Succulents For Beginners – Ultimate Guide
Succulents have been a favourite indoor and outdoor plant for several years. They act as perfect natural decorations, especially when used to make living succulent walls. They also look great when added into the outdoor landscaping.
Succulents 101: A Beginner’s Guide
So before we move any further, it’s good to fully comprehend what succulents are.
What are succulents?
These are basically a group of plants that have the unique ability to store water within their leaves. Their leaves are characteristically thick and fleshy for the sole purpose of storing as much water as they can.
They thrive best in dry conditions and don’t do too well in humid conditions. Like any other plant, frequent watering will go a long way in ensuring healthy growth and attractive flowering.
Extreme temperature alterations as well as insufficient water or sunlight results into a noticeable colour change. In general, succulents have a variety of colour changes that come about when they fully blush. These colours include: Pink, orange, red and purple to slightly black.
Types of Succulents
Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas cactus)
The fact that this succulent blooms during the holidays has made it one of the most well-known succulents. You can opt to grow it in the garden during the summer specifically in a shaded area.
For extra blooms, allow it to stay outdoors in the fall until there is a drop in the night temperature. Fertilize it thrice in the summer with a 10-30-10 fertilizer. In the winter, keep it drier than in the summer or spring. As much as possible, do not let it dehydrate. This will increase the chances of shedding of the flower buds.
Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake plant)
The shape of this plant’s leaves earned it the name ‘snake plant’. They are also referred to as ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ due to their sharpness. This is one of the most indestructible houseplants out there. Its upright growth, ability to fit into all locations and carefree qualities make it perfect for any home. It also compliments the architecture with its variegated patterns and clean but bold lines.
Commonly known as ‘the medicine plant’, the Aloe vera’s sap has for centuries been used to treat both sunburn and wounds. Its sharp edges may be extremely dangerous when placed in the wrong places. Be sure to plant it in a location that will not lead to any accidents both to you and passers-by.
Sedum morganianum (Burro’s tail)
This plant does well indoors. Place it in a hanging basket and be amazed at how attractive it makes the room. Its leaves, which are gray-blue or grey-green, can attain a maximum length of three feet. For it to grow well, give it a medium or high lift.
How to Grow Succulents
There are two common ways of growing succulents: In the landscape and in pots. To determine which one works best for you, divide them into two groups:
- Those that can grow outdoors all year round i.e hardy succulents
- Those that can grow in pots outdoors during summer and spring and probably early fall i.e not hardy succulents. During cold weather, these plants should not be outdoors.
Knowing this, let’s look deeper into the two main ways of growing succulents, shall we?
In the landscape
If you’re going to plant succulents at the back or front of your home, you need to have what it takes. Basically what succulents need is a replica of their natural habitats.
To do this, you need to create a rockery. In essence, this is a section of the garden that is landscaped with rocks that vary in size. They are most effective on terraced ground or slopes. The slopes assist in making that particular area become the landscape’s focal point. Succulents mimic a number of their natural habitats.
Where to grow succulents in the landscape – When it comes to positioning succulents, most home gardeners have no clue on how to go about this. Most gardeners put one on each side of the door or plant them in rows. Some of these looks may be creative, but may not work out when it comes to beauty.
Succulents generally prefer, above all else, well-draining soils. If your garden lacks this, no need to worry. You could as well mix native soils into gravel and sand. This type of soil caters for the water needs of all succulents.Some prefer regular moisture, while others survive for weeks in the absence of water. The well-draining soils are important as none of these succulents enjoy extended periods of wet environments.
Water them frequently, provided you have the preferred type of soil that is able to drain excess water.
Growing succulents in pots is less tiresome and very convenient. The perfect pot-soil combination for growing succulents in pots/containers is choosing a soil that drains fast and a terra cotta pot.
The pot has to be porous.
The biggest risk involved in using pots is not being too sure of the amount of water you need to give them. Overwatering has been a major concern for most gardeners since time immemorial.
If you really care for your succulents, give them minimal care and less attention. This applies to both indoor and outdoor succulents. The care you should give them is basically pruning them or taking the cuttings to propagate.
Most gardeners prefer their succulents in pots. This is mainly due to the fact that they are able to easily adapt to the lower light and dry humidity that most homes provide. Also, this eases the hustle of moving them from the garden and into the house during the cold season.
Whatever way you may choose to grow your succulent, just make sure you adhere to the number one rule: Provide them with well-draining soil. Read our guide How to water succulents properly.
How to Look after Succulents
It doesn’t matter where you choose to place them. Succulents generally require little care. Just like other plants, ensure you give them the right light, water and temperature.
When dealing with all plants, even succulents, pests are inevitable. Although most succulents are pest resistant, outdoor pests such as spider mites may prove to be a major issue.Horticultural or neem oil works best in keeping unwanted visitors at bay.
Sharp-edged succulents such as the cacti should be pruned once in a while to reduce the rapid growth of thorns that make them less attractive.