by Shirley Jo Kelley, Master Gardener, Propagation Specialist
Succulent plants are known as fat plants because their plant parts are thick and fleshy, retaining water according to the amount of water, climate, and soil conditions. Succulents are just like all other plants, they have different characteristics. Some have white milky sap, hairy, waxy blue powdered leaves, variation in color, just to mention a few, and they have become very popular in the last few years.
There are different Genus of succulents and some have as many as 600 species. A popular Genus Sempervivum with a species Hens and Chick are rosette forming plant. In Europe they grew them on roof tops supposedly for protection against lighting. The leaves were used as a poultice for burns, cuts, and other skin ailments much like the aloe plant.
Pachyphytum or species Hookies have bell shaped flowers that grow near the ends of long receiving stems. The plant is covered with waxy blue powder which makes them quite attractive. Another Pachyphytum or the Moonstones have a very thick egg shaped nearly round leaves. They often have a lavender cast under the bluish waxy coating.
The Kalanchoe or species Panda Plant typically grows to about 1' in height and is entirely covered with light gray-silvery white hairs, making it soft and fuzzy to the touch. Another Kalanchoe species, Mother of Thousand, has an unusual appearance and method of reproduction. It grows tiny new plants from the tips of their leaves. It has a single stem growth habit with marbled gray-green leaves. Kalanchoe or Blossfeldiana are one of the most popular in the Kalanchoe Genus. It is popular during the Christmas Holidays and spring. It has dark green, thick waxy leaves with scalloped edges and small, four petaled, clustered flowers that are held above the foliage. The flowering comes in different colors.
The sedum species Burro’s Tail can be grown in hanging baskets because of their long pendulous stems. The densely leaved stems resemble a braided tail and can grow as long as 3'. The leaves are light green and covered with a waxy blue powder. The powder will rub off when touched but soon regrows again. Another sedum, the Jelly Bean, is just the opposite of the Burro’s Tail. Their leaves resemble short bent thumbs and will turn noticeably red on the tips.
There are so many succulents that I didn’t mention like, Crassula, Aeonium, Haworthia, Carolluma, Euphorbia, Graptopetalum, and many more that are easy to grow. Most all succulents can be propagated by seed, stem, or leaf cuttings. Their soil medium and water needs are about the same. The most common death rate is over watering. They want to be watered from the bottom and not on their leaves. Succulents are occasionally attacked by aphids, mealy bugs, and scale which can be controlled with insecticide or individually by a cotton swab dipped in alcohol