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Stepping into the world of Succulents

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

So recently I've become a bit re-obsessed with succulents, especially soft succulents you can grow indoors. It started back when I did a presentation on Hardcore Houseplants and came across a kalanchoe called Panda Plant in my research. Then I was up visiting my mom for Thanksgiving and she has a very large Jade plant that needed a trim. Being a sucker for plant propagation – I took the cuttings home to see if I could get them to root out (so far so good). My program this month on Favorite Holiday Plants, I included a kalanchoe which led to an attendee mentioning Mother-of-Thousands, a different species of kalanchoe. Mother-of-Thousands is a neat succulent that produces little baby plants along the edges of the leaves and then they drop down into the pot rooting easily. All of this, has resulted in my upping my knowledge on succulents and ordering a jade, a Mother-of-Thousands, and four echeverias.

For clarification there are both hardy and soft succulents. The hardy ones can usually survive down to Zone 5, some even down to Zone 4. Whereas the soft succulents can only be planted outside in much warmer zones such as 9, 10, & 11. Here we can grow them inside in winter and then they can spend the summer outdoors doing best receiving filtered sunlight. Common soft succulents include kalanchoe, jade, echeveria, senecio, aloe, and tender sedums.

Succulents are plants that have adapted to survive in arid growing conditions with the fleshy stems and leaves allowing for water storage. This also makes them quite suitable to growing indoors especially in winter when humidity is often very low. They do best in a window that receives bright indirect sunlight for about 6 hours a day. Without adequate light, succulents will begin to stretch and elongate and colorful succulents begin to revert to green. Try and remember to turn the plant each week so that all sides of the plant over time are gaining adequate sunlight.

The number one killer for succulents is overly moist soil resulting in root rot – adequate drainage is critical. When selecting a container to grow your succulents in, chose one with a drainage hole to allow access water to flow out the bottom of the pot. Unglazed terra-cotta pots are a great choice for succulents. When selecting a growing medium, chose a mix that is labeled for succulents/cacti.

When it comes to watering, succulents are low maintenance. Let the soil dry out completely between waterings – overwatering results in rot and yellowing leaves. In the middle of winter – you may not need to water more than once every few weeks and more often when the succulents are actively growing. Always remember to check the soil moisture prior to watering – if the soil medium isn't completely dry, wait.

There isn't a high demand for nutrients either when growing succulents. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer at half the labeled rate to avoid burning the plants. You only will need to fertilize during the months of active growth – spring and summer. Once a month is more than adequate. There is no need to fertilize during the winter months as the growth has slowed with shorter days. Over fertilization of succulents results in poor growth that is weak and can be more prone to rot.

I can see the world of succulents becoming a deep, dark, dangerous hole with the number of varieties available and the ease of care. It's going to be even more fun once these plants are far enough along I can try my hand at propagation. Now to make sure I have enough window space ready to go!



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