by Roger Corzine, Master Gardener
Succulents are an interesting group of plants that seem to be earning more gardener interest at present. However, there also seems to be some misunderstanding about the word ‘succulent’. I have found that many people seem to equate the terms "cactus" and "succulent". There is a statement in botanical circles that says, “Nearly all cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti,” so let me explain. First, the term succulent is not a scientific name. So any plant that stores water in its leaves or stems or roots can be called a succulent no matter what plant family it is in.
I have been a plant grower and greenhouse owner for many years and succulents have largely been my favorites because they are easy to care for, many have unusual shapes and some have beautiful flowers. Most of you know a few such as Aloe Vera, the Jade plant and Cacti.
Succulents are relatively easy to care for and are quite adaptable to a variety of growing conditions. Propagation can be from stem and leaf cuttings, by division of clumps of the plant and certainly from seeds. An article from “Better Homes and Gardens” states that, “Succulents are the perfect plants for forgetful gardeners.” It also includes a list of the “Top 10 Succulent Plants for the Home” which follows. They are: Burro’s Tail, Christmas Cactus, Crown of Thorns, Hen and Chicks, Jade Plant, Aloe Vera, Panda Plant, Pincushion Cactus, Pony Tail Palm and Snake Plant. (Snake plant is also called Mother-in-law’s Tongue) Pictures of all of these can easily be found on Google.
There are many plant families that have succulent members. Agave (Century Plant); Crassula (Jade Plant and Hen-and-Chicks); Aizoaceae (Split Rocks, Ice Plant and Dew Plant); Lily (Aloe Vera and the lilies); Dogbane (Desert Rose – the plant in the accompanying picture) and Euphorbia (Milk Weeds, Snow-on-the-Mountain and Spurge). Spurge is that abundant, little, flat- growing yard weed that we love to hate. Another Euphorbia that we all know is Poinsettia, however it is not a succulent. One major bit of advice on growing succulents is DON’T OVER WATER THEM.