What is a Succulent Plant

Succulent plants, from tropical to cold hardy, come in astounding variety of sometimes bizarre shapes, colors, and unique features; they have fleshy leaves or stems which help them store water for weeks or months.
Succulent Plants in Kitchen

Succulent Plants in Kitchen

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Photo by: Eric Perry ©2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Eric Perry, 2014, DIY Network/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

What are succulent plants? The meaning of succulent as it relates to food is juicy or tender. The definition of succulent plants is similar: plants that store water in leaves, stems, or both. There are many different types, species, and cultivars of them all, in a fascinating assortment of shapes, sizes, colors, and unique features ranging from frills to spines and beautiful flowers.

To define succulents further, cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. They can be native to arid deserts, seaside cliffs, cold mountains, or even steamy jungles. Many will simply melt into mush if exposed to freezing temperatures, but there are quite a few which will grow outside during harsh freezing weather, as far north as Canada.

Succulent means that the plants can tolerate prolonged drought, sometimes for months; most grow best in bright light, but not always full hot sun.

Favorites by Common and Latin Names

What are succulents you may already be familiar with? Favorite heirloom succulents with odd but familiar common names and somewhat recognizable Latin names include wax plant (Hoya), mother-in-law tongue (Sansevieria), jade (Crassula), crown of thorns (Euphorbia), hens and chicks (Sempervivum), century plant (Agave), prickly pear (Opuntia), burn plant (Aloe), stonecrop (Sedum), zebra plant (Haworthia), and many more.

Other very popular succulent genera include Kalanchoe, Senecio, Echeveria, and Aeonium; word-search any of these and you will find many plants you have probably seen in garden centers or on other gardeners’ porches.  

Growing Succulents

Most succulents can live for decades with just bright light and occasional watering, plus a rare feeding with all-purpose plant food. They are not fussy, but sometimes have problems with mealybugs, scale, or other sap-sucking insects.

Though some develop their best foliage color when exposed to a lot of light, many can burn in hot summer sun, particularly in humid climates. A sheer curtain may be needed for plants grown in a window with direct sun. Not enough light often leads to leggy, weak growth.

Their worst enemy, other than freezing, is overwatering which can cause leaves to shed prematurely and rots their roots and stems. Avoid this by planting in a super well-drained soil containing organic matter plus coarse sand and either perlite or grit, and water only when soil is dry. 

Grow Your Own

There are several easy ways to propagate succulents. A lot have small plants called “pups” growing from short stems at their base, which can be twisted or cut off and replanted. Those with long stems usually root quite easily, but let cuttings dry for a day or more to heal over to reduce rotting.

A surprising number of succulents can be grown from leaf cuttings or entire leaves. Some actually grow new plants on the tips of leaves or along flower stems. Simply stick them in potting soil and with minimal care they will quickly grow into mature plants.

Use succulents as specimen or collections, indoors or out, in containers, rock gardens, hanging baskets, and wreaths and other wall plantings.

Simple Succulents 03:34

Our expert shares her secrets for growing and selecting succulents.

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Succulent Plants

Succulent plants have juicy leaves or stems for holding water through long periods of drought. They come in an array of shapes, colors, sizes and temperature tolerance and are suitable for growing in dry garden areas or in containers both indoors and out.

How to Plant Succulents

Succulents are easy to grow, but should be planted properly to get the most out of their versatility.

Different Colors of Succulents

Succulent plants come in a vast array of leaf shapes and colors, enough to satisfy the designer eye in any gardener.

Types of Succulents

Succulent plants offer an incredible array of types, sizes, shapes, colors, flowers, fruits, garden uses, and temperature tolerances, coming from a wide range between tropical jungles, deserts, mountains, and extremely cold climates.

Growing Succulents Outdoors

Create the right conditions for growing exotic-looking hardy succulents outdoors in an garden, anywhere in the country.

Pruning and Trimming Succulents

Succulent plants often need pruning to remove unruly or overgrown growth, and their dead or dying stems, leaves, and flower stems trimmed.

Succulent Gardens

Succulent gardens, both indoors and out, are interesting, low maintenance, and easy, and contain a variety of sometimes-bizarre plants in many shapes, sizes, colors, and features. The most crucial things they need are bright light, and well-drained soils that never stay wet.

Rare and Unusual Succulents

Succulent plants are strange enough, but some go way beyond the same old, same old kinds grown in gardens and containers around the country.

Growing Succulents Indoors

Nearly anyone wondering how to grow succulents indoors can look no farther than their own grandmother’s windowsill, which probably boasted at least one.

Succulent Wreath and Arrangements

Create a unique living wreath or wall hanging using small types of colorful succulents.

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