Demand for succulents has grown exponentially in the last few years, particularly in China where possession of rare succulents is considered a marker of status. We’re here to clear up some common misconceptions about this broad group of plants, and answer some of your questions!
Misconception 1: Succulents are ‘unkillable’
‘I can’t even keep succulents alive’ is a refrain we hear a lot from anxious plant-owners. It’s meant to be a huge mark of plant care failure, but a lot more common than people think! In fact, people come to us with succulent woes more often than almost any other group.
Succulents require minimal care but they still have specific demands. Even sitting in a room that’s too moist could cause your cacti to shrivel up and, unlike a lot of foliage plants, by the time you see evidence of overwatering, it may be too late to resolve.
Misconception 2: Succulents = cacti
All cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti. Which brings us to one of our most frequently asked questions: what IS a succulent?
As a rough guideline: succulents are plants that store water in their fronds, leaves or stems. The word ‘succulent’ comes from the Latin sucus, meaning juice, or sap. As succulents are plants that have adapted to live in dry environment, they’re often desert-natives but not always - some Hoyas prefer tropical climates, for example.
Succulents can be climbers, flowering plants, delicate, stubby, viney, and in any number of colours (all of the below are succulents).
Misconception 3: Succulents are cheap
The tiny succulents you find at market stalls might not cost much but this changes rapidly as they go up in size (and these poor babies are unlikely to last). As what counts as a succulent varies hugely, the cost of succulents varies too. But typically, succulent plants will be slow growing, which makes mature varieties more valuable.
It takes time, energy, space and labour to grow certain varieties, but of course succulents DO grow, and some are relatively fast growers, such as the Hoya Linearis.
How often should you water a succulent?
As per the above, it’s important to get the basic care requirements of all your plants, but in terms of the biggest succulent families - Aloes, Sansevierias and Cacti - keep watering to a bare minimum!! We’re talking weeks on end. The soil should be bone dry before watering.
On the other hand, plants like the Madagascar Jewel and most Hoyas prefer to be watered around once every ten days.
Do succulents clean the air?
We tend to think of foliage plants as king among air-purifiers but succulents also have powerful Breathe properties. Mother-in-Law’s tongues and Emerald Palms were some of the most successful air-purifiers in NASA’s famous clean air study.
Do succulents grow in pots?
Cacti are notoriously slow growing, but as living things, of course all succulents grow and get bigger!
Can you cut off a piece of a succulent and re-pot?
Yes! A lot of succulents can be propagated in this way. Whether the best method is cutting off a frond, repotting a pup or separating from the roots will depend on the variety.
Growing a new succulent from a cutting is a particularly cool way of repotting and it won’t harm your plant to give it a go - cut off a healthy frond above a ‘joint,’ let it dry out and then it should sprout roots, after which you can pop it into a small growing pot with cactus-specific soil.
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