THE SUCCULENT PLANT:
Its Many Uses, How to Grow and How to Propagate
For one of the most commonly-seen plants in home decor magazines, due to its fast growth in popularity in recent years, the Succulent Plant is definitely NOT like your most common houseplant. These plants have been advertised as easy-to-grow, and ideal starter plants (even for kids). While they certainly can be easy-care plants, if you are going to have success, you MUST shift your thinking away from the norm for Houseplants. The rules are completely different for Succulents. Think Desert and Extreme Conditions: Cold at night; Hot during the day; Dry--until it rains and then it rains in BUCKETS!
The most common mistakes made when caring for succulent plants are overwatering, not enough watering at watering time, and not enough sunlight. The closer you can get to emulating the conditions in the desert, the more success you will have with your succulent plants. What does this mean?
🍃 Find a window that faces South and put your succulent there. How do you know it is a South-facing window? If it receives AT LEAST 4-5 hours of direct sunlight per day, then you have a south-facing window. Remember, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Begin observing the brightness of the sunlight around noon when the Sun is its second position (for these purposes) for the day, and throughout the afternoon before the sun sets just before dusk;
🍃 In Spring, Summer and Fall, water your Succulent Plant as soon as it gets dry. Water generously--like it is a monsoon. Be sure it drains out the bottom thoroughly. Do not let it sit in water--ever. In warmer weather, open the windows if possible, or place your succulents outdoors in the SAME light conditions. They benefit from fresh air and this helps to discourage rot and disease. Winter is considered its dormant season. Water less frequently--about every 6-8 weeks. For all watering, use tepid tap water. Ice cold water will cause sudden leaf loss.
Planting Your Succulent Garden
🍃 Step 1: Find a south-facing window to put your plant (see above for details) and gauge the space requirements;
🍃 Step 2: Choose a shallow pot or bowl (drainage hole is best) that fits well in the space;
🍃 Step 3: Plan out the number of succulent plants you will need by placing the pots of succulents in the bottom of the pot, arranged the way you would like them to be. A good rule of thumb to avoid overcrowding your plants is to be sure their leaves aren’t crowding the plants next to them. There should be enough space for airflow, so about the width of a 1 finger in between plants. Once you determine the size and number of plants for your chosen pot, check with the plant supplier that the succulents you are choosing have the same light requirements;
🍃 Step 4: Place a 2-inch layer of rocks or pebbles (for drainage) in the bottom of the pot. Then fill the rest of the pot with a well-drained soil mix appropriate for succulent plants. Typically, this includes sand or peat with a high quality well-drained potting soil. Once filled with soil, the top of the soil bed of each plant should not be higher than the rim of the pot. This allows the plants to be watered and drain downward, rather than spilling over the rim of the pot;
🍃 Step 5: Add soil to cover the top of the soil bed of the plants evenly with the other plants, and gently smooth out. This is called Top-Dressing. The original soil bed at the top of each plant should no longer be visible once the new soil is added;
🍃 Step 6: Water until moist and you hear the water draining out the bottom. Then follow appropriate watering instructions (see above) for the season; however the best time to plant your succulent garden is during the growing season (spring or summer).
How To Propagate Succulents (Spring/Early Summer Only)
🍃 Step 1: Find a spot indoors that receives dappled shade and is around 70 degrees fairly consistently;
🍃 Step 2: Choose a regular small plastic pot (this will be temporary). Fill it to the brim with peat or compost and sand (about half and half);
🍃 Step 3: Take your cutting from a healthy succulent plant, by pulling downward until the leaf separates from the plant. If it does not break off easily, use a sharp knife;
🍃 Step 4: Place your cutting to dry out on a paper towel in a cool, partially-shaded spot indoors (around 50 degrees is ideal) for about 2 days until a callous is formed;
🍃 Step 5: Once sufficiently dried, gently place the cutting in your pot mixture and pat down the mixture around the cutting so it stands up straight;
🍃 Step 6: Water gently until slightly moist with tepid water. Repeat this daily for about 2 weeks until it roots. You may also water by misting the mixture (not the cutting itself) if the cutting seems to be sitting in a puddle of water. Rooting of a succulent cutting takes about 2 weeks. To determine if your cutting has rooted, gently tug on it to see if there is resistance (i.e. roots keeping you from easily pulling it from the mixture). If you feel resistance, but still are not sure, you can dig through the mixture beside the cutting to look for any roots developing;
🍃 Step 7: Once your cutting is rooted, it is ready for regular soil. Choose a spot indoors in a south-facing window (see above), and a shallow pot that fits well in that space for your new plant (a pot with a drainage hole is best);
🍃 Step 8: Place a 2-inch layer of rocks or pebbles (for drainage) in the bottom of the pot. Then fill the rest of the pot with a well-drained soil mix appropriate for succulent plants. Typically, this includes sand or peat with a high quality well-drained potting soil;
🍃 Step 9: Dig a hole big enough in the desired spot in your new pot for your cutting, with plenty of room to place the newly-developed roots. Cover the roots and the cutting with your soil mixture up to just underneath the bottom of the leaf cutting;
🍃 Step 10: Water until moist and you hear the water draining out the bottom. Then follow appropriate watering instructions (see above) for the season; however the best time to plant your succulent garden is during the growing season (spring or early summer).
Best Uses for Succulents
Succulents are most commonly-seen as plants in Succulent Gardens (like the ones pictured above) or in groupings with a variety of different plants. Succulents add a unique texture to a grouping and work well with almost any other plants in a design; particularly plants that have contrasting textures, shapes and heights, like the wheat grass in the above picture. As long as your plants have the same soil, light and temperature requirements, you can mix and match any succulent varieties together and other types of plants in one design.
Succulents can also be used in fresh flower design work. Since they have their own “water source” through their fleshy leaves that hold water for long periods, they do not need to be inserted in water to use in fresh design work. They will easily outlast the vase life of most fresh flowers. Succulents are used in all kinds of design work by Florists:
Flowers To Wear
Wedding or Prom Corsage with Succulents
Wedding or Prom Boutonniere with a Succulent
Wedding or Prom Boutonniere with a small Succulent and Seeded Eucalyptus
Floral Centerpieces with Succulent Accents
Large Echeveria Succulent, White Lilies, Roses, Eucalyptus, Ferns, Amaranthus, Buttons, Carnations and Bupleurum
Large Echeveria Succulent, Lilies, Spray Roses, Larkspur, Dusty Miller, Seeded Eucalyptus, Lisianthus, Statice, Ruscus, Carnations, Alstroemeria, Huckleberry, and Lemon Leaf
Roses, Lilies, Minicarnations, Stock, Dusty Miller, Echeveria Succulent bloom, and Pitta Negra
Roses, Spray Roses, Alstroemeria, Pitta Negra, Seeded Eucalyptus, and an Echeveria Succulent.
Phalaenopsis Orchid Sprays, Blue Hydrangeas, Bear Grass, Ti Leaves, Hanging Amaranthus, and Echeveria Succulents.
Echeveria Succulents and Beaded Wire in a Lily bowl
Corporate Gifts and Office Decor
Birds of Paradise, Pin Cushion Protea, Echeveria Succulents, a Hala Leaf, a Xanadu Philodendron Leaf, Monstera Leaves, and Dracaena Leaves
Tillansia Lonantha (air plants), Red-twig Dogwood, Thistle, Seeded Eucalyptus, Spanish Moss, Sheet Moss, Green Trick, and an Echeveria Succulent Bloom
Roses, Lilies, Buttons, Millet, Cattails, Dusty Miller, dried Fall Leaves, Spiral Eucalyptus, Lemon Leaf, Hypericum Berries and an Echeveria Succulent.
Large and Small Echeveria Succulents, River Cane and River Rocks
Cymbidium Orchid, Button Mums, Echeveria Succulents, Seeded Eucalyptus, Vibernum, Bupleurum, Ti Leaf, and a green Rose
Masculine Gifts for Men
Curly willow tips, Sedum succulent, Echeveria succulent, Golden Moss Fern, and a Zebra Haworthia in a black Camaro
Echeveria succulents and reindeer moss
Small and large Echeveria Succulents, and Sedum Succulents in a blue Ford Truck
Echeveria Succulents, and Sedum Succulents in red Mustang
Is a Succulent Plant Always a Cactus Plant?
Most of us are familiar with the Christmas Cactus plant--the Cactus that blooms prolifically around Christmas time. All Cacti are considered succulent plants, but all succulents are NOT Cacti; however they ALL have the same fleshy leaves. Their fleshy leaves become more bulbous as they take in water. Both Cacti and other types of succulents are designed to hold water in their leaves to survive extreme drought conditions in their habitat (i.e. the desert). So, how can we tell the difference between a cactus plant and a non-cactus plant? Cactus plants have something called Areoles. These are branch-like structures that can look either hair-like, bristle-like or both. From these branch-like structures come new growth. On some Cactus plants, the Areoles look almost like a cushion. Many Cacti get their color (i.e. blooms) from the Areoles. You will see Cactus plants with bright pink, yellow, orange, red and even white Areoles.
Cactus Garden with yellow and white Areoles
Cactus Grouping with reddish-orange Areoles near Lomo Quiebre, Spain
Photo Credit Nikos Filippakis for Society of American Florists
Cactus with red Areoles in Gran Canaria a Island, Spain
Photo Credit Anja Jonsson for Society of American Florists
Cactus with pink Areoles
Photo Credit: by dagutzyone for Society of American Florists
All Succulents are long-lasting plants--in soil AND in fresh flower arrangements. When using in fresh flower designs, they need to be wired to be arranged with the other flowers. They do best in this type of design when they are not sitting in water for long periods, since they are susceptible to rot. Non-cactus succulents are more commonly-used in fresh flower designs due to the ease of wiring the blooms to stay upright. With over 2000 species of Cacti and 40-60 different non-Cactus succulent varieties, there are plenty of options for all different styles. These unique plants provide interesting textures that cannot be achieved with any other plant.
We hope you have a better understanding and appreciation of Succulents. If you have a topic you would like to learn more about, let us know and maybe we can write about it!!
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