Succulents are a new trend in gardening and for good reason; they are unique and practically indestructible.
Lucy Edwards, a regional home horticulture agent with Alabama Extension said, “succulent is a generic term used in reference to plants that have thick, fleshy leaves, stems or roots adapted for storing water.”
They are indigenous to many parts of the world and usually come from Africa, Central America, the European Alps, South America and South Africa.
Most succulents are desert plants. Many like the cacti, yucca and sedum grow great in Alabama.
Like other plants, most succulents thrive outdoors, however some succulents can also be a great addition to indoor gardens.
Pictures of succulents in terrariums and container gardens have been very popular, and luckily those environments can be perfect for some types of succulents.
The most common type of indoor succulents are cacti, such as the Christmas cactus, gasterias and haworthias, which are similar to aloe plants, and echeverias, which are commonly referred to as Hens and Chicks.
The two most important elements for a successful succulent are exposure to light and water.
Exposure to light
Succulents tend to like an environment that has sunlight and fresh air. In fact, succulent plants are most attractive if they are grown with little protection from the sun. When planting succulents outdoors, it is important to make sure the succulents are not being over exposed to the sun, especially in the hotter summer months. To prevent over exposure, try planting your succulent so it will receive shade a few hours a day from a nearby tree.
Placing a potted succulent on a windowsill or next to a window that is facing south or west is best for an indoor garden. Make sure to rotate your plant weekly, that way all leaves are exposed to the same level of sunlight. This is especially important if you have multiple plants in the same container.
Succulent plants are characterized by their fleshy and thick leaves, which allow them to collect and store water. More traditional plants, such as petunias, have thin leaves and need water and hydration more frequently.
“To be successful, succulents need to be more on the dry side, particularly if indoors,” Edwards said. “Overwatering is the number one cause of death for indoor plants.”
“The finger test method for checking soil moisture works well,” Edwards said. “If you think your plant needs watering feel down an inch with your index finger. If it is dry, add a little water. If it feels moist, hold off a few more days.”
Succulents can become stressed when they do not have proper exposure or are receiving too much or little water. A stressed succulent may begin to shrivel up or change colors. If a succulent when healthy is neon green and then begins to change to yellow, white, purple or red that is a sure sign that the plant is stressed.
Tips to get started
When getting started on an indoor succulent garden choosing the right container is key. Clay or terracotta containers will not hold moister like plastic and glass containers do, this makes them perfect for succulents.
“Good drainage is also essential to prevent rotting of succulents,” Edwards said. “If one chooses to plant it in a tea cup or any other decorative container they need to insure that it’s not overwatered.”
Additionally, as plants grow they need to be moved to larger containers to allow for the roots to develop and support the plant. Succulents are not prone to disease problems, however if a leaf ever does become infected it is best to simply remove that part of the plant.
Have a gardening question? Call the Master Gardener Helpline. To reach the helpline, dial 1-877-252-GROW (4769).