Cacti are succulents. Mic drop, blow your mind, walk away. What exactly is a succulent?
A succulent is a water retaining, drought resistant plant, though I would argue that definition to be wrong because there are some picky-ass succulents out there. Yes, they don’t require the same watering care as the average tropical plant, but I would argue not all of them are completely drought resistant. Succulents can be fuzzy, smooth, pointy, rounded, big, small, spiky and silky. They come in so many variations, I don’t know if there’s a person on this planet that could even name you all the species of succulent. I want to cover basic care requirements for the common houseplant succulents, as well as dive into some wonderful species I’ve included in the pictures below.
Root rot is going to be your biggest problem. Rotten roots come from overwatering and poor drainage: excess water sitting around your plants’ roots can cause the roots to turn black, go mushy, and ultimately drown these absorbing fibres that the plant relies on to uptake nutrients in the soil. In turn, this is why your plant will start to show signs of distress, such as black tips or weird brown-white colour distortion, fading colour, limpness or even shrivelling. Most succulents are extremely unforgiving. That being said, you can’t forget to water your succulents! In summer months, I aim to check my succulent soils’ around every 10 days, allowing for the soil to completely dry out between waterings. I think this is really important for all plant owners to grasp: check your soil with a moisture meter, because the top layer of soil is often not a good enough indicator in how often to be watering your plants. You do not want to water your succulents if the soil at the base of the pot is wet: root rot.
Secondly, full sun. This isn’t negotiable, not up for debate, your succulents need direct sun for at least 6 hours a day (West Coast conditions) and will be exceptionally susceptible to draft of cold air coming from windowsill dew, so as soon as outdoors temperatures drop below 5 degrees, I suggest moving your succulents away from sources of cold night time draft. In winter months, succulents go dormant, so it’s extremely important to keep them happy, warm and dry while they preserve their energy for the spring.
The other word of advice I would give on succulents is to check for scaly bugs, spider mites, viruses and disease. Scaly bugs look like little white or brown scales forming in the crevices of the succulent centre. On cacti, they are often most noticeable around the base of the spikes. Spider-mites look like little white or red grains of salt and are often accompanied by a web: your biggest give away when trying to spot mites. Viruses and diseases, however, are completely specific to the species at hand. If you notice weird grey discolouring or just something that looks out of the ordinary, isolate the infected plants immediately, and research the shit out of it. Like in humans, viruses spread around plants easily.
There are so many fantastic species of succulent. Some of my absolute favourite are the Chocolate Solider plant/ Panda plant, or Kalanchoe tomentosa, a super easy succulent to propagate and care for. Yes, they’re super fuzzy. Another favourite of mine is the Paddle plant, as seen in the fourth photo below, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. Yes, they are cousin species in the same genus! Finally, one of the most fantastic succulents I ever owned was the succulent in the second to last photo, one I still have yet to identify to this day. Though it resembles the many varations of Echevaria succulents in morphological structure, its tree-like stalk and frilled pink-tips have puzzled me since I found this plant in 2015.
If you know what this plant is, comment below!