The Ultimate Guide to Succulents for Beginners and the Perfect Plants to Have Indoors
A group of plants with some of the most diverse forms, colors, and blooms. Succulents and cactus are a large family of drought-resistant plants that have the ability to store water in their leaves as well as their stems and roots. Due to its fast growth in popularity in recent years, Succulents are not like the most common indoor plants. These plants certainly can be easy-care plants. However, the rules are completely different for Succulents.
History and Cultivation
The name comes from the Latin word “sucus,” which translates to juice or sap. Succulent plants naturally grow in arid or semi-arid regions, these are areas that have less water, and high heat or desert areas. They are plants that are adapted to living in dry environments. Succulents have thick stems, with no or fewer leaves, that store water. Some succulents store water in their stems while others in their leaves. These plants have deep and broad root systems that support their lives in water-scarce areas. Succulents belong to 60 plus plant families, some of which are Crassula, Purslanes, Echeveria, amongst many others which are the base to majority of the succulents.
Some sources state the origin of succulents or cactus to South Africa, Australia, Europe, America, and Asia. Initially, they were native tropical areas. By the end of the 15th century, new and different varieties of succulents appeared as a result of expeditions. Now, the several species in different geometric shapes, wild textures, and colors of these plants make them a perfect decorative element for indoors. It is also popular among people because it is a less maintenance plant with high survival.
Succulents and cactus store water in the form of sap in different parts; the often fleshy leaves, the stem, or the roots. The sap makes these parts to be unusually thickened and fleshy as they are used to retaining water. During dry periods, the plant uses water to survive. The storage of water often gives succulent plants a more swollen or often fleshy appearance than other plants, a characteristic known as succulence.
Types of Indoor Succulents
If you are looking to purchase a succulent as a houseplant, there are thousands of succulents but some are common species that are easy to grow as houseplants e.g. cactus, aloe vera, crassulaceae, aizoacae, kalanchoe amongst others. Some are briefly explained below.
Aloe plants prefer bright direct light but can tolerate bright indirect light. This plant is a genus containing over 650 species of flowerings. It is cultivated as a standard source for pharmaceutical purposes.
Echeveria plants appear in different shapes and colors in which their leaves stand out with their different striking rosette appearance. These plants do best in bright direct light but can handle bright indirect light while indoors.
This is known as the jade plant. It has a thick trunk with branches that jut out like a miniature tree. This is a plant with thick, dark green leaves that grow into an oval shape. Some varieties of the jade plant develop a red color at the tip of the leaf. When a jade plant matures in the right conditions, it can develop beautiful white or pink flowers that bloom in the shape of a star.
It is also known as the tree houseleeks, it is a genus of up to 35 species of succulent. Many of its species are popular in horticulture.
Kalanchoe Kalanchoe is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent plants in the stonecrop family Crassulaceae. The majority of kalanchoes require around 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. They survive with bright, indirect sunlight to bright shade. Due to its extreme cold sensitivity, this type of succulent is best indoors in most climates.
Growing Succulent Plants
Succulents are able to thrive in dry conditions, and some are able to last up to two years without water depending on the surroundings and adaptations. These many plants grow faster when kept outdoors due to their need for so much sunlight. Most varieties need at least 4-6 hours of daily indirect sunlight to thrive.
They can be found within each continent except Antarctica. While it is often thought that most succulents come from dry areas like steppes, semi-desert,and desert, succulents cannot tolerate extremely dry areas as they do not make a native habitats for them, mainly due to the difficulty the growing plants or seedlings would have to thrive in environments where they could easily be covered by sand. The standard method of growing succulents are grafting and cutting.
Several techniques can be used to propagate succulent plants.
From Succulent Seed
The propagation through seeds is preferred when the growth rate of succulent plants is faster. Succulent seeds require a sterile, very fine particle soil mix, heat (approximately 24°C to 27°C), a reduced light, and low maintenance of even moisture without being soggy.
The seed is then covered very lightly with a fine particle “top dressing”. The seed pan should be watered daily with a really fine mist with a sprayer, ensuring that only the highest surface is allowed to dry somewhat in 24-hour intervals. Seed should begin to germinate within a fortnight but will appear as tiny bright green dots.
Taking a cutting can be an easy way to grow a new plant if you know someone with a healthy plant or you already have one.
Cut off a piece of leaf or stem, let it dry, and you’ll have roots and shoots in no time. The trick is to keep it totally dry. There are two methods
- Leaf Removal
Randomly remove several succulent leaves, dry them out, let them grow roots, and then plant them.
This is a good fix for a plant that has grown tall and spindly. Cut the head of the plant off the lengthy stem, leaving about an inch of stem attached. Dry it out, let it grow roots, and then plant it.
It is easier and faster to use the plants you have to produce even more. There are two ways a succulent plant can be propagated by division.
- Root Separation
Dig an entire plant and gently tease the roots apart. Plant the separated clumps individually. These kinds of plants that have been divided by root separation may be placed in soil immediately.
- Plantlet Removal
Remove plantlets that have sprung up alongside the parent plant. They are fully-formed and rooted mini-plants that can grow independently. Many types of succulents drop plantlets which take up roots where they fall.
Tips to help succulent plants thrive indoors
Here are the basic steps to accomplish growing your plant indoors.
Succulents and cactus prefer well-draining soil with larger particles for there to be access to water quickly and drain away from the roots without compacting the soil.
Succulents and cactus prefer a pH range of slightly alkaline to slightly acidic. Aim for a pH between 6.0-6.5. To ensure the best soil for succulents, you can make use of a soil test kit and amend the soil to reach an optimal on the pH scale before planting.
When growing succulent plants, plant them in containers of about 13 mm to 25 mm, whether you’re planting them with other succulents, or in a pot with about 13 mm to 25 mm from the edge of the pot as well. If you want to space them, Make sure to use a container that either has drainage holes or a container that you can punch or drill holes in because drainage is key to keeping your succulents healthy.
The most common killer of succulents is over-watering. They should be watered every 1-2 weeks, depending on the temperature. When the temperatures rise to 90+ degrees reduce watering to every two weeks. However, succulents need more water when they are actively growing in spring and summer while in late fall and winter, watering should be reduced to once every 6-8 weeks.
For all watering, it is advisable to use tepid tap water because ice cold water will cause sudden leaf loss.
Like some other plants, succulents enjoy direct sunlight. They need at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day to keep them happy. They love being in bright and sunny locations but they also need to have shade from the sun so as not to cause a side to be over exposed to sunlight. However, If they do not receive enough sunlight, it will exhibit problems such as elongation or etiolation (process of lengthening where the plants stretch to seek more light).
Several species of succulents despise the cold. They do best in temperatures ranging from 40-80°F. Temperatures lower than 40°F or higher than 80°F are never recommended because they can do harm to your succulents.
While in summer, the combination of high temperatures and full sun exposure can cause sunburn for your succulents, damaging both the leaves and the root systems.
There isn’t much you can do to control the humidity because most succulents prefer dry soil, which can only exist in low-humidity conditions.
It is often misconstrued that succulents or cactus do not need fertilizers. But like most plants, succulents can benefit from regular fertilizing.
Plant Care (Pruning and Maintenance)
Pruning is essential to succulents as they generally do best if they are pruned at the beginning of their growing season.
If they are pruned towards the end of the growing season, there may not be new growth as quickly but it will happen slowly and pick up once they start actively growing again.
When it spirals outwards, grab a fresh pair of scissors or pruners and make the necessary cuts. Locate leaves that are pointing in the direction of desired growth. Cut the stems right above the node within 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) at a 45-degree angle. The new growth should extend into the direction of the leaf or node where it was removed.
Harvesting Succulent plants
First start by cutting the succulent rosette from its roots then peel away any dried or damaged bits until you have a smaller succulent. If you plant to glue the succulent or cactus to a particular design, you can cut the stem away.
Managing Pests and Diseases
Succulents for the most part are not bothered by common pests but there are those that are invasive and can take up residence in your plants, infect and cause harm to your beloved plants.
Some common pests are:
There are thousands of species of scale, which vary in shapes, sizes and color. There are two groups of scales that commonly attack succulents: the armored scale and the soft scale insects. These insects like to eat the sap of succulents, damaging the plants and making them susceptible to diseases.
The use of a cotton swab or Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol and apply directly on the bugs can help treat the scales on the succulents
These are one of the most common pests in succulents. They are small, elliptical insects about 3-5 millimeters long, gray or light brown in color. They get their name from a waxy or mealy white material they produce.
These insects produce honeydew or sugary substances that promote the growth of mold and makes the plant more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
As stated earlier, the use of a cotton swab or Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol and apply directly on the bugs can as well help treat the scales on the succulents.
Spider mites are small pests that often go undetected for a long period of time. The variety of spider items that is common is red. This pest loves to suck on the sweet sap from succulents.
At first, an infested plant becomes lighter in color then eventually turns almost white or silvery, as the mites destroy the plant. The early signs of spider mites are spider webbing and small brown spots on your plant.
For this bug, the same treatment for mealy bugs and scale can be used.
The most common diseases in succulent plants are root rot, soft rot, dry rot, powdery mildew and leaf spot. The best way to avoid such problems is to inspect your plants regularly, act quickly if you do spot a problem and keep a close eye on them afterwards. Some of the common disease’s signs and symptoms as well as treatments will be explained below.
Is a disease that affects succulent plants whereby the plants stop growing, leaves and stems turn yellow or discolored. The roots turn soft and brown.
The solution is to prune the infected roots, put it in well-drained soil and to water it less frequently.
Leaf spot is another type of disease that is frequent in succulent plants. They are more or less circular, with brownish or reddish spots in a darker ring. The center of the spot is often dried out after a while.
The solution to this disease is to lower the relative humidity of the plant and raise temperature. The affected parts might as well be removed. The parts that could not be removed can be sprinkled with charcoal powder.
Dry rot appears as small dark spots on stems. The body of the plant turns pale and soft which makes the plant stop growing.
To treat your succulents of this type of disease, Re pot the succulents and cacti sing a fresh soil mixture then place it in direct sunlight then water it less frequently.
Powdery mildew has some downy whitish substance on leaves and stems of the succulents or cacti which makes it turn darker and causes the affected parts to decline.
The solution to this is to increase the air circulation and lower the relative humidity. The affected parts should also be treated with a baking-soda solution.
Soft rot is as the name implies the signs are translucent dark or blackish spots that appear most times at the base of the plant and moves in an upward position. The succulents or cacti turn limp and weak and sometimes could give off an unpleasant odour.
The remedy for soft rot is to water your succulents or cacti less frequently, lower the relative humidity and increase the air circulation. If worse, cut off and root the sound succulent plant part and repot it using a soil mixture with well-decomposed organic material.
If your succulents or cacti end up diseased, it is advisable to burn it or put it in a bag to be thrown away.
Succulents help in removing toxins from the air. They have pores on their leaves that allow them to absorb gasses in the air.
Succulents also humidify the air, which helps improve the air quality in your home.
Throughout history, it is known that succulents was used to treat medical problems like cuts, burns, stomachaches, and many others. Succulents in general have medicinal nutrients including aloe vera and yucca.
Yucca was used to treat cuts and scratches, but now it is also used as a treatment for osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, migraine headaches amongst others.
Succulents Culinary uses
Although succulents cannot be picked up at random just to be consumed, There are a few different edible succulents that we recommend like sea beans and pineapple, yucca, and some species of cacti.
Sea beans have a flavor and texture similar to asparagus, but they’re a little bit saltier because they’re grown on salt marshes and beaches. They can be eaten raw or fried alongside some fish for a quick, healthy meal. They are rich in different nutrients like protein, calcium, iron, and iodine, so you’ll get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals if it is included in your diet.
Many Succulents are long-lasting plants and fresh flower arrangements which will make a beautiful addition to any garden. These unique plants provide interesting textures that cannot be achieved with any other plant. When used in fresh flower designs, they need to be wired to be arranged with the other flowers. With the information provided in this article, you can grow succulents in your home, care for it and reap the benefits of a healthy growing plant while enjoying its benefits all year round.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do succulent plants have a lifespan?
Succulents come in different types, and their lifespan varies depending on the types. Generally, Succulents are known to be slow-growers compared to other plants so their growth rate is highly dependent on the type of succulent it is. When grown in their natural habitat, succulents could live for years or even centuries. For those that don’t, they sometimes send off offsets, giving a new batch to plant.
How many types of succulent plants are there?
There are about 10,000 species found all over the world that thrive in various climates. They’re low-maintenance and occasionally, and come in endless types of shapes and sizes.
What are the ways to keep a succulent plant alive?
The most effective ways to keep a succulent alive is by; providing it with sufficient sunlight, an appropriate amount of water depending on the season, and using the right soil mix amongst others.