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Succulents 101: What You Need to Know to Succeed

March 3, 2021

Succulents refer to a group of plants that have fleshy leaves and stems that store nutrients and water. They are different from cacti in that cacti store all of their nutrients and water in the stem because their leaves have evolved into needles or hair. If you snap open a succulent’s leaf, you’ll find a juicy middle.

There’s a lot to know about these plants to ensure they are cared for properly. We’ve compiled a ‘Succulents 101’ of sorts to help you care for yours, or to help you prepare as you decide to get one.

As a group, succulents have enjoyed tremendous popularity in recent years, especially on social media platforms such as Instagram where photos of these plants show amazing colors, textures and patterns. It’s true that succulents are low-maintenance in that they don’t require much water. They are also easy to propagate because each leaf can grow into a miniature plant.

succulents 101: proper care

However, succulents are easy to kill if it gets too much water, turning black and mushy in a matter of days. They can also easily lose their good looks if they don’t receive enough light. Their beautiful dusty pink or blush red edges is the result of ‘sun stress’, aka lots of light. The tightly arranged swirls of leaves can elongate quickly in search of light, turning a beautiful rosette into a leggy stem with small nubs of leaves protruding along the edges. The same plant can look very different when grown under different environments. In this case, Nurture indeed wins over Nature.

With that proper warning out of the way, succulents are great to have around if you have plenty of light (ideally +3 hours of direct sunlight per day). Here are the three easy steps for proper succulent watering:

  1. Water thoroughly. The pot should feel much heavier when you’re done.

  2. Let the soil completely dry out.

  3. Water again when the bottom few leaves feel soft or a little wrinkly. The leaves will plump up after a good watering, like a water balloon. This could be a couple of weeks, or it could be a month, depending on the time of the year and the weather.

One thing to note is that not all succulents look good with a ‘tan’. Aloe vera, for example, has beautiful green and white mottled leaves that turn a grayish dull red when exposed to lots of light. While the plant is perfectly healthy, you might prefer the greener look. It’s cousin, Aloe ‘Franco’ on the other hand, has a leathery texture and puts out lovely bright orange flowers when given lots of light.

succulents 101: get to know your succulents

Here are a some of our favorite varieties to get you started:

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Aloe vera

This succulent does alright with bright indirect light and keeps a lovely green. Commonly known and used around the world for its healing properties. Stems are edible. Larger varieties can be grown as hedges around homes and form a fire-resistant fence due to its high water content. Photo: CactusPlaza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aloe ‘Franco’

A small but fiesty plant with sharp tips and leathery texture. Lovely orange blooms are held erect on to of the plant. The same plant sends out baby plants from the base and those can flower as well. Photo: Reddit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sansevieria – Snake plant

This succulent prefers shade to bright indirect light. It’s equally sensitive to overwatering. Photo: GardeningKnowHow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Echeveria

These are the famed rosette succulents. Colors include green, blue, gray and red. Although red might just be the sun-stressed version of the same plant. Photo: EasternLeaf.com

Crassula – Jade plants

These are super popular and can grow to be massive. Photo: SmartGardenGuide

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kalanchoe

We are more familiar with the flowering Kalanchoe than its other cousins. Nonetheless, it is a succulent with fleshy leaves and many of the same properties. Photo: MountainCrestGardens.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Haworthia

These little guys have spiky leaves reminiscent of hedgehogs. Some leaves even have teeth along the edges or bright white stripes on the surface. It’s a slow grower in general, meaning under lower light conditions, it might not get leggy for a while yet. Photo: Hirts.com

Visit our Plant Care page to learn more about succulents and other types of interesting plants!

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