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Starting Up with Succulents

Succulents are charming plants and make a great, easy-care addition to your household jungle. Learning more about these popular plants can help you give them the best growing environment so they can thrive and show off their unique foliage, striking colors, and fascinating structures.

What Are Succulents?

If you are familiar with aloe, agave, jade, or snake plants, you already know some of the most popular succulents. But what makes these plants different from other houseplants? Succulents store moisture in their thick, fleshy leaves and can go long periods without regular watering, making them ideal for anyone with a busy schedule. These plants are also excellent choices for growing in arid or drought-prone areas, xeriscaping zones, and rock gardens, and they are incredibly quaint in all sorts of containers. They are slow growers and very forgiving of occasional neglect, which makes them perfect for anyone whose green thumb might not be quite so green when it comes to houseplants. Yet, with a tremendous variety of succulents, even the most experienced houseplant gardener can find a new succulent to enjoy and appreciate.

Choosing Succulents

Many beautiful succulents are available, ranging from tiny, delicate plants perfect for a miniature scene or fairy garden to much larger, stately plants that make excellent statement pieces. When choosing succulents, experiment with various colors, textures, and shapes, and consider mixing and matching smaller plants in one container for increased visual interest. Take care, however, that the plants you choose for the same container have similar care requirements and needs so they can grow comfortably together. If you’re choosing larger plants, a single succulent can be impressive on its own as it reaches its full potential.

Caring for Succulents 

Succulents are relatively easy-care plants, but they do have specific needs. By meeting those needs, you are sure to give all your succulents excellent care.


A pot for succulents must have excellent drainage with one or more drainage holes. These plants do not like wet feet, and unfinished terra cotta pots are perfect as the porous pots breathe and help keep soil from retaining too much moisture. Shallow or otherwise small pots are fine for succulents, as these slow-growers don’t mind being a bit cramped.


Fast-draining soil is a must for succulents, and specialized soil blends are formulated precisely for succulents. Adding coarse, sharp sand or a handful of perlite will help improve soil drainage and make it even more suitable for succulents.


These plants need only mild feeding, and a well-balanced, general fertilizer diluted to half strength will offer them the nutrition they require. Succulents should be fed monthly from spring through fall when they are actively growing but do not need to be fed when their growth has slowed in winter.


Succulents love bright sunlight and will have their best color and keep their compact, geometric shapes when they get, on average, 6 hours of sunlight each day. South or west-facing windows will offer the best sunlight, and rotating pots every few days can help ensure straight, even growth. Use wheeled stands or coasters for larger succulent containers to be easily rotated.


These plants do well in typical household temperatures but like slightly cooler temperatures when their growth slows in winter. At that time, moving them to a cooler room can help ease their stress and keep their seasonal pattern intact.


While succulents thrive in arid climates, they need proper watering to stay plump and fresh. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, but when you do water succulents, water them thoroughly. Do not let the plants stand in water; empty saucers immediately. For larger potted succulents, pot feet, to lift the plants above the saucer, will assist in drainage. Avoid pouring water directly on the fleshy leaves. Instead, water the soil using an indoor watering can.


  1. Medicinal Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) – Aloe extract is frequently used in producing moisturizers and cosmetics and as a home remedy for treating burns.
  2. Echeveria (Echeveria spp) –  Echeveria are highly prized for their beautiful rosettes or leaves that come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
  3. String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) – This unusual succulent has a unique leaf that is the shape, size, and color of a small pea. It is typically grown in a hanging basket to suit its creeping habit.
  4. Flap Jacks (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) – Large, rounded, thick, paddle-shaped leaves give this succulent its unique look. The leaves take on a reddish tint in the winter.
  5. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) – Long-lived and very easy to grow, the Jade plant looks like a bonsai tree as it grows and is considered a symbol of good luck.
  6. Zebra Plant (Haworthia attenuata) – This succulent has a similar growth habit to an Aloe but is dark green with white stripes, small, and very slow growing. The Zebra Plant is an excellent addition to a succulent terrarium.
  7. Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum) – This is another succulent usually planted in a hanging basket. The unique Burro’s Tail sports small, thick, fleshy leaves whorled on drooping stems.
  8. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) – The Snake Plant thrives on neglect and can take less sun than most other succulents.
  9. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) – This holiday blooming favorite is another succulent that may be planted in a hanging basket due to its trailing habit. This plant is fantastic for holiday gift-giving.
  10. Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) – This darling succulent, sometimes called ‘Pussy Ears,’ is a favorite of children as it has grayish-blue, velvety, succulent leaves.

Give a few of these easy-to-grow succulents a try this year. Before you know it, you’ll be hooked!