Container Gardening

Succulent Basics 101

By Darren Sherriff


Sanseveria species. This plant can go by different common names, such as “Snake Plant” and “Mother-in-Law Tongue”. Sanseveria varieties have stiff, upright, sword-like leaves that may be solid green, banded, spotted or edged in gray, silver, or gold. These plants are very tolerant of low light and drought. They also are effective at cleaning the air, removing toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from indoor environments, making them the perfect house plant.

Haworthia species. Very often confused with Aloe plants, these spikey plants are even easier than their mis-identified, though related, brethren. All species of Haworthia originated in South Africa. If you want diversity, these plants will not let you down. The leaves can be hard, soft, long, short, or grass-like. They have a wide range of colors, some with lines, hairs, and spines. Depending on species, they only average three to six inches, and prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sun can make the leaves shrivel up or cause brown scorch marks.

Echeveria species. If there are any succulents that should be handled with extreme care, this would be it, because the leaves break off easily. Echeverias grow as rosettes, usually only 2 – 6 inches across on very short stems. The rosette has fleshy, blue-green leaves that become tinged with red when exposed to sun. Handle it with care because the leaves are easilydamaged.

Sedum morganianum. Burro’s Tail, or Donkey’s Tail, is especially good for a hanging basket or if you want the plant to trail down a tall flower pot. It has gray-green or gray-blue tiny “pea shaped” leaves on a stem that grows up to 3 feet long. Hang them in the corner of a room where it can get as much light as possible. Try to keep the “tails” from getting too long. If you have pets or children, the little, tear-drop leaves can break off very easily.

Lithops species. These ‘living stones’, as they are often called, are one of the slowest growing, unusual succulents. They are called living stones for a very good reason. The camouflage prevents thirsty animals from eating them during a drought. They look like two brightly colored pebbles sitting next to each other and don’t get much taller than one inch in height. To grow, they will need very bright light and an extremely light hand with water. The ‘stones’ can burst if they receive too much. There is a vast amount of color variations in this species and it is highly unlikely that you would ever be able to collect them all.

 

Pests That Prey on Succulents

Most succulents that are grown indoors have very few pests. Aphids, Mealy Bugs, and Spider Mites, being the three main culprits. Aphids are the most common.  To remove any of these pests, you can hose your plants off with a good stream of water in the sink. Insecticidal soap can also be used if they start to get out of control. A cotton swab dipped in alcohol can be used to wipe away the larger insects, such as mealy bugs.

 

Succulent Basics 101 Summary

Succulents are very forgiving. They thrive on some neglect, can help keep the indoor air clean, and will bring a little bit of nature into your home. There are many different styles, varieties, and growth patterns to choose from. With a bit of research you will find something that would fit your desires and needs.

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