Succulent Plants

Succulent Plants - Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Figure 1: Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Succulent plants are sometimes referred to as ‘Succulents’ or ‘fat plants’ since parts of them are thick and they usually retain more water in dry climates/soils, according to Wikipedia. Their low demand for water allows them to survive periods of neglect, making them some of the best indoor plants for beginners. They are perennial tropical plants often grown as ornamental plants in flower pots and gardens because many of them have a very unusual appearance. Joshua Trees (pictured in Figure 2, below) are often confused with succulent plants, but they are actually a variety of Yucca.

Succulent Plants - Joshua Tree Yucca

Figure 2: Joshua Tree

Many Succulent plants are flowering plants that offer easy care and look beautiful in your home alone or with a companion plant such as CyclamenHibiscus, Hydrangea, Azaleas or Geraniums–which have similar requirements for lighting. Succulent plants come in a myriad of colors and leaf shapes and a current trend that is gaining popularity is to include different varieties of succulent plants with Peonies and other flowers in bridal bouquets. Unlike Spider Plants and Palm Plants, Succulents generally like the low humidity and warm conditions found in many houses; they seem to be able to adapt to direct or lower light. Many of the smaller plants look great on indoor plant stands, and stands with wheels are available for larger plants. Succulent Plants prefer a good draining soil that’s not watered often, and it’s best to let the soil become completely dry between waterings.

Succulent Plants – Interesting facts

  • The tallest free-standing Cactus is about 63 feet tall (19.2 m); the smallest is approximately 0.4 inches (1 cm) at maturity
  • Plant health care for Succulents is less demanding than Orchid care
  • A fully mature Saguaro Cactus (Figure 3) can absorb as much as 200 US gallons of water during heavy rainfall.

    Succulent Plants - Saguaro Cactus

    Figure 3: Saguaro Cactus

  • Both Succulent Plants and Orchids produce oxygen at night, unlike most other types of plants which only produce oxygen while they are receiving light. For that reason they are a great option for bedrooms.
  • Remember that all Cacti are succulents but all succulents are not Cacti
  • Popular because they use less water and have less impact in droughts
  • They are fire-resistant and fire retardant
  • Many of them are not poisonous plants, but use barbs or needles for their protection, similar to Roses

Some of the Simplest Succulent Plants to Care For

Aloe Vera: Although the sap of this plant has been used for hundreds of years to heal wounds or sunburn, it has sharp teeth on the edge of the leaves that can cut – needs to be placed where it will not be bumped into for that reason.

Succulent Plants - Aloe Vera

Figure 4: Aloe Vera

Let the soil dry out between heavy waterings but do not leave it standing in water. Keep Aloe Vera in direct sunlight and fertilize 3 (three) times in the summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. If you have African Violet fertilizer you can use that on your succulent plants as well. Do not repot unless you particularly want to or the roots are pushing their way out of the pot.

 

Pin Cushion Cactus: There are approximately 200 species of this group for home-growing, most of them coming from Mexico.

Succulent Plants - Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

Figure 5: Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

The spines (modified leaves) appear fine and harmless but have hooked ends like a porcupine quill, which makes it difficult to pull out of the skin.  These cacti may take different shapes and often flower in the house. They require a lot of light. Let the soil get fairly dry between waterings; do not water in the winter time as the plant is in a dormant period, necessary for flowering. A balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10 is needed three times during the summer months.

Burros Tail: This succulent plant looks cute in a hanging plant pot or basket with its tails out over the side; gray with green or blue ‘leaves’ can grow up to 3 feet long.

Succulent Plants - Burros Tail

Figure 6: Burros Tail

Allow the soil to dry a little between waterings and fertilize in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer; be aware that it rarely flowers but it is possible that pink or red flowers could appear during the summer. Leaves fall off of a Burros Tail easily; try to keep it where it will not be bumped by anything. If you move it outside for the summer, put it in the shade so that it does not get sunburned, or, on the patio where it could get morning light then shade from the afternoon sun.

Ponytail Palm: The Ponytail Palm is not a palm tree and does not appear to be a succulent plant although related to the agave. Use a quick draining soil for this plant – cactus potting soil is a good one.

Succulent Plants - Ponytail Palm

Figure 7: Ponytail Palm

It is a long-lived indoor houseplant with average room temperature good for most of the year in a location with bright light. Winters it prefers temperatures around 50-55°F. Spring through fall you should allow the surface soil to dry before watering; during the winter only water once-in-a-while. Fertilize in the spring with a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer, and give it a very bright room for the summer months. Repotting every second year is adequate for this succulent. This plant can grow up to twenty (20) feet high indoors!

                                                     

Snake Plant (also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue):

Succulent Plants - Snake Plant

Figure 8: Snake Plant

These succulent plants have stiff, upright leaves that can grow to 3-4 feet tall. The Snake Plant has a green border on the leaves while the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue has a yellow border.

They make a tough houseplant and can withstand almost any conditions with the exception of over-watering or not watering. Soil should be a loose and well-drained potting material; preferably with sand in it. Give it a mild 10-10-10 cactus fertilizer in the growing season. Prune out damaged leaves.

Hens and Chicks: Two succulent plants use this name – both produce chicks – little plants offset from the mother. The flowering patterns are different: one grows bell-shaped blooms while the other grows pink star-shape flowers on plants that die after flowering.

Succulent Plants - Hens & Chicks

Figure 9: Hens and Chicks

Grown in the house, the two perform identically; both should be allowed to dry a little between waterings – overwatering will rot both plants. Water very little during dormant period. Feed them a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the summer. New growth can be started by removing the offsets and potting them. The plants will be scarred if water touches them or the leaves get bumped.

Panda Plant: This succulent plant is a native of Madagascar and is grown for its foliage – thick, green leaves covered with silver hairs; the edges tipped with brown or rust-colored hairs.

Succulent Plants - Panda Plant

Figure 10: Panda Plant

Let the top couple of inches of soil dry out between waterings and in winter, its dormant period, barely water it at all – just don’t let it dry out completely. The panda plant likes medium to bright filtered light. A 10-10-10 fertilizer should be used in the summer. The plant doesn’t require much in the way of pruning.

Jade Plant: this succulent plant, originally from South Africa, is so easy to grow. It has thick stems with shiny green leaves that have a touch of red. Allow the soil to become bone dry between waterings, but don’t leave it that way.

Succulent Plants - Jade Plant

Figure 11: Jade Plant

Jade plants are most commonly killed by too much water. Fertilize three times in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. The terra cotta pot offers good air movement through the soil; repotting is rarely necessary as the plant has a small root system. Keep the plant pruned for balance – both appearance and weight – if one side grows too large it could upset the whole plant.

 Sources and Citations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulents – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulent_plant – research source

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/projects/top-10-succulents-for-home/ – research source

http://www.skh.com/gardeningatoz/cactus-succulent-care/ – research source

Popular Tropical Plants

The term “Tropical Plants” refers to plants raised in an area that is always warm. Your local nursery will carry some tropical plants for growing indoors or you can buy them at Amazon.com. Some of the common ones attempted by home horticulture include:

Tropical Plants - Bamboo

Figure 1: True Bamboo

Some true Bamboo plants will survive under household conditions but will require extra care; the plant prefers to be outdoors. Bamboo needs a lot of light and may need to be placed outside periodically to maintain the best health. Many indoor plant stands can be used outdoors, and have wheels to make transporting large plants easier. For the best plant health care, be careful to not over-water Bamboo. If grown in a nursery, an atrium, or greenhouse with high humidity you will likely have a healthy Bamboo plant!

Note: Lucky Bamboo, found even in grocery stores, is not a true bamboo but a member of the lily family from the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia and Africa. It is one of the Best Indoor Plants for Beginners because it is very easy to care for. Do not use tap water on this plant unless the water has sat out for 24 hours; change the water weekly. This common plant prefers indirect sunlight and a temperature between 65-70 degrees. Give it an occasional feeding of a mild solution.

Tropical Plants - Hibiscus

Figure 2: Hibiscus

Hibiscus is also a native tropical plant. Heat is the most important factor for this plant during the winter. Considered outdoor flowering plants in parts of North America, they must be moved indoors from the yard or garden for the colder months. The Hibiscus is grown as an indoor plant in parts of Europe, Canada and colder areas of the US. Hibiscus cleans the air and releases oxygen back into it.

Tropical Plants – Yucca

Yucca is a tough perennial shrub consisting of 40-50 species, that is flexible and low maintenance. Yucca are also among the best (indoor or garden) air cleaning plants. They are native to hot, dry areas of the Caribbean, North-, South-, and Central America. Prized as an ornamental garden plant, some of the Yuccas have edible parts: seeds, fruit, flowers, stems and some Yucca, even the roots. Be cautious though, because some Yuccas are highly poisonous plants. If you don’t know what the plant is, make sure you call your local poison control center if a person or pet ingests a Yucca.

Although you can plant it in flower pots, the Yucca does better in a raised garden bed where it will get full sun. See the wikiHow link for propagation instructions.

Tropical Plants – Cactus

Tropical Plants - Cactus Garden

Figure 3: Cactus Garden

Cactus has been part of our diet for about 9,000 years; 2,500 species are known. The plant has diverse uses such as food, drink, sealant, caulking, toy manufacturing and dye for the cosmetic industry. The Cactus is also a common house plant and found not only at the nursery but even in grocery and drugstores. Perennial Cacti are stem succulent plants and can last through severe drought by storing water in their stems, leaves and roots. They require many hours of sunlight on a daily basis and well-drained soil.

Tropical Plants – Palm Plants

Palm Plants are tropical plants that come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some produce flowers and fruit while others are prized for their foliage. Some are so big that they can only be grown outdoors or in very large buildings, while others make wonderful little houseplants. Like Spider Plants and Cyclamen, many varieties of Palm Plants come from Africa and other tropical climates.

Tropical Plants – Orchids

Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum are 2 species of Orchids native to the tropics, and enjoy daytime temperatures of 73° – 85°F, with humidity at approximately 85%. They prefer an East/Southeast facing window where they can get at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Some people simplify their Orchid care by keeping them in the window above a shower because these species love the warmth and high humidity.

Tropical Plants - Zonal Geraniums, Appleblossom

Figure 4: Zonal Geranium

The Zonal Geranium was initially discovered in South Africa, but grows well in any tropical climate globally. This is an easy plant to grow indoors, and given enough light, will bloom continuously in dazzling shades of white, pink, red, fuchsia, salmon and light purple. The flowers grow in clumps similar to Hydrangea. These plants are commonly grown in flower pots. From personal experience I would say that geranium plants will not grow from a leaf, as some recommend, but rather from a cutting of 2-3 joints; just plant it above the first joint, water it thoroughly and allow the plant to dry out before re-watering. Some geraniums are also now grown from hybrid seeds—planted in small plugs; they often are a better plant/bloom than the geranium grown from a cutting.

Tropical Plants – Gardenia

The perennial evergreen shrub, Gardenia, is from a line of 142 species of flowering tropical plants belonging to the coffee family. The gardenia is normally grown outside; some will become small trees reaching 15 m (49.2 feet).  They are native to areas of Africa, Southern Asia, Australasia, and Oceania. The leaves of this plant have a strong texture; the flowers are singles or in small clusters of white or a soft yellow. Much like Roses and Peonies, the fragrance of the gardenia is beautiful and you may enjoy it for weeks as it blossoms from mid-spring until mid-summer—IF—you learn the basics of this tricky plant’s growing conditions and regular

Flowering Plants - Gardenia

Figure 5: Potted Gardenia

The Gardenia flower is a common choice for a beautiful corsage—vying with Roses and Orchids; it is one of the most fragrant flowers for the garden or indoors. Many gardenias are classified as an endangered species such as the Hawaiian Gardenia; there are only about a dozen of the very fragrant small trees remaining. Gardenias are a rather high maintenance plant that you don’t often see in flower pots—needing specific soil acidity, lots of water and sun, cool temperatures with high humidity; pests love them—especially whiteflies, scales, spider mites and aphids.

Tropical Plants – Horticulture

Horticulture is the science, technology, and business of plant cultivation for  the advantage of mankind; working at home in your own garden or potting plants for indoors is an example of horticulture at its basic level whether it’s tropical plants, garden vegetables or a leaf from your Mother’s favorite African Violet!

Sources and Citations

http://plantcaretoday.com/how-to-care-for-a-yucca-plant.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Yucca

http://www.dunecraft.com/resources/history_of_cacti.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Cactus-Indoors

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca#Uses

http://www.bamboogarden.com/Interior%20Bamboo.htm

http://www.chiff.com/a/lucky-bamboo.htm – research source

http://www.ask.com/explore/different-colors-geranium-flowers – research source

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1118.html – research source

http://gardening.about.com/od/plantprofiles/p/Growing-And-Caring-For-Zonal-Geraniums-Pelargonium-X-Hortorum.htm – research source

http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/flora/higardenia.html – research source

http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-Gardenias – research wource

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/rid-mealy-bugs-gardenia-houseplant-44955.html – research source