Succulents are a diverse group of plants that have adapted to dry environments. They come in many shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Some even look like rocks! The term succulent comes from the Latin word "succus" meaning juice or sap and refers to their ability to store water for long periods of time.
Succulents come from all over the world, but most originate in desert regions where they have evolved as drought-resistant plants with thick leaves or stems full of water so they can survive months without rain. To further aid in their survival, succulents also store water in their spongy roots or swollen stems - a few can even survive for years without water.
Aloe vera is a good example of succulents that can be used inside and out. Some varieties have colored leaves and are popular for use as indoor plants around the holidays.
They prefer bright, indirect sunlight but if placed outside in summer, be sure to put them where they will get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If you keep them inside during the winter, provide as much sunlight as possible and repot them every year.
Aloe Vera is easily propagated by separating the leaves from the plant. Use a sharp knife to cut off leaves from near the plant's base. Remove any leaves that are damaged or discolored and place on a clean cutting board outside in direct sunlight for one or two hours to dry, then plant in a well-draining soil mix.
The wax plant is easy to grow and makes an attractive houseplant. They have small yellow flowers that bloom profusely in warmer months and a silvery coating on the leaves with pink edges. They make excellent indoor plants because they do well in most light conditions and are easy to propagate by separating the leaves.
Aeonium is a palm-like plant with long, narrow green leaves and interesting blue or pink flowers. They prefer moderate light but should be placed in an area of bright indirect sunlight where the temperature will stay between 60°F - 75°F (16°C - 24°C). If kept in temperatures below 55–60 degrees Fahrenheit, put a small pot of boiling water in the saucer to warm up the soil before repotting.
Cacti are common, and everyone has a favorite succulent. The ones I am most familiar with are prickly pear cacti (Century Plant) which grow in the desert southwest. They have yellow or red flowers in springtime followed by an edible fruit that can be used to make jams or jellies. If left on the plant, the fruit will become prickly pear.
Most cacti are very easy to grow and do well in full sun or partial shade. They also require little care other than watering once a week when they are actively growing. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings because overwatering can cause root rot.
Kalanchoe are a group of succulents from Africa, Asia and South America. They are very easy to grow and most varieties come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. The plant you select will likely flower during the warmer months with clusters of yellow or white flowers that bloom profusely.
Another name for Kalanchoe is Mother of Thousands, and for good reason. They are said to be able to reproduce via tiny plantlets that fall off the leaves when they touch soil. To propagate this way, remove a leaf from the plant and allow it to dry out for one or two hours before planting in a well-draining soil.
Paddle Plant is an easy-to-grow houseplant. It has dark green leaves and bright red flowers that bloom in the springtime. Place this plant where it will receive full sun or provide as much direct sunlight as possible for at least 4 hours per day. The paddle plant produces a reddish purple flower in late spring or early summer that is often used in floral arrangements.
The snake plant (Sansevieria)
This plant is very popular because it's so easy to grow, requiring little light or watering. These plants are available in a variety of colors and grow from underground rhizomes so you can easily propagate them by dividing the rhizome into sections and replanting.
Snake plant likes bright, indirect sunlight and a warm room but can be kept in a shadier spot. They are not tolerant of cold winters and should be left outside during summer months only .
The Tillandsia is another very popular houseplant because of its multiple uses. These plants resemble mini-cactus and are easily attached to pieces of driftwood or even a wire cage. They can be used as attractive sconces for your yard or patio, provided they have enough light.
These plants bloom in the summer with clusters of small pink flowers that form on the ends of long spikes that emerge from the center of the plant. They are available in a variety of colors including pink, purple, and red. Provide bright indirect sunlight for best growth.
The Zebra plant is also known as Haworthia because the leaves have white stripes like those on the zebra. This makes it an attractive addition to any indoor or outdoor decorative arrangement and durable for those with pets or children. This plant does best in shade or indirect sunlight. Wash the dust off the leaves at least every three weeks to keep it healthy.
This is another snake plant variety with a striking, add-it-to-anything decorative appeal, much like the Zebra and Mother-of-Thousands plants. It's so named because of the long, dark green leaves resembling antlers on a deer or elk. The Staghorn Sansevieria has thick leaves that grow out in various directions from the center, some pointing up like an ivy plant and others hanging down.
Yucca is a drought resistant plant that does well in desert conditions. It has long, sword-like leaves and yellow flowers in late summer that are sometimes called Adam's needles because of the way they look. Yucca likes bright light, but it doesn't need direct sunlight.
The Gasteria is one of the most popular varieties of succulents because it grows like a small, rosette plant with thick leaves that are covered with dots and spots that resemble those on a belly. The Gasteria will flower when given enough light but will fail to bloom if they don't have enough sun.
Gasteria should be kept in a warm place or the leaves will die back. Also, mist them with water regularly because they tend to dry out quickly. They're easy to propagate by taking cuttings and letting them callous and root before planting in the potting mixture of your choice.
The Jade Plant
Jade plants are attractive houseplants that are graceful and need little light or water to maintain their beauty. They can live for more than 20 years if well cared for. The Jade plant is easy to grow because it thrives in indirect sunlight. However, these plants must be kept warm so they don't drop their leaves.
Jade plants are not always available in garden centers because they have become so popular as houseplants. Fortunately, it is easy to grow them from cuttings if you take off a few leaves and stick them into the potting mixture of your choice.
These unique looking cacti are often called pincushions because they have small spines that stick out all over the body. The Gymnocalycium are available in a variety of colors including red, yellow and pink and like bright sunlight but not in hot conditions. Although they grow easily from cuttings, you can also grow them from seeds as long as the seeds are kept warm.
Adromischus is a small, low growing succulent plant that has small, dense leaves and colorful flowers in late summer. They need bright light but not direct sunlight to grow well. When you purchase the Adromischus from a garden center, it will have roots attached to a piece of rock or wood. They will stay healthy as long as they're given bright light.
Adromischus are easy to propagate from stem cuttings. All you have to do is take a cutting off of the parent plant and let it callous so it can root before placing it in the potting mixture of your choice.
These are another popular variety of succulents because they are so easy to grow. The leaves on these plants resemble those of snake plants and zebra plants except the Sansevieria look more like feathers than snakeskin or stripes. This makes them an attractive addition to any decorative arrangement, just as snake plant and zebra plants are.
You will find the Sansevieria for sale in most garden centers and they only need to be watered about every three weeks. Sansevieria can also be grown from cuttings but you must make sure the cutting includes a piece of the root attached to it because this is how it will take hold and grow.
These are winter hardy succulents that grow slowly and do well outdoors in the summer months as long as they're grown in a warm environment. They have thick, fleshy leaves with pink or red flowers in early summer but usually lose their leaves when temperatures drop below freezing.
Adeniums prefer to be planted in a mixture that is half sand, perlite and vermiculite. They need bright light but not direct sunlight to thrive and they should be watered when the soil becomes dry. Watering too much can cause root rot so keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Agave are popular houseplants just like the Sanseveria and they're easy to care for. The Agave plant has fleshy leaves that look stiff and prickly but they do not have any sharp points on them. If you touch an Agave, you will find it is soft instead of hard and prickly like a cactus. Agave plants grow well in soil that is kept moist and they need bright light but not direct sunlight to flourish.
Agaves are available for sale at garden centers so you don't have to grow them from cuttings if you prefer not to. The cuttings must include pieces of the roots along with the leaves to take hold and begin to grow.
The Nolina is one of the most popular types of succulents grown in the house and it's also easy to grow from cuttings. They have long, narrow leaves that are thick and fleshy which means they can handle a wide range of temperatures without damage.
Nolina plants grow well in warm or cool temperatures so long as they don't drop below 40 degrees F. and they also need bright light but not direct sunlight to grow.
The Euphorbia is a type of succulent that's sold in most garden centers and this makes it an easy plant to obtain. It grows well as either a houseplant or outside as long as you give it warm conditions. They are available for sale in a variety of colors including green, dark red and burgundy which makes them popular for decorative uses.
The Stapelia is a popular succulent with thick, fleshy leaves that resemble the shape of a cup which makes them an attractive addition to any arrangement. Like most succulents, they are easy to grow from cuttings and so you can buy one at a garden center and then take cuttings to grow more at home.
Stapelia plants do well in soil that is kept moist but not soggy and they will bloom in late summer with flowers that are red or yellow in color. The Stapelia does best in warm climates but can also be grown successfully in cool, dry regions so long as the temperature doesn't drop below freezing.
Graptoveria are one of the most popular succulents with people who enjoy growing houseplants and they're very easy to grow. These plants will survive in dry conditions but you must make sure the soil is kept moist for them to thrive.
If you provide them with bright light along with fertilizer that's high in phosphorus, you will see them grow very rapidly. These plants are available for sale in a variety of colors including lime green, lavender, yellow and bronze.
Can you grow succulents from seeds?
Yes, you can and it is best to start them indoors in early spring. Seeds should be covered lightly with soil and placed in a warm area that gets plenty of light. If all goes well, the seed will germinate within a week or two.
Seeds should be lightly misted with water once a day and don't let the soil become soggy. After you see them germinate, thin out extra seedlings so there's only one per small pot and then transplant them into larger pots or flats once they're big enough to handle the move. Continue to care for your succulents as they grow and eventually you will have a beautiful garden outside or inside.
How can I keep cactus plants from getting too big?
If you don't want the plant to grow bigger than it already is, hard prune it by removing some of the taller growth and shortening the branches that are longer if you want a smaller plant.
You can also pinch off the tips of the new growth to keep it shorter. You can do this with succulents too if you don't want them to grow taller than they already are although succulents tend to be smaller plants as compared to cacti.
How can I propagate a cactus plant easily?
If you want to grow more plants, cut off the top of the cactus so that about 2" of the stem is still attached and then remove any thorns from the bottom end using wire wool or sandpaper.
Dig a hole in rich soil that's large enough to hold the rooted portion of the plant and then gently push the succulent into the hole until it's standing upright. Allow about 1" between each new cactus plant that you plan to grow.
It is very easy to grow succulents if you know what kind of plant you're trying to propagate because each type requires slightly different care and growing conditions. If a succulent is getting too big for your liking, cut it back so that it will only grow to the desired size that you want.
Most varieties will do well in a variety of growing mediums so you can choose the type that works best for your situation and your climate. There isn't much to succulents if you consider that they only need light, water and fertilizer to stay healthy and happy which makes them great plants for people who don't like spending a lot of time taking care of their houseplants.