I have been a little obsessed with succulents lately. Unlike the others plants that I have attempted to cultivate over the years, my succulents do not die (as often) – or should I say, I do not kill them. They are beautiful and nearly indestructible.
A succulent is any plant with thick, fleshy (succulent) water storage organs. Succulents store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. These plants have adapted to survive dry conditions throughout the world, from Africa to the deserts of North America and now – my home.
Here’s what I have found out about succulents – they prefer bright light, like a south-facing window. My townhouse is a bit dark, so I rotate them on a weekly basis – one week in side, one week outside on the balcony.
It’s important to watch the leaves for indications that the light level is correct. I have found that some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. The leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed.
If a succulent plant does not have enough light for a prolonged period of time, it will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves (it gets leggy). It helps to prune the plant back to its original shape.
One of the problems I had with my previous gardening efforts is that I could never gauge their water needs. I would either water them too much or too little. With succulents, you need to water them more in the summer allowing them to dry between watering (Once per week seems should do the trick). During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every other week – if you live in South Florida. Over watering can lead to plant rot, this is the single most common cause of plant failure.
Succulents should be potted in a fast-draining mixture that’s designed for cacti and succulents. The most important factor in choosing a planting medium is that it allows food, water and air to get to the roots and is porous enough to let water drain through. I have been adding sand, small pebbles and vermiculite to the soil, it so far so good! Sometimes I add A top dressing of crushed granite or sea shells just to kick things up a notch. The top dressing has the added benefit of keeping the topsoil from drying out faster than the rest of the soil in the pot, also, it keeps the base of the plant dry and assists in the even distribution of water through the soil.
My favorite part of my new found gardening success is combining my latest succulent find into mini succulent or cacti gardens.
A beach bucket/pail – I prefer metal to plastic. I also love anything cobalt blue.
I still need to figure out the best fertilizer for my plants – I am told that adding a low nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer at ¼ the recommended rate is ideal, I have not tried this recipe yet – I let you know.