Californians and their succulents, man. They’re a people obsessed! I remember when I first moved out here a mere seven years ago and we were just on the cusp of the succulent rage. From weddings to gardens to plant shops to casual conversations, it seemed that succulents crept into every aspect of life in one way or another. In fact, it’s kind of the nature of succulents to wander and creep and find their way into nooks and crannies, so it’s a fitting metaphor.
I didn’t get the obsession at first. I would rather have surrounded myself with lush green plants and bold flowers. But I didn’t yet understand the real threat of drought, not to mention the subtle beauty and vast diversity in the succulent family. A few years into my California life, I’m here to say that I’m fully on board with succulent mania!
What Are Succulents?
As I’ve learned over and over in the world of flowers, leaves and stems with a waxy cuticle will resist heat and wilting like champs. Here begins the magic of succulents. Succulents store so much water in their leaves that, once established, they can live and even thrive through severe drought. They’re the perfect plants for travelers, black-thumbs, never-at-homes, and the forgetful among us.
The jury is still out on how to botanically classify a succulent, for the term actually applies to a really broad range of plants. From tropical, heat thriving cacti to hardy varieties that live through freezes, we call something a succulent as long as the plant holds water in its leaves.
Tips For Growing Great Succulents
- Watch the water! Succulents like it dry, and thrive with just minimal amounts of water. Often this can come from the air itself (think of neglected succulents peeking out of a rock wall on a foggy San Francisco day).
- Let them drain! While many succulents can thrive in any type of pot, for the best results make sure you house them in pots with big drainage holes, and a porous, chunky potting soil that allows water to filter downwards and drain out as needed.
- Give them sun! They might do ok inside your dark house for a little while, but they won’t thrive there. Succulents naturally thrive in the desert under the hot blazing sun, so remember that when you’re deciding where to plant your one-of-a-kind succulent garden.
3 Favorite Succulents
Hens-and-Chicks (Echeveria elegans)
This is one of the first varieties that comes to mind when considering the broad succulent family.
Hens-and-Chicks are easy to find at your local garden center, and do well outside as well as potted indoors near a window. Their pale purple shading contrasts nicely with simpler green plants. They’re super easy to propagate (as are many succulents) – just check out this tutorial for some tips.
String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw this plant.
While they look cool anywhere, the best placement in my mind is in a hanging planter where they’re really allowed to trail and let their droopy nature show. They prefer light, although indirect, so hanging on the porch is ideal in my experience.
Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
This is one of those plants that can do pretty well inside your house even if you head out of town for a while or really want to push the limits on how infrequently to water.
Snake plants can get really tall if you let them. This makes them ideal for planting in huge, showy pots in the living room to bring a taste of the outdoors inside on a dark winter day. Remember my tip about drainage as these guys don’t appreciate sitting in water!
What are your favorite succulents? We’d love to hear your stories of either success or mishap!