Succulents are the perfect plant for forgetful gardeners. Succulent care is easy, and succulent gardens and terrariums can brighten any indoor space. Learn about the best types of succulents to grow in the home.
Succulent plants are trendy for a reason. With juicy leaves, stems, or roots, succulents form a vast and diverse group of plants, offering easy-care choices for your home. Plus, they look stunning planted alone or as companions.
The color variation of succulents seems almost endless: blue-green, chartreuse, pink, red, yellow, white, burgundy, almost black, variegated, and more. The leaves may be rounded, needlelike, berrylike, ruffled, or spiky. Many have an enticing “touch-me” quality — even cacti.
Succulent Test Garden Tip: All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
While some types of succulents have somewhat exacting care requirements, most are easy to grow because they evolved with special water-storage tissues that allow them to survive in environments that are too dry for most other plants.
Succulents like the dry humidity and warm conditions found in most homes, and while they like direct light, they can adapt to lower light. They all prefer a fast-draining potting medium that’s not watered too often. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
These succulent plants for the home are easy to find and care for.
Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
Burro’s tail is shown to its best advantage planted in a hanging basket. Overlapping, gray-green or gray-blue leaves grow up to 3 feet long. A native of Mexico, it prefers medium to high light for best performance.
Succulent Growing Tip: Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings, and keep soil on the dry side during winter dormancy. Fertilize once in summer with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Although burro’s tail rarely blooms, pink or red flowers may appear at the end of the stems in summer.
The leaves fall off with even a light touch, so keep burro’s tail where it won’t be disturbed. If you move a houseplant outside for summer, keep it in a shaded location. Even though burro’s tail likes bright light, sudden exposure to direct sunlight may cause sunburn.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
To grow, allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings. Keep it drier in the winter. When the plant is in bud, pay close attention, because even slight dehydration or overwatering may cause buds to drop. Provide medium to high light, and fertilize three times in summer using a 10-30-10 fertilizer to promote blooms.
To initiate flower bud formation in the fall, drop the indoor temperature to 55 degrees F. Or move your plants outdoors to a shaded spot in summer and leave them out as temperatures fall. Move them indoors before the temperature reaches 45 degrees F. To prune, pinch off stem segments where necessary to keep the plant stubby.
Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
A popular import from Madagascar, crown of thorns can bloom year-round if given enough light. Long, spoon-shape leaves appear at the ends of spiky branches, along with clusters of tiny flowers. You might not notice the flowers because they’re so small, but you will see the red, salmon, or yellow bracts that surround them.
When the plant is in bloom, allow only the top inch or so of soil to dry out between waterings. When the plant is not blooming, be sure the top half of the pot’s soil is dry before watering. Don’t let the entire pot dry out, however, or the plant will drop its leaves. If your plant dries out and loses its leaves, it will grow new ones in a few weeks after you begin watering.
Direct sun produces the best bloom, but crown of thorns adapts to medium light. Fertilize three times in summer using a bloom-booster fertilizer of 10-30-10.
All euphorbia contain a skin-irritating sap. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling.
Hens-and-Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum or Echeveria elegans)
Two succulent plants share the common name of hens-and-chicks. They’re closely related but look different. Both produce “chicks” — small, identical plants that are slightly offset from the mother (the hen).
Echeveria elegans forms flat, flowerlike rosettes with rounded edges. Sempervivum tectorum also forms in rosettes, but each leaf tends to be flatter and more pointed. The flowering patterns are different. Echeveria grows arching, smooth, bell-shape blooms every year. Individual Sempervivumgrows pink star-shape flowers on plants that die after flowering. Usually by this time the plant has produced so many offsets that the loss is not great. After all, the Latin translation of sempervivum means “ever living.”
When grown as houseplants, the two perform the same way. Both should be allowed to dry slightly between waterings, as overwatering causes rotting. Water very little during winter dormancy.
Fertilize three times in summer with 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer. Propagate by removing offsets and potting them. Although they look tough, they can easily be scarred if water touches the foliage or if bumped.
Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
The jade plant is an old-fashioned favorite for a reason: It’s so easy to grow! This long-lived South African native grows thick stems and thick, glossy green leaves tinged with red.
Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. Although some gardeners water jade only when the leaves begin to pucker or lose their shine, these are signs the plant is already stressed, so it may begin to drop leaves. Jades are most commonly killed by overwatering. A plant may adopt a weeping form if chronically overwatered.
Fertilize three times in summer only with 10-10-10 fertilizer. Keep jade plants potted in terra-cotta for good air movement through the soil and to help balance a top-heavy plant. Repotting is seldom necessary because of the small root system, but if you do repot, use a mix for cactus or well-draining potting soil.
Prune jade as necessary to keep it symmetrical, so one side doesn’t cause the entire pot to topple. Simply cut off a branch or leaf, and plant it to create new plants. Rooting new plants around the base of a plant creates the look of a shrubby thicket. For an architectural look, some gardeners pinch all the leaves along the thick stems, leaving only the leaves at the top.