The succulent plants that people are calling the “millennial” craze has found its way into nurseries, grocery stores, online shops, and even some trendy clothing stores, proving that it is not just a millennial craze anymore, but rather a plant for anyone and anywhere. Keep reading to learn more about what succulents are, what makes them so popular, and our favorite kinds.
What Is a Succulent?
“Succulent” seems like such a silly name for a silly looking plant, but it is actually derived from the Latin word for juice or sap. “Sap” is certainly fitting, as succulents are known for their thick and fleshy leaves and stems that store water within them. Because succulents can store water in their various parts, they are mostly found in semi-deserts, which have high temperatures and low rainfall. Succulents can survive in many conditions that other plants cannot, because they can collect their water through mist and dew, not just rainfall.
Wait…Isn’t That a Cactus?
I know what you’re thinking: why do succulents sound just like cacti? And yes, you’re right, they do! Cacti are actually a sub-species of succulents. To be a succulent a plant just needs to be fleshy and store water, which cacti do. The reason why they are a sub-species, and not just “succulents,” is because cacti have what botanists call “areoles;” areoles are the small, round, bumpy parts that hold the spikes or thorns. While some succulents have spikes and thorns, if they are not attached to an areole, the succulent is not considered a cactus. It’s like the “square and rectangle” dilemma: all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
What Makes Succulents Special?
In general, succulents are inexpensive, easy to care for, and small enough to brighten up even the tiniest apartment. However, they are so much more than that!
Succulents require minimal care to thrive, as they only need two things: infrequent waterings, and lots of sun!
Succulents grow well indoors, as they can survive in any condition, and because of their small size.
Succulents can help purify organic compounds from your air, such as benzene and formaldehyde, and can turn them into plant food for themselves. It’s a win-win!
Many succulents, like aloe vera and the yucca plant, have medicinal purposes. The sap inside their leaves contains antioxidants like polyphenols, which help rid your body of harmful bacteria and can soothe burns with their watery tissue.
Some succulents are edible, and good for you! Succulents like pineapple (yes, pineapple is a succulent!), dragon fruit, prickly pear, and sea beans are all low in calories and high in vitamin C.
How Do I Care for My Succulent?
Succulents are so popular because they thrive on what other plants would consider to be neglect. Here is what goes into properly caring for your succulent:
Soil: Rather than reaching for your regular potting soil, purchase a special cactus soil (available at most nurseries or online) or create your own. Succulents need soil that drains easily, evaporates moisture, and provides the dry conditions that they do so well in.
Sunlight: Sun is the one thing that succulents are picky about. Place your succulent in a place where it can receive at least 3 hours of sunlight every day, preferably a south-facing window. However, succulents do well with morning sun, and can be harshly affected by afternoon sun. Be careful about when you are giving your succulent its light, and give it no more than 6 hours every day.
Water: Deep and infrequent waterings are best for your succulent, with the frequency depending upon how much sunlight they receive. If your succulent receives 6 hours of sunlight every day, water every week. If it receives around 3 hours every day, you can water your succulent every 10-14 days without drying it out.
Most Popular Succulents
If you’re convinced about purchasing a succulent, or want to see how great they are for yourself, here is a list of the most popular succulents!
Haworthia–there are many sub-species of this type