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Creating and potting a succulent Goddess Arrangement
Succulent Goddess Arrangement by Plant the Jungle

Succulents are not just plants; they're living pieces of art that can thrive with the right care and attention. If you're a succulent enthusiast, you've come to the right place! In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about succulent care from a horticulture professional with over 10 years of experience. Succulents were the first category I managed when I joined the operations team while I was working for a very large and well-known commercial grower in the US.

Whether you're a seasoned succulent grower or a beginner, these tips will help you keep your succulents healthy and vibrant. Let's dive in!

The Origins of Succulents

Succulents have ancient origins dating back to a time when Earth's climate was vastly different from what we know today. These hardy plants evolved in regions characterized by extended dry periods, fierce sun, and limited water resources. Succulents stand out as remarkable survivors of arid landscapes. Their ability to thrive in regions where rain is scarce and drought is a common occurrence is a testament to their remarkable adaptation over millions of years.

Unique Characteristics & Water Storing Adaptation

To care for succulents effectively, it's crucial to understand their unique characteristics. One of the most distinctive features of succulents is their capacity to store water. Over time, these plants have developed specialized structures for water storage, such as thick, fleshy leaves, stems, or roots. These adaptations allow succulents to store water during rainy seasons and rely on these reserves during prolonged periods of drought.

Reduced Leaf Surface Area

Succulents have reduced the size of their leaves or even evolved into spine-like structures to minimize water loss through transpiration. This adaptation allows them to conserve water efficiently in dry climates.

Shallow Roots and Efficient Water Uptake

Succulents often have shallow root systems that can quickly absorb moisture from even the lightest rain or dew. Their roots are designed to take advantage of sporadic rainfall, making the most of every drop.

CAM Photosynthesis

Many succulents employ Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis, a unique adaptation that enables them to open their stomata and perform photosynthesis at night when temperatures are cooler and moisture loss is minimized. This efficient use of water sets succulents apart from many other plants.

Succulent Care Tips 101

Watering various succulent species
  1. Light: Succulents need plenty of sunlight. Place them where they can receive at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight per day. South or west-facing windows are ideal. Do not place them in a dark or humid bathroom. If your succulent is not getting enough direct light it will become elongated or leggy and will turn towards the light (phototropism). Therefore, we recommend rotating your succulents.

  2. Watering: Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes in succulent care. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Water sparingly, usually once every 2-4 weeks, depending on your environment and the container size. Water thoroughly when you do, making sure the water drains out of the bottom of the pot if it's not in an arrangement. Make sure you water the soil, not the leaves or crown as this could lead to root rot.

  3. Pot and Soil: Use a well-draining soil mix specifically designed for succulents and cacti. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom, which can lead to root rot. If your arrangement doesn't have holes water lightly, remember Succulents absorb moisture from even the slightest bit of water.

  4. Temperature and Humidity: Succulents generally prefer temperatures between 60-80°F (15-27°C). They can tolerate lower temperatures but should be protected from frost. Succulents are adapted to low humidity, so they are suitable for dry indoor environments.

  5. Fertilizing: Fertilize sparingly during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced, diluted fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing during the dormant season (fall and winter).

  6. Pruning and Maintenance: Remove dead or yellowing leaves to promote new growth. Some succulents may need occasional shaping or thinning. Usually, you will need to remove dry leaves from the lower crown to keep your plants looking fresh. I use a tweezer to make this easier.

  7. Pests and Diseases: Look for common pests like mealybugs and spider mites. Treat infestations promptly with insecticidal soap or neem oil (avoid if plant is in direct sun). Avoid overwatering to prevent root rot and fungal issues.

  8. Container Selection: Choose pots that allow for growth as succulents can become root-bound. Transplant them into larger pots when they outgrow their current container.

  9. Propagation: Many succulents can be propagated from leaves or stem cuttings. This is a fun way to create new plants.

  10. Seasonal Changes: Some succulents may go through a dormant period, during which they require less water and sunlight. Adjust your care routine accordingly.

Succulent Flowering and Changing Colors

Not all succulents are equal when it comes to flowering. Some species are more prone to blooming than others. If you're specifically interested in enjoying the blossoms, consider succulents like Echeveria, Kalanchoe, and Sedum, which are known for their impressive flowers.

Succulents require plenty of sunlight to thrive and eventually bloom. Succulents generally prefer warm temperatures, but many of them require a period of cooler temperatures to initiate flowering. Mimicking their natural environment is key. During the spring and early summer, when many succulents typically bloom, ensure the temperature remains between 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations that can stress the plant.

Succulents can indeed change color in response to various environmental factors, including heat, cold, and stress. This color change is often a protective mechanism and can vary depending on the specific succulent species. Here's some information to help you understand why succulents may turn red or change color due to these factors:

  1. Heat Stress: When exposed to intense sunlight or high temperatures, some succulents may develop red or purple hues as a natural response to protect themselves from excess sun exposure. This coloration is often caused by the production of pigments like anthocyanins.

  2. Cold Stress: Cold temperatures can also affect succulent coloration. Some succulents may turn red or purple when exposed to cold conditions, which is thought to be a way to absorb more sunlight and warmth. This can be especially noticeable during cooler seasons.

  3. Stress: Stress factors such as insufficient water, physical damage, or environmental changes can lead to color changes in succulents. Stress often triggers the production of protective pigments, leading to red or other color variations.

It's important to note that not all succulents will respond the same way to these stressors, and the degree of color change can vary between species. Some common succulents known for changing color under stress include Kalanchoe Echeveria and Sedum.

Succulents Fun Facts:

  1. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

  2. The Roman Emperor Charlemagne made everyone grow succulents on their roof because it was believed to bring prosperity and keep you safe. The species Sempervivum tectorum means 'always alive on the roof.'

  3. Jade is a symbol of good luck and wealth in some Asian traditions and is also known as The Money Tree.

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Many of us want to get out and garden as the days warm up, but some of us have limited space. Container gardening, which is growing in a pot instead of growing in the ground, is the ideal solution for those of us who have a small patio or don't have a lot of outdoor or indoor space.

Some gardeners want to enjoy the blooms and colors of spring without all the work. Purchasing a ready-made garden like the Better Together garden by Dummen Orange is an incredible hack to add pops of color to your space without all the mess.

Redfin shares experts' container garden top tips and tricks

Redfin, the home specialists, recently reached out to experts across the country for their best container gardening tips on how to plant perennials, native varieties, fruit trees, and more. When they reached out to me for tips on the ideal potting mix, I was happy to share what I've learned working in the horticulture industry over the years. You can read many of the tips and tricks here.

Designer hack, you'll wish you knew sooner.

White and yellow Calibrachoa red Petunia Blue Salvia
Butterfly Wing Mix by Dummen Orange

If you decide to plant your own outdoor container garden, keep in mind the tip shared by Redfin experts; use similar plants to make plant care easier.

All the garden experts use the same hack when it comes to design! They use the thriller, filler, and spiller design concepts.

Thrillers are the focal point of your container garden. Tall, bold ornamental grasses or salvia are often used to add a vertical visual.

Fillers are placed to fill the space around the thriller plants and the pot. Filler plants are usually bushy or mounding varieties like petunias.

Spiller plants spill over the container and cascade down the pot as your plant continues to grow. Calibrachoa or trailing begonias are ideal for recreating this look.

You don't always have to incorporate all three, but using at least two of these will result in a more polished look.

Can I container garden inside with houseplants?

You can easily create an indoor container garden; it's the style hack many interior designers use to spruce up a home during spring or summer.

Exotic tropical houseplants make a striking statement in container gardens, and you only need one!

Exotic plants are the easiest and most exclusive way to bring nature into our home and build that indoor jungle.

Where is the best location?

Near south or east-facing window is best. Most tropicals thrive in bright indoor lighting near south, southeast, or east-facing windows with 5-6 hours of bright light. You want to avoid north-facing unless you can supplement with bright artificial lighting.

Near your home's entrance is another good location. Placing container plants near the entryway invites positive energy into your space. Plants make excellent home decor and have many benefits, such as air purification.

How to make a statement?

Be bold and make an impact with one large statement piece in the room.

Creating a lush tropical space with Alocasia, Philodendron, or Monstera container gardens is easy.

Alocasias, Philodendrons, and Monsteras (found here) can all grow large in size. Pair it with neutral containers so the room and foliage are the focal points.

Don't be messy!

One of the many benefits of indoor container gardening is the lack of clean-up required.

Container gardening indoors is as easy as placing a nursery potted houseplant into a ceramic, stone, or terracotta pot. You can complete the look by top dressing with moss or rocks.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to rare plants. The OG collector that's been collecting for years and put forth a great deal of effort to curate their collection. The other is the newbie collector accustomed to seeing so-called "rare plants" at big box stores. They tend to be more skeptical about rare plant collecting.

Denise (pictured above) from @tropicalseductions has been curating her collection for a few years. She’s a collector and an explorer with a large Instagram following. Denise brings some insight into how she feels about rare plants.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys): When did you start collecting plants?

Tropical Seductions (Denise): If we go back to my very first plant purchase, then I would have to say as a child. I loved adding tiny cactuses to my windowsills. My mom usually took on the duty of watering them. It seems I always loved adding green into my life.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys): Have you always been into rare plants? How did you discover rare plants?

Tropical Seductions (Denise): When I started to collect plants I was drawn immediately to tropical plants. I started with a Philodendron green congo. At that time in 2018, I wasn’t aware that there is a world of “Rare Plants”. And then I joined the Plant Community on Instagram and never looked back.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys): Your content and reels are so much fun and really engaging! Some of your best reels are you clapping back when people comment on the retail price of your plants. Do you get a lot of those types of comments?

Tropical Seductions (Denise): It's definitely manageable. Most of the comments are directed towards the market and people use my videos as an outlet to place their frustration on the incredibly high prices that sometimes seem outrageous. Yes, sometimes it is a personal attack and then I feel entitled to delete the comment or even block the account.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys): What are your thoughts on people that say rare plants are just a marketing gimmick to overprice plants?

Tropical Seductions (Denise): Yes, I somewhat agree. There aren’t really many plants truly rare. There are plants that are commercially rare, meaning the demand is higher than the product available. This is obviously not what we mean when using the term “rare”.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys): You’ve visited a lot of rare plants shops, nurseries, and greenhouses. What surprised you the most when you visited these places for the first time?

Tropical Seductions (Denise): The sheer amount of plants available surprised me. There isn’t a plant shortage and plants are grown, propagated, and tissue cultured in mass.

Plant The Jungle (Damarys) Having created the first rare plant collection for big box stores, the program was intended to bring rare plants to mass-markets. Once these rare plants become massed produced, indeed, they are no longer rare as Denise mentioned.

However, just because you can find a plant at your local nursery doesn't mean it's not rare. Most local nurseries aren't purchasing in scale. Rare plants tend to be more expensive locally because they may be challenging to grow or take longer to produce. They may also be challenging to source for smaller growers; it is more costly when starter material is purchased in small quantities. Larger growers have access to tissue culture labs making it more affordable and quicker to market. Therefore, larger growers are able to commercialize rare plants in large quantities.

So, what is the definition of rare? Something is rare when it is seldom occurring or found; this could be defined as seldom occurring in your area or uncommon to your part of the world. Rare can also be identified by something unusual in quality or appeal.

Rare plants do exist! There are rare plant conservatories and conservationists all over the world. Fairchild Botanical Garden in Miami has one of the best aroid rare plant conservatories I've visited. I was also invited to attend their Million Orchid Project earlier this year which focuses on rare orchids.

I had a chance to talk with Dr. Carle E. Lewis (pictured above) in charge of The Million Orchid Project. He informed me that they are working to re-introduce rare and endangered orchids into South Florida's urban landscape.

During the last decade, South Florida used to be an orchid paradise, orchids could be found hanging off every tree branch. In the late 1800s, as the Florida East Coast Railroad extended south, orchids were among the first to be exploited, poached, and commercialized.

Dr. Carle E. Lewis, in charge of The Million Orchid Project, informed me that to date, they have been able to reintroduce almost half a million orchids!

I also met and plan to collaborate with Pablo Garcia Brenes (pictured above), a rare plant conservationist from Wild Tropicals in Costa Rica. Pablo and Cristel Miranda (pictured above) Monestel, their breeder, are focused on conserving rare plants endemic to Costa Rica. Thus far, they have identified 280 rare plant species with market potential.

Globalization, commercialization, and the rare plant craze have allowed many of us to enjoy rare plants from across the world. The quest to discover new species is ongoing and insatiable for some. This is why partnering with Wild Tropicals is essential; while they focus on identifying rare plants endemic to Costa Rica, their core value is sustainability and preservation.

I will personally be traveling back to Colombia in November. Colombia is well known as one of the most aroid-rich countries in the world. They have identified over 500 species, making it one of my favorite places to visit to discover rare plants.

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