Translated by Nick R
Colorful, diverse, unique, and even a little strange, that’s how succulents are. Whether you are a beginner or an expert in gardening, you need to include one of these plants in your collection.
That said, today, we’ll talk about the characteristics of succulents and tell you all you need to know about the care they require. Finally, we’ll mention 11 succulents that you can have either indoors and outdoors.
Table of Contents
What are succulents?
Succulents also called crass plants, comprise a wide variety of genera and species, resulting in a large diversity of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Therefore, they have very diverse appearances that sometimes make it difficult to label a plant like a succulent.
However, they all share the capacity of holding water within their leaves, stems and even roots. As a result, those plant areas are fleshier and more pronounced.
Well, these plants retain water in order to thrive in dry conditions and adapt to harsh climates where the available water is scarce or irregular. Some even develop additional care methods, such as tiny, white hairs on their leaves to protect themselves from the sun and reduce perspiration.
Thanks to their easy care, durability and beauty, these plants have become very popular in recent years. Especially for interior decoration and for gardening beginners. Therefore, succulents can be easily found in any nursery, florist or gardening store for a low price.
Why have succulents?
- They are hardy and easy to care for. As we mentioned before, the fact that succulents store water for long periods allows you to not have to water them so often. They’ll forgive you in case you forget to water them once in a while.
- You can place them in terrariums. They’ll be a great decorative item for your home or office, and what’s better than having them in a terrarium where their care will be even easier. Remember that you can visit our blog about homemade terrariums to learn how to set up yours in a few steps.
- They reproduce easily. We’ll explain this in more detail later, but one of the ways succulents propagate is through their leaves. So, if your plant has lost a leaf, it can produce a sprout.
- They adapt to the environment. You can have succulents both indoors and outdoors. Although each one has its own preferences, one could say that any of them will thrive in a light place with slight shade.
- You can collect them. They’re plants that last for a long time and won’t wilt as long as you take care of them. Also, since they are inexpensive and diverse, it will be difficult to have just one.
- They’ll make you happier. Hard to believe, but surrounding yourself with nature will boost your mood. By taking care of them you’ll enjoy a kind of companionship, and we’re sure that you’ll feel great emotion and pride when they bloom.
- They make an excellent gift. We usually give flower bouquets to our loved ones, but unfortunately, as time goes by, they wither and end up in the trash. Therefore, succulents are a better alternative due to their long life and low maintenance. In addition, according to Feng Shui, they are protective plants that bring harmony to your home.
- They help purify the air. Aloe vera and Mother-in-law’s Tongue (considered succulent since it stores water in its leaves) appear in our blog about bedroom plants. They’ve been proven to remove environmental toxins and emit oxygen at night. Also, remember that both of them have medicinal properties.
Care of succulents
Let’s continue with all those aspects you need to know for keeping your succulents in excellent condition.
Succulents need soil with different properties than traditional plants. This means they require a light, porous substrate that offers good water drainage and doesn’t keep humidity.
For that, you can buy ready-made succulent substrate in nurseries, flower shops and garden stores.
On the other hand, if you prefer, you can buy the materials to prepare the substrate or use the ones you already have at home, which will be more economical. In this vein, we’ll recommend a mixture that you can use. To prepare it you’ll need:
- Natural or prepared soil: The latter contains plant food.
- Perlite or vermiculite: It improves air circulation and retains nutrients.
- River, beach or construction sand: It helps porosity and proper drainage.
To begin with, you must wash the sand to remove the salts it contains. Afterward, you only have to mix equal parts of the ingredients, and you’ll have the soil for your succulents.
Finally, we recommend you visit our blog about substrates to learn about other materials that you can incorporate. There you will also find another succulent mixture.
You can find succulent containers of all sizes, shapes and materials. They will thrive in any pot as long as you attend the following points.
The most common option is to use clay pots or similar porous materials such as ceramic. These allow better soil aeration and will let the water evaporate quickly. Therefore, you may have to water your plants more often if they are in such containers.
On the other hand, there are plastic pots, which hold moisture longer because they provide less ventilation, so watering will be less frequent. In addition, they are ideal for hanging succulents if you want them in a high spot, either indoors or outdoors, because they are lightweight pots.
Another option is metal pots, which are an excellent choice as you can use elements that you already have at home and give them a second use. For example, paint or food cans. The only drawback with these containers is that they can rust.
There are also cement pots that absorb more heat and may be suitable for succulents such as cacti. Of course, they are heavier containers and usually don’t have holes, so the time between waterings will be longer.
Finally, of course, you can use glass containers, especially when creating terrariums. The good thing is that they keep the humidity, so you should avoid watering too often not to drown the plants.
In all cases, it’s best if the container you use has drainage holes at the bottom, although there are exceptions with hanging pots or terrariums. Also, you can place a plate under the pot to collect excess water, but you should dispose of it so that it doesn’t cause additional moisture in the soil.
One essential point is that the pot you choose should match the plant’s dimensions. That is to say, a too-small container will make it difficult for the roots to breathe properly. In contrast, one that is too large will prevent the roots from absorbing nutrients adequeately.
The amount of water your plants need will depend especially, on the pot they are in. Likewise, watering a small succulent is not the same as watering a larger one: it varies if they are located indoors or outdoors.
Although it may seem complicated, don’t worry! The best trick to know if your plants already need irrigation is to use a toothpick or other thin object that you can insert into the substrate.
If the stick comes out wet or with traces of soil on it, it means you can still wait a few more days for watering. If, alternatively, the stick is dry and clean, it’s time to water your succulents.
Too much water or humidity will cause the roots to rot and thus will encourage diseases, which will eventually kill the plant.
Now, when watering, give each succulent a generous amount of water. However, only if your pots have drainage holes so you can make sure that the soil is well moistened and the excess water is left in the dish. Finally, remember to throw away the excess water.
It could be argued that all succulents prefer to receive sunlight, even if it is indirect. Although these plants adapt well to the environment, if one is not getting enough sunlight, it’ll signal this by stretching out towards the light.
Indoor plants can be placed near a window or in a space with excellent lighting. Also, remember to always keep them in a well-ventilated place.
As for outdoor plants, because of their large size and origin features, they tolerate direct sunlight well. Make sure that outdoor plants receive at least 6 hours of light and that they can also enjoy the shade.
Something curious about succulents is that the color of their leaves will change depending on the level of sun they are receiving. However, this also depends on the type of plant to a great extent. For example, some go from having a pale green tone to a darker, reddish tone at the edge of the leaves when they receive more direct or indirect sun.
If you want to try and place one of your plants in a space that receives direct sunlight, you should be more aware of the watering. Touch the leaves to verify that they still have the necessary strength. Of course, it is better to make the transition little by little so that the plant can adapt better.
You can reproduce your succulents using leaves. It’s easy as you only have to gently pull off some healthy leaves of the plant, those that are first or closest to the ground. To take them off, move from side to side, and they’ll eventually come out on their own.
Then, you can place them in the pot of the mother plant; there is no need to plant them, but only plant over the soil. If you want to reproduce many leaves, use a shallow flat container, place a little of the substrate you use for succulents and leave all the leaves on the surface. Do not water them.
In a few weeks, you’ll see that the leaves have rooted and grown tiny sprouts. At this point, you should give them water with the help of a diffuser. You can place them in a pot where they will continue to develop. By the way, there is no need to remove the leaf they came out from. The new succulents will get nutrients from the leaves until they dry out.
As for stem reproduction, it consists of taking cuttings from an adult plant. You can plant them all at once in a pot or place them in a water container to encourage branching.
To do this, first, let the cutting wound heal a little just by letting it rest from one day to the next, and it should be fine. Then use a container in which the stem can be submerged at least halfway. It’s very convenient to use bottles or glasses, what matters is that the leaves don’t come in contact with the water.
After 1 week, you’ll see white roots coming out, then you can decide to move the cuttings to the pots so they can grow there.
You’ll know it’s time to move your succulents to a new pot when you see that they are cramped and have no more room to grow. Also, it’s done when an adult plant has lost a large number of its lower leaves and therefore has a long stem.
To transplant succulents, let the soil dry out and start tapping the pot while holding the plant sideways. You should have a container or a plastic sheet so that the earth can fall in it.
You can also pull the plant very gently and slowly, although you’ll see how easy it is to pull them out, especially if they are small or medium-sized. For large succulents, use a hand shovel to loosen the soil on the sides and lean on the thicker stems to remove the plant carefully.
Later, as we explained in the potting section, it’s imperative that you don’t transplant to a container too large for the current plant size. Of course, we want it to continue growing, but it’ll do so better if it is where it can absorb nutrients easily.
If the transplant is because the plant has a very long stem, you can cut it as if it were a cutting. After that, place the plant in a new pot but don’t water it for a week or so to allow the cutting to heal.
Pests and diseases
A very important tip when caring for any plant is to be aware of any pest or disease to treat it in time.
On the one hand, the pests that attack succulents most frequently are:
- White fly
- Red spider mite
And on the other, diseases that could affect some of your succulents are:
- Mosaic virus
Keep in mind that a healthy and well-cared plant is less prone to suffer from pests or diseases. Besides, it’s good that you get informed to know what they look like so you can identify them. That said, we invite you to read our blogs on pests and diseases in which we describe in more detail all those mentioned above.
There we even give you recommendations on how to fight them. We even have a blog specially dedicated to homemade insecticides that you can prepare at home and that is really effective.
Now, if you want a product that you can buy and that is 100% effective, you have the option of Neem oil or potassium soap. You can even use them together for a great remedy.
5 Indoor Succulents Perfect for Beginners
Here is our top 5 succulents to include inside your home that are perfect for beginners because they are easy to maintain.
This is one of the most common and hardiest Echeverias in its genus. It has large, flat, light blue-green leaves with pink around the edges. If it receives a few hours of direct sun a day the leaf edges will have a stronger color.
Its leaves are clustered together forming a rosette. This makes this plant a desirable indoor or garden decoration plant, especially because of how easily it produces offshoots.
It grows up to 20 centimeters high and 15 cm wide. For you to keep in mind, it doesn’t withstand cold, and during the winter it’ll be dormant, that is to say, it’ll have great growth.
Jade is a bush with shiny green, oval leaves, and when it blooms it bears a white or pale pink flower. It does well by receiving a few hours of indirect sunlight which causes the edges of its leaves to turn a reddish tint.
According to Feng Shui, this plant brings good energy, money and luck. For this reason, it’s a good gift and is often placed at the entrance of homes.
It grows up to 90 centimeters high and 60 cm wide but at a slow pace. For that reason, jade is used for bonsai when small.
It’s a stemless plant with dark green leaves with white, soft thorns. Those leaves are broad at the bottom and taper to a sharp point at the top, as is characteristic of aloes.
Also, It’s one of the strongest and most resistant plants of its kind. Therefore, it adapts easily to any weather, but we recommend avoiding direct sun exposure.
When in bloom, the torch produces nectar-rich orange flowers that attract helpful insects such as bees. So it grows actively in winter and blooms in summer. It can reach up to 20 centimeters high and 15 cm wide.
It’s a succulent with velvety gray-green leaves and brown spots at the tips. It has an elongated and oval shape at the end. For this, it’s popularly called rabbit ears or donkey ears.
While this plant can flourish within its natural habitat, it rarely does so when grown indoors. However, its appearance alone is quite a spectacle indoors and in offices.
It grows up to 61 centimeters long and wide. So, when mature, it’s commonly used as a hanging plant.
Cacti vary in size, color and shape, so you can choose the one you prefer.
We won’t recommend a specific one, but leave you with this list of options:
- Angel’s-wings or bunny cactus (Opuntia microdasys).
- San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi).
- Bilberry cactus (Myrtillocactus geometrizans).
- Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea).
- Star cactus (Astrophytum myriostigma).
When handling cacti, you should consider wearing thick gloves to protect yourself from their thorns. Not only will the spurting be uncomfortable, but it will also cause irritation. Protect yourself!
3 hanging succulents
That’s right, you can also have succulents in hanging baskets that will give your home versatility and a unique style.
It’s a creeping plant with unique sphere-shaped leaves and long stems. For that, it’s known popularly as the rosary, and in some parts, it’s called pearl chain.
It’s ideal for indoor display in the home or garden as this succulent creeps quickly along the pot’s surface and then cascades down the side.
You can use its stems to propagate it and appreciate its rapid growth. Notice, the rosary prefers to be in partial shade and requires less frequent watering, as it is very sensitive to moisture.
It grows up to 7 centimeters tall, but its long stems can measure up to 90 centimeters.
Baby sun rose
It has bright green, fleshy, slightly heart-shaped leaves. It produces pink or purple flowers that stay open during the day and close when there is no sun.
Its stems can reach up to 3 meters long and that is why it’s used to cover walls or areas without grass. They are also excellent for preventing weed growth.
You can place it under direct sunlight without any problem, but it doesn’t like frost. So, if winter is coming, it’s good to put it inside your home for a while.
This succulent forms small, pale green rosettes, about 4 cm wide, which turn pink or reddish when exposed to direct sunlight. It blooms in late winter and early spring, producing a yellow star-shaped flower.
It’s a very hardy plant that can be placed in direct sun or shade, usually somewhere in between is best. It even does very well with rain, so now you know that you can place it where it’s naturally watered.
It’s about 30 cm high and 40 cm wide, and it grows fast with a lot of rosettes that make it look lusher.
3 outdoor succulents with great growth
To finish, we’ll share with you 3 other plants that you can place outdoors that grow impressively.
Graptopetalus or leatherpetal
It’s a plant that grows massively; therefore, any leaf that falls off and remains on the ground will certainly grow offshoots.
Its rosettes will change according to the intensity of the sun it receives. If it gets lots of sunlight, its leaves will turn yellow to pink; however, in a shady place, they’ll be blue-gray. Our advice is to keep it in half shade.
It can grow up to 30 centimeters tall and creep up to 90 cm long. But, more than its size, it spreads rapidly.
It has large light green leaves that form a spoon-shaped rosette. When in bloom, it produces pink flowers that come out in late winter or early spring.
It can be grown outdoors, exposed to direct sunlight and even rainwater. Also, it’s best to water it naturally because its large size demands it. It’s said that rainwater helps it to grow.
As the plant matures, it can reach about 50 cm high and 30 cm wide.
Apart from being a plant that grows and reproduces widely, it can be grown outdoors without any problem thanks to its resistance. What it does require is watering it abundantly as it grows because of its large and thick leaves.
It’ll have its characteristic green color when in the shade, but if you have it in direct sunlight, its leaves will take on a yellowish or reddish tone. Again, it’s recommended that you place it in a spot in mid-shade.
If you want to know more about aloe vera and its medicinal properties, we invite you to read our blog on everything you should know about Aloe vera.
When taking care of your succulents, you’ll realize that they communicate their problems to you through their leaves. That’s to say, if a succulent needs more water, its leaves will dry out and wilt more than usual, and it’ll lose vitality.
On the other hand, if they get overwatered, their leaves will soften and lose firmness. Therefore, try to feel the leaves of your beautiful succulents to know how your nursery is doing.
Finally, we hope you feel encouraged to have succulents and use them to decorate your home. You have already seen that you can place them both indoors and outdoors, and that they're much easier to care for. In addition, they are quite rewarding because they even propagate through their leaves and so, you'll have many more plants to grow in your collection.