Despite being a master gardener, I often forget to water my indoor house plants. To compensate for my forgetfulness, I found the perfect houseplants that don't require water or much attention: succulents!
Succulent, derived from the Latin word sucus, means juice or sap. The leaves and stems of succulents are thick and fleshy, allowing them to store water in dry climates and soil.
These exotic-looking plants brighten spaces with their colors, textures and shapes. Because they prefer dry humidity, thrive in warm conditions and adapt to lower light, succulents are the perfect choice for forgetful gardeners.
Succulents grow both indoors and outdoors (garden or container). They are outstanding ornamental plants because of their unusual and striking appearance.
Crassulaceae (sedum) is an example of a succulent that is hearty to our geographic area. Sempervivums (hens and chicks) is a group of succulents that grows both indoors and outdoors.
Opuntieae is the cactus family, of which there are many varieties. Opuntia engelmannii (prickly pear cactus) also is grown indoors and outdoors. Indoor plants from the succulent family include Aloe (aloe vera) and Crassula ovuta (jade plant).
Indoor succulents are available at most garden stores and nurseries. Select succulents that are healthy, appeal to your sense of design and are manageable in size. Once you start purchasing succulents, adding to your collection can be addictive.
Here are helpful some tips to get started growing indoor succulents:
Choose a container with good drainage; a clay pot with a drainage hole is a good example.
Use a soil specifically blended for succulents/cacti. This light soil has more aeration, which dries out quickly in between waterings. Avoid regular potting soil, which is too heavy and holds too much moisture.
Choose healthy succulents, such as those with a strong shape and color with no dead or soggy looking leaves.
To transplant a succulent, fill a container with succulent soil about two-thirds full. Wear gloves if your succulent has thorns or spikes. Gently remove the succulent from the nursery container and place in its new home. Add soil around the edges, then tamp it in, making sure the root ball is secured.
Place a saucer under the container, and water the succulent until the water fills the saucer. Remove the water from the saucer. Allow soil to dry before watering.
Place the succulent in a window that gets morning sun; ensure 4 to 6 hours of morning light each day.
To propagate a succulent, take a cutting and place it in a container filled with succulent soil. Keep the soil moist, and roots will develop.
Give indoor succulents a try. These no-fuss, no stress plants make indoor gardening fun and interesting, even for the forgetful gardener.
Call the Master Gardener Greenline at 724-287-4761, Ext. 229, with questions about succulents and other gardening practices.
Terri Helfer is an apprentice master gardener expecting certification in the fall. She is the director of employee relations at Lifesteps in Butler and has an 18-year-old son. A gardener for about seven years, her plans for this year include putting in a native plant garden and enhancing her chocolate garden.