Getting Started Growing Succulent Plants – The Basics

Succulent plants don’t have any other botanical name. The term “succulents” is a description of their appearance and behavior with regard to water storage.

growing succulent plants and upclose lookPin

A lot of succulents are native to arid regions and can be found in families such as:

  • Crassulaceae
  • Cactaceae
  • Aizoaceae

NOTE: Not all species in these families are succulents. As a rough estimate, over 25 plant families are known to have more than one species of succulent plants.

However, just because most succulent plants are indigenous to Africa, Australia, and other dry regions, doesn’t mean there aren’t any native to South America, North America, or various tropical or subtropical peninsulas.

A very interesting fact is the status of cacti among succulent plants. Most commercial growers don’t include cacti in this category. However, botanists do.

Growing The ‘Succulent” Plant

Because there are so many succulent plant species, it’s hard to pinpoint all the many similarities between them.

What is evident is that most of them will either develop thick roots, thick trunks, or extra fleshy leaves. It’s rare for a plant species to exhibit multiples of these traits.

The plants store water for long periods of time. This is essential for their survival in arid areas. There are several species of cacti able to live without water for months after just one rainfall.

Although most household succulent plants are chosen for either fleshy leaves or weird yet satisfying bulky trunks, there are plenty of species, types, and subtypes that also produce flowers.

On the other hand, not a lot of them pack a powerful fragrance.

Succulent plants often prefer a climate closer to their native environment, which is warm and dry. This is why the soil needs to dry out in between watering sessions.

They also don’t suffer much from extra sunlight. But many species are known to lose their appeal and fade in color after prolonged exposure.

How To Propagate Succulents

Succulents are propagated from cuttings, leaves, seeds, and root division.

Seeds aren’t always the best choice as certain species of succulents take more than one year to start developing roots this way.

Stem cuttings or leaves are the preferred propagation methods. They heal quickly after being cut and absorb a lot of nutrients and water quickly when placed in the proper potting mixture.

Last but not least, root division may not be pleasant but it may be necessary for some plants in order to control their growth or give new life to the old plant.

Caring For Succulent Plants

Succulent plants such as cacti, Jade plants, Aloe Vera, and the ZZ plant (zanzibar gem) are often chosen for both their aesthetic appeal and low maintenance.

As long as some very basic requirements are met, you won’t have much to worry about.

Many of these requirements are quite standard and always include the following:

  • Well-drained soil
  • Lots of room for root development
  • High temperatures
  • Tons of light [2]

Overwatering is the biggest concern as it’s usually the only way to cause root rot or invite diseases.

Remember succulent plants like plenty of light.

Many species start losing color or developing new colors around the edges or the tips of the foliage. Therefore, consider planting them outside in locations that are spared the bulk of the UV falling around noon.

Succulent Pests, Diseases and Problems

Succulent plants are rather resilient and don’t seem to attract pests to the point where you need to be always prepared with insecticide soap or neem oil sprays.

If spider mites or similar insects find their way onto your plants, swab them with cotton balls soaked in alcohol to get rid of the problem.

Although some species are susceptible to a wide range of diseases, this almost never happens unless plants are overwatered and weakened first.

Succulent Tips, Tricks, And Suggestions

Since most succulent plants are best propagated by way of planting cuttings, a nice trick is to always allow the cut to heal before planting.

This can be as easy as letting it dry out for a few hours or days.

When that doesn’t work, a pruning gel can also be used to quicken the healing process. The majority of succulent plant species also need controlled humidity when planted as cuttings.

It’s recommended to put succulents in separate pots and cover them in a plastic bag. Poke some holes in too.

When planting cuttings, it’s also important to use either moist soil or a layer of sand, depending on the preference of that particular species.

Best Ways To Use In Design – Indoors Or Outdoors

The beauty of succulent plants is that they can grow anywhere as long as you keep them at proper temperatures and give them plenty of light.

This makes succulents:

  • Easy to grow
  • Easy to maintain
  • Excellent ornamental plants both inside and outside

Most succulent plants aren’t prized for their flowers.

They’re mostly chosen for their uniquely textured and colored foliage which can complement fairly simple but bright flowers or hold their own as standalone pieces in open fields.

But, don’t fall prey to their impressive foliage either. Using only succulent plants in your landscaping may not look as good as you may have hoped for.

The end result could be an overcrowded arrangement and even a dull one if you forget to use regular flowers too.

Overcrowding creates too much shade and the soil can stay moist for too long.

It can also cause some foliage to overlap which can take away from their individuality.

Succulent Buying Tips

When buying succulent plants, be careful. Do your research about the specific species and find out more about it.

If you’re buying mature plants, check the firmness of the trunk. Check the integrity of the leaves, and even the soil in which it’s potted.

There are telltale signs of good health or poor growing conditions.

Some species are very expensive. You wouldn’t want to carry a plant home with only two or three months left to live.

Always include some fertilizer too, even though some varieties of succulents need only one helping per year, even when grown indoors.

Fertilizer is good to have on hand if you decide to propagate plants from new cuttings.

What Are The Most Popular Succulents Species And Varieties?

This depends a lot on what you’re looking for. Some species of succulents can grow indoors and outdoors just as easily.

Others may be too big for indoor use and require the right conditions to develop into outstanding pieces in the garden.

Popular Succulent Choices easily found in Stores:

  • Jade plants
  • Dragon trees
  • Cacti
  • Panda plants
  • Zebra plants


Succulent plants cover a very wide range of families, species, subspecies, hybrid variations, etc.

Most of the time, it’s easier to just specify a plant that’s low maintenance, has dense foliage and doesn’t need constant watering.

That should pretty much cover it.

Even though there are so many different types to choose from, given their unique looks and amazing color schemes, the end result is well worth the trouble, especially if you’re just getting started with landscaping or interior decorating.

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