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What Are Succulents?

by Sofia Lara
What Are Succulents?

Succulents are my favorite plants. I’m often told by my friends that I’m obsessed with these flowers, but let me explain what are succulents and what they are good for, and you’ll understand how my passion started. 

Succulents refer to all types of plants that are able to store water and can withstand dry spells. It’s name comes from the latin “succulentus” which means full of juice or moisture. They have the unique ability to store water in leaves, roots and stems, which gives them a swollen and fleshy appearance. 

Succulents are sun loving plants and a warm environment is necessary for cultivation. However, a scorching sun can bleach the leaves or turn them brownish. On the opposite, not enough sun exposure can cause the stretching and elongating of the plant. The perfect temperature for succulents is between 10 °C (50 °F) and 30 °C (85 °F).

Where do succulents grow naturally? 

There are a few places in the world where these plants can thrive. North and South America, and parts of Southern Africa host about 10,000 different species and about 2,000 “members” of the cactus family. 

Are succulents the same as cactus? 

Are succulents the same as cactus? 

Yes, all cactuses are succulent plants, but not all succulents are cactuses. Cacti or cactuses are “distant cousins” and they usually have specific characteristics, such as:

  • Areoles (small areas that bear spines, thorns and hairs)
  • Large flowers 
  • Produce fruits, most of them edible. 

The biggest cacti is about 66 feet tall and weighs about 4800 pounds. Some species can survive from 15 to 300 years.

What are succulents used for?

Succulents are a great choice for an outdoor garden as well as for indoor plants. They release oxygen 24/7 and keep a perfect level of humidity, so you can really live a healthier life with them around. 

Some succulent plants, such as Aloe, are known for being helpful with burns and have been used for cosmetics since many years ago. Note that some people might be allergic to some substances found in the sap inside the leaves. 

What’s the difference between succulents and air plants? 

The main difference is in their leaves. Succulent plants are a unique type of plant with leaves that are thicker and have a rubber like texture. Unlike air plants, they prefer less water, and don’t thrive in very wet soil. They need water, but it’s important to know that overwatering can cause the roots to rot and the plant to die. Underwatering can stop the growing process. The key to a healthy succulent plant is fewer but deep waterings. That means you should allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.

The most common species of succulents are: Sempervivum, Echeveria, Aloe Vera, Agave, Crassula, Stapelia or Starfish Plant. 

Do succulents symbolize anything? 

Do succulents symbolize anything? 

Some people believe that they bring good luck. The Jade plant, for example, is well known for being a plant that attracts wealth and its presence in the house or in the office is considered a sign of wellbeing. 

Succulents as an indoor plant

A few years ago, I received a housewarming gift from my husband, a nice mint and golden bowl filled with some colorful plants. It was a beautiful Echeveria. I fell in love with these plants and since then my collection has grown a lot. 

All the information I got, at the time, was that they were low maintenance plants and that they will live a long period without water. The more I started to research and get more succulents, I realised how special these plants are. I can now honestly say that I found a hobby and a passion for life. Watching them grow and thrive is a unique experience.

The pot you decide to use for the plants is very important. You can choose different sizes, colors and textures, but what truly makes the difference is the material. 

  • Ceramic pots will draw the moisture from the soil, but they are quite heavy and tend to heat in the sun. 
  • Plastic containers mean less watering but it’s mandatory to have a drainage hole at the bottom
  • Wood planters can hold a lot of moisture and with time, the container may rot. 

All the materials have pros and cons and at the end of the day it’s your choice. 

Soil is a vital part of growing healthy and happy succulents. You should consider a mix of porous soil, coarse sand and perlite, which is an additive that allows water to drain easily. Also, consider buying a pH test kit to discover if your soil is acid( pH below 7) or alkaline (pH over 7). Succulents prefer neutral or slightly acid soil and you should know there are a few ways to increase or decrease the pH of the soil. Ground or powdered lime has the ability to raise the pH and ferrous sulfate can be useful in lowering your pH.

I hope that this article was a good introduction to succulents and now you know what they are and you’ll soon get one, if you haven’t already. 

Do you own a succulent? I would love to see a picture and hear the story about the first one.

Last Updated on June 28, 2022 by Sofia Lara

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