent with a photo using an online forum.
The more complicated way to identify your succulent is to look at the plant's characteristics, such as leaf shape and growing habits.
Succulents come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. The leaf shapes can vary greatly among the different kinds. The leaves are generally long and spikey or small and circular. Succulents that have long spikey leaves include Aloe vera, Agave, and Gasteria. Within the spikey-leaved category, the leaves may be grass-like or fleshy. The succulents with circular leaves are rose-shaped, called rosette-forming succulents, and include Aeonium, Echeveria, and Graptopeltum.
Succulents that grow in the rosette-form feature close clusters of leaves that radiate from the center as a flower would. These leaves may be pointed or round, fleshy, or grass-like.
Some succulents grow in long stalks, and others grow close to the ground and spread out. Succulents may change in configuration as they mature, so waiting until they have aged may help in making an identification.
The plant's size may help you identify the plant and determine where it should be grown. Smaller plants, just a couple of inches tall and wide, may be best suited indoors. Larger plants may be best to grow outside.
Flower shape and color
Flowers are one of the easiest ways to identify a plant. If your succulent blooms, pay attention to the shape, size, color, and even the time of year it blooms.
Succulents are a popular choice for houseplants because they do not require a lot of maintenance. A Jade Plant is a classic choice and is easy to grow. Aloe vera is also popular and can be used to treat sunburns or wounds. Burro's Tail is a pretty plant that can add some interest to your interior. It has overlapping leaves that can reach up to 3 feet (90 cm) in length and hang over the flower pot.
Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus are succulents that bloom during the holidays and offer some color during the year when it can be hard to find. Keep this succulent outside in a sheltered area in the summer and fall. Bring it indoors when the overnight temperatures begin to drop into the 40s. Fertilize the plant three times during the summer and keep it drier in the winter than in the spring and summer.
One of the easiest houseplants to keep is the Snake Plant. It gets its name from the shape of its leaves. This is an indestructible houseplant that strives for neglect. It grows upright and can fit into many locations in the home. There are also many varieties, some that are variegated in color, to offer many options.
The most common succulents you will find to grow outside are Yucca, Prickly Pear Cactus, and Agave. These plants are great for landscaping and can be used alone or for all of the landscape. Yucca and Agave are hardy for most of the United States.
Hen and chicks are members of the genus Sempervivum and get their name from the mother plant, the hen, that produces a cluster of offsets, the chicks. They are an easy plant to grow in the sunny part of the yard. They are low-growing and are also a good choice for a houseplant. When keeping it as a houseplant, be sure to let the soil dry out completely between watering.
Sedum, commonly know as Stonecrop, is a great succulent to use as a groundcover as most types are low-growing. Some varieties are taller and look best in the middle of the garden. They grow well in a typical garden but do best in drier conditions. They also grow well in full sun or partial sun.
When planting succulents in your garden, one thing you should pay attention to is the soil. If your soil is not naturally well-draining, you will need to mix in some sand or gravel to help the drainage. No succulents can tolerate standing water, so well-drained soil is key.
To help landscape the succulents consider adding a rock garden. This is a great way to achieve a natural-looking succulent garden. Rock gardens feature various rocks and help mimic many succulents' native habits helping the landscaped succulents look more natural. You can also plant the succulents in groups to help them look purposeful and avoid planting in rows, which can create the effect of soldiers in a row.