Houseplant Hack: Everything You Need To Know About Succulents
The Debrief: This cute houseplant is perfect for your new uni room, but comes with a strict set of drinking rules
Illustration by Amy Victoria Marsh
Succulents are by far the sweetest, cutest houseplants of all. They come in many shapes and colours but mostly look like more aesthetically-pleasing versions of cabbages. They're much smaller than the king of houseplants, the cheese plant - you can sit them on your desk, your windowsill, your bedside table, and just about everywhere. You can even get heart-shaped ones! The possibilities are endless. What's more is that they're *supposedly* pretty much death-proof (as long as you get the watering part right...) making them super popular for their low-maintenance nature.
Below is all you need to know about how to keep happy healthy succulent houseplants.
What ARE succulents?
Well. Some cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti...? Confusing. A cactus is basically a succulent because it can store moisture, but it's placed in a different plant category. Usually, succulents don't have prickles and have smooth leaves instead. They have thick, rubbery leaves full of sap, which stores their water supply and allows them to live in high temperatures. This means if you have outdoor succulents, you should bring them inside for the winter - they don't like the cold.
How often should I water my succulents?
This is the tricky part - it's a myth that these little guys don't need much water, unlike their cactus cousins. The deal is that succulents like their roots soaked with water, but they dry out quickly. What you need to do is saturate the soil with water, but DON'T water them again until the soil has totally dried out. Don't water them daily and don't use a spray bottle - these are the kisses of death for your succulent friends. Give them too much water and the leaves will oversaturate and fall off, leaving you with just a bald trunk in a pot... sadly I know this from experience (RIP). In the winter they go 'dormant' and need less water because they stop growing for a bit. Here is a good guide for all your succulent watering needs.
How to plant/pot a succulent:
Make sure they're potted in a container with drainage holes; so jars and fancy glass terrariums aren't a good idea. While they like their roots quite damp, they can get diseases if they stay in soil that's too wet for too long! They seem to be a fussy bunch on the watering front. It's recommended that you change the soil every 1-2 years, and trim the roots as you do. Place them somewhere they'll get about half a day's worth of sunlight per day.
Are succulents poisonous?
Pretty much, no. Aloe vera and Opuntius ficus-indica ('prickly pear' to you and me) can be eaten, and apparently some types go very nicely in a stir-fry, but why you would want to eat your houseplants I just dont know. However, succulents in the spiky Euphorbia family contain sap that can irritate the skin and so gloves should be worn when handling them. It's worth finding out exactly what type of succulent yours is if you have small children or animals in the house.
Will my succulents grow?
Mini succulents, the ones you're most likely to find in shops, are very slow-growing. Keep them healthy by following the potting advice above. In terms of growing flowers, a lot of succulents are shy, and won't flower very easily. They need optimum conditions of light, water and soil, and some can take two years before they'll bloom. Unless you have seriously green fingers, you should love them just the way they are.
Liked this? You might also like:
Follow Frankie on Twitter @wildisssh
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating