The fervor over succulents in the last five years has been as hot as the desert sun.
No longer taking a backseat to more traditional plants, succulents are front & center.
Wowing gardeners, serious & brown thumb’ed, with their versatility, beauty & easy going personalities.
But … what is a succulent? How do you know if a plant is one? Is it the same as a cactus? How best to care for them?
Read on ~ your questions will be answered.
What is a succulent?
Succulents are a broad group of plants ( 40 botanical families wide ) that have cells in them that retain water.
Some succulents have these cells in their roots, such as Euphorbias. Others in their stems, such as Stapliads & Pachypodium.
Pachy – who – dum? Latin aside, succulents come in many different forms and are not all cactus.
Actually, all catcus are succulents ( retain water ) but not all succulents are cactus – you with me?
Might help clarify if we understand what a cactus is…
What is a Cactus?
A cactus is a plant that retains water and has aeroles.
These are parts of the plant that the spines, branches or flowers may sprout from. These aeroles look like small, fluffy cotton lumps. All cactus have them while succulents, other than cactus do not.
Don’t get stuck on this…(sorry couldn’t help myself )…cactus are a simply sub group of succulents.
How to Care for Succulents
The best pot for succulents is clay with a big drainage hole.
Toss some pebbles into the bottom & fill with a potting mix especially formulated for succulents. You can make your own with 2/3 dirt & 1/3 coarse sand.
Now resist the temptation to water your newly potted succulent for at least one week. I know this will go against your natural care taker instincts – but don’t do it! Don’t kill it with kindness!
In one week dampen the soil ~ do not soak.
The key to watering succulents & cacti is restraint. If you exhibit it – you will reap the rewards!
If you are fretting over your plant’s well being & feel the desire to drown it a little – take a close look. Does it look plump & filled with water? If so, restrain yourself & have another look next week.
If you do see puckering of the leaves or shriveling water more deeply not more often.
I have most of my succulents outdoors. I love their easy care in pots & my fountain in the dry, hot conditions we have here in Southern California. Our mild winters allows me to leave mine outside all year long.
If you want some succulents indoors and/or live where it gets super cold & need to move them indoors for part of the year, here is what you do:
Give them bight light always
In the growing season (spring & summer) keep the temperature warm & give them more water than usual. Water deeply, then let the soil dry out – repeat.
Conversely, in the dormant season (fall & winter) keep them cooler & dryer. This can simply mean putting your succulent pot on a window sill in bright light but where it gets a bit of a cold draft. Water sparingly.
Keeping the temperatures right depending on the growing or dormant season will encourage blooms. That is nice!
I recommend not to mix succulents with plants that require different water & sun needs.
But that doesn’t mean these plants need to be alone in a pot.
You can mix them with inanimate decorative things, such as small pumpkins, shells, Christmas ornaments & whatever strikes your fancy.
Or plant them in interesting containers, such as a sifter! ( sifters have terrific drainage! )
Certainly all succulents aren’t alike ~ and now we know all succulents aren’t cactus.
Click over to here for a picture guide to some really pretty succulents. All these will thrive with the care outlined above in pots in your home or garden.
Have a look and tell me your favorite!
** Kelly **