Container Gardening

Five Easy-to-Grow Succulents

By Nina Koziol


Succulents rank high on my list of cool, must-have house plants. It’s no surprise because they are simple to manage and they’re very forgiving, especially if I occasionally neglect to water. This article provides information on five easy-to-grow succulents which I regard as low-maintenance treasures.

Succulent leaves have intriguing shapes, colors and textures. They can be smooth, hairy, wooly, chunky, rubbery, spiky or slender. Colors range from silver-blue to green, white, violet-gray, red-green, and pink, white and green.

Another interesting attribute is their weird shapes. For example, the genus Lithops includes plants that are called “living rocks” or “stone plants” because their leaves look like small pebbles with smooth flat surfaces. There are many others that are just as fascinating.

Succulents Defined

The word ‘succulent’ refers to several groups of plants including cacti, aloe, crassula, kalanchoe, haworthia, sansevieria, sedum and echeveria, among others. Many have curious common names: donkey’s tail, crown-of-thorns, Christmas cactus, pearl plant, flaming Katy, panda plant, and hens-and-chicks.

Pink Star (Cryptanthus) is a tough, durable plant. The leaf colors intensify when it’s grown in a south-facing window with bright light.

Photo by Nina Koziol

Their native habitats provide clues about what they require to thrive indoors. For example, some succulents grow in desert and semi-desert environments where the conditions are exceptionally hot and dry during the day and very cold at night. Rainfall in these environments is sporadic. The plants have adapted to these harsh conditions by storing water in their leaves, stems and roots.

Other succulents grow in tropical jungles. An example is Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), which differs considerably in appearance from desert cacti. It grows on tree branches, rocks and on moss. In some mountains of South America, succulents only get moisture from moist air.

 How to Care for Succulents

The first step is to place them where the light is bright. 

  • Succulent Planting Tips. Some garden centers sell bags of potting mix designed for cacti and succulents. When plants outgrow their pots, I pick a container with a diameter two inches larger and repot them using fresh soil-less potting mix.
  • Succulent Watering Instructions. Pots need drainage holes in the bottom and a saucer underneath to catch runoff and protect furniture. Unlike my other houseplants, succulents get watered from the bottom of the pot instead of the top of the soil. I take the plants to the sink, fill up the saucers with water and set the plants on the saucers. After a few hours, I empty the saucers. Most of the water has been absorbed by the potting mix. However, you can simply take the pot to the sink and water the plant from above, letting the excess drain out of the bottom. Avoid getting water on the leaves or stems. If the leaves on your succulents are turning yellow or falling off, you may be over watering them.
  • How Frequently Do Succulents Need Water? Water them once a week in spring and summer, and twice a month in fall and winter. They’ll reward you with a fabulous, carefree display. Their ability to hold water in the leaves is a plus — you won’t have to water them as often as other houseplants. But, overwatering succulents is detrimental — it causes roots and leaves to rot.

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