Paul’s Plant Pick: Week 5 Succulents

I could easily rattle off a dozen or more reasons why I like succulents so much – their rich diversity, mind-blowing colors and textures, ease of care, and so on – but what I like best about them is they’re just plain cool. And funky. And in some cases downright bizarre.

Succulents are native to arid regions all around the world, including the United States. Botanically speaking, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Nevertheless, they all share the ability to store water in their fleshy leaves and stems, a trait that makes them extremely drought tolerant.

They’re also among the easiest plants to grow, which is to say they’re difficult to kill unless you overwater them. They grow in poor soils. They don’t need fertilizer. They don’t need to be pruned. And they’re rarely bothered by pests or diseases. About the only thing easier to grow are plastic plants (and we have plenty of plastic succulents available that look remarkably like the real thing!).

Most succulents are grown as houseplants, but there are several that are perfectly hardy and dependable perennials in our area such as Hens and Chicks, Sedums, and Yucca. Most succulents are also easy to propagate: just stick a leaf on top of the potting mix and it’ll root in no time. And most succulents will grow well in average household light. I overwinter mine on the shelf of a bay window that never gets direct light and they do just fine.

The real trick to keeping succulents healthy and happy, especially during the winter months, is to let them dry thoroughly between waterings. I generally water mine once a month in winter.

You can grow succulents in just about any container, from the traditional to the unusual. At one of our recent Planting Bar classes, a woman showed up with an old, rusty toolbox and proceeded to fill it with succulents. It looked great!

Fun Factoid: Asparagus is a succulent. And when roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, the taste is truly, well, succulent!