This time of year, the air in my house seems desert-dry and many of my houseplants are beginning to lose the will to live—except for the succulents, that is. They are survivors.
As long as they have a warm sunny spot they love the dry conditions. Succulents are not one plant family but a wide variety of plants from many families that have the ability to store water for long periods of time. You probably already grow many of them.
Types of Succulents
Cacti, aloe, sedum, kalanchoe, hens-and-chicks, and jade plant are all considered succulents. Some have thick leaves for storing water, those with no leaves store water in their stems, while others store water underground in their roots. Native to arid regions around the globe where often the only moisture they receive is in the form of dew, mist, or fog, they have evolved to withstand periods of drought.
As houseplants all they need is a place on a warm sunny windowsill and a bit of water—never more than once a week. Some need even less water in winter if they are dormant. You can go on vacation and not worry about them dying from neglect. They won’t miss you!
Since succulents are about 90% water, they can skip a few waterings with no ill effects. Soggy roots are deadly to them so clay pots are best. Use a fast draining potting soil like a mix specific for cacti or make your own from equal parts potting soil, sharp sand, and perlite. Many succulents have fibrous root systems and prefer a shallow pot to a deeper one.
Some of these plants are truly bizarre looking while others are quite beautiful. Succulents are a great starter plant for kids who appreciate their weird appearance.
Many succulents are readily available at your local greenhouse or garden center. The big box stores can’t even kill them!
More Interesting Succulent Varieties
Here are some more interesting succulents to look for:
- Lithops give new meaning to the term “pet rock”. Often called living stones, they have 2 fat leaves that are fused together with a slight crack between them. In late summer a yellow or white daisy-like flower emerges from the crack. After blossoming the old leaves will die off and new ones will take their place.
- Aloinopsis is another rock-like succulent with smooth, rounded leaves. Easy to grow, its flowers appear in late winter.
- Faucaria gets its common name “tiger jaws” from the white spines along the edges of the leaves. It needs a dry period in winter but will reward you with yellow blossoms in the summer.
- Echeveria is a large genus of plants, mostly hailing from Mexico. Their rosettes of fleshy leaves are similar to the hardy hens-and-chicks we grow outdoors. They offer a wide range of leaf colors from dusty gray to bright green, red, purple, pinkish, blue-green, and even black. They bloom in the summer.
- Senecio is another large genus of plants but not all of them are succulents. One called blue fingers has long, pencil-shaped silvery leaves. Another called string of beads has tiny round leaves growing on long stems - perfect for a hanging basket.
- Trichodiadema grows only 6 inches tall and looks like little bonsai tree. It has a thick above ground root with fleshy gray-green leaves on top and will produce magenta flowers in the spring and summer.
If you can’t decide which one to buy, get several and group them together in a dish garden or strawberry pot.