Succulents for 2018

PLANT OF THE MONTH

Succulents

“Growing succulents is easy!”

This time of year is a very trying time for us outdoor people. It is cold and everything outside is dormant. I need a way to satisfy my gardening urges so I have started growing succulents indoors during the wintertime. These are very easy to grow plants that give me something interesting to plant in the off- season. 

Succulents are very closely related to cactus. They are plants that have modified their stem and leaves to be much thicker. This is a survival mechanism for water conservation in dry areas. They differ from true cactus in that they have no true spines, some may have sharp leaf tips but no actual spines. This difference makes them a lot more fun to handle and plant than true cactus. The other significant difference is they are not as drought tolerant as cactus. Yes, they need to dry between waterings but should not stay at that dry stage as long as cactus. This more frequent watering and fertilizing makes succulents grow much more than cactus.

crape myrtle sprouting

When planting succulents there are a few key points to remember: First they need a fairly coarse soil mix, Stutzmans soil works well (it’s all we use here) or specialty cactus soil can be used. Do not use any soil that says water saver or moisture control, as these do not dry out fast enough between waterings. Second, do not overpot your succulents. This simply means they like a constricted root system so use smaller pots, or as I like to do put a good number of plants into a single pot. This keeps the root space limited and makes for a more interesting display of color, height, and texture. Lastly, if your pot is deeper than a few inches it is good to put a layer of gravel on top of the soil after planting. This will help the soil to dry more evenly, not just on top and it looks good too. 

Growing succulents is easy too. Indoors they like a bright area out of cold drafts. If the light level is lower allow succulents to dry more as they are growing less. Overwatering in low light will lead to pale spindly growth. During the short days of winter don’t expect them to grow a lot indoors. When warmer weather gets here succulents love to be outside. They like a bright area but appreciate a little shade during the hottest time of the year (Don’t we all?). If you notice tan, yellow or indented spots on the leaves they may be getting sunburned. A word of advice, when you bring them outside I would put them in a somewhat shady place for a week or so to give them a chance to adjust to the UV rays in natural sunlight. Like us if they go from indoors all winter to the full sun outdoors the will sun burn badly. Once adjusted again, they will be fine. I water my outdoor pots very thoroughly about once a week. I fertilize them every other watering with Stutzmans all-purpose fertilizer. It is amazing how they grow and develop great color outside. Indoor succulents need watered less, just check the soil until it’s dry. I also fertilize at half rate indoors.

     I hope this helps you to be successful with one of my favorite types of plants. We have a great selection of them at the greenhouse. Some of the bowls we already have made up are amazing! The colors and textures of some of these plants remind of something from undersea or outer space. Come out and see what I’m talking about.

Jason French

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