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Growing Succulent Houseplants

Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Yard & Garden Expertise:
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Over the past couple of years I’ve been switching my houseplants over to succulent plants. My track record for keeping indoor plants alive and happy isn’t so great, and this has made it a lot easier, while giving me a great looking variety of shapes and colors of plant material.

I love to garden, and I love to have plants in the house, but I seem to neglect the indoor ones. And when I’m gone hiking they either are under-watered or drowned since the hubby can’t seem to tell when a plant needs water.

I already had a few succulents, and have decided to pretty much switch over to that type of plant with a couple of very tolerant exceptions.

The term, succulent, is not any sort of official or scientific term. It is a loose description of plants from any genus whose leaves are thick and fleshy for storing water. Commonly known ones include Aloe, Agave, Sanseveria (Mother-in-law’s Tongue), Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks), Bromeliads (more than a genus), Kalanchoe, Crassula and Sedum.

Some whose names are less familiar are Echeveria, Aeonium, Haworthia, Senecio, Euphorbia, Gasteria, and many more.

Not all of the species in a particular genus have to be succulent. For example, Senecio has many succulents, but Golden Ragwort (a spring aster-like yellow wildflower) is a Senecio.

Cacti are also succulents where the stem stores water, and the leaves are modified into spines.

They do need a particular type of soil. You can buy bags of cactus and succulent soil anywhere they seel garden supplies. The main difference is that it will be much coarser than regular soil to allow for extremely good drainage.

Individual kinds of plants have more specific and detailed requirements, but in general, neither over-water nor let them dry out completely. Overwatering can cause the leaves to swell and cells to burst, or the roots to rot. On the other hand, any plant will die when there is no moisture at all in the soil. So the best plan is to let the soil dry until about the top inch is feels dry. Then thoroughly soak the soil, just the same as you would for any other plant. If water runs through the soil in the pot to the saucer that is fine, but don’t let water sit in the saucer or roots can rot.

A lot of succulents can be propagated with just a leaf. Usually you should let the leaf dry so that a callous forms where it was broken off the main plant. Then just stick it in some moist, very well drained soil, and wait.

Succulents have interesting and amazing leaf shapes, and many of them will surprise you and bloom occasionally too. My life is too busy to really give them the care they deserve, but the ones that can tolerate my occasional care are more than welcome in my kitchen window.

The pictures are my own plants- if I can keep these alive, anyone can:

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora is the central large plant with blue-green leaves

Gasteria bicolor with flower stalks just starting

Gasteria bicolor flowers

Commelinaceae (spiderwort) of some kind, otherwise unidentified

Haworthia attenuata

Sedum morganianum- Burro Tail

For a few more that I don't own, see Philadelphia Flower Show- Heaven for Succulent Lovers