What are succulents and why should you get them?

From bestreviews.com
By
Anthony Marcusa
BestReviews

Succulents are among some of the most popular houseplants, and we love them for how easy they are to take care of.

Colorful, bold, and at times downright odd, succulents are the ideal houseplants for those who are looking to choose their first houseplants. 

For those who don't have a self-proclaimed '"green thumb" or for anyone living in a smaller space with limited light, succulents offer beauty, versatility, and convenience as a plant companion. They don't need too much care, attention, or water in order to survive and thrive, and they'll add a lovely low-maintenance addition to any room. 

There are many reasons why succulents are perfect for new plant parents, and we think they're the place to start any beginner houseplant collection. 

 

What are succulents?

Succulents are a family of drought-resistant plants that have adapted well to dry, arid environments. They store water in their leaves, stems, or roots, and as a result, those areas on the plant may be fleshier, swollen, or more pronounced. 

Such thick parts of the plant may look peculiar or striking, making them an exciting  visual accent. In nature, succulents can grow exceptionally large, though at home they tend to be smaller. They're a diverse bunch -- some may begin life as tiny as a tablespoon, while many can live in a pot that sits comfortably on a side table or countertop, and others may grow a few feet high or more.

 

Where to buy succulents

Believe it or not, you can order succulents right to your door via Amazon. Whether you want to put them in your home, in your office, or elsewhere, you can easily shop online for the perfect plant and have it shipped to wherever it will live. 

If you're not sure which variety of succulent you want, you can't go wrong with this 4-pack collection of assorted succulents. You'll get plants of four different styles, each in a small 2-inch pot that will easily fit anywhere you want to put it. Since they only need to be watered one time per week -- and less in the winter -- starting with four shouldn't be overwhelming.

For a different look, consider these air plants from Amazon. You'll get 12 plants of a variety of different Tillandsia species, all 5 inches or smaller in size. These are equally easy to care for (likewise, they just need to be watered once a week) but they're more versatile and can be placed anywhere in the home -- no pot or soil needed. 

Cacti are another low-maintenance home addition, and while you'll need to be careful to avoid getting poked when unboxing, you can also order them on Amazon. This assorted 4-pack includes unique varieties of cactus that come in 2.5-inch pots.

 

Terminology

In terms of taxonomy -- the scientific classification of species -- there are many plants that fall under the umbrella of the term "succulents." However, succulents have a different connotation when discussing them horticulturally. Here's the breakdown you'll encounter when researching and buying succulents.

Succulents: What you'll find in this article as well as elsewhere you search and shop is that "succulent" refers to those succulents specifically that are rooted. These tend to have broad, plump leaves or stems and come in a variety of colors and shapes. 

Tillandsia (known popularly as air plants): These are a type of succulent, but they have a distinct appearance, require different care than rooted succulents, and can live in a variety of areas. Air plants do not have roots and, as such, can be hung from fixtures, placed along walls, or adorned on decorations. Some are wispy while others may be thick and bulbous. Others still may be fluffy, like moss.

Cacti: Most cacti are succulents, but it's preferable to differentiate between the two because, like air plants, cacti are distinct looking and may have different light and water requirements. They are also among the most popular plants in our culture, so referring to them as succulents, however accurate, will likely result in some puzzled looks.

 

Aesthetics and personality

Succulents do not look like traditional house plants. Some may sprout thick, broad leaves, while others may be stringy and lithe with long tendrils, or they can appear pulpy and alien. They may be prickly, as with cacti, or fuzzy and soft. 

While many are green, some have a range of colors, from purples, reds, and yellows, that offer brightness to any home. They can be petite, living in a teacup or tiny terrarium, or large, occupying the corner of a well-lit room. Air plants in particular may be tiny and delicate or bulky and commanding. 

 

Easygoing houseguests

Because succulents are resilient creatures, they require little home care and can thrive in a variety of locations and climates. They don't require much water, with some just needing weekly misting or dowsing and others requiring an hour-long soak a couple times a month. Less is more, as over-watering is actually one of the main causes of death in succulents.

Succulents thrive when exposed to light for a portion of the day, like any houseplants, but are particularly hardy throughout the darker months. Air plants require indirect sunlight, as they may burn or crisp if they are overexposed.

Succulents require little soil and fertilizer -- and air plants require none at all. And because so many of them are small, they are easy to move around the house.

 

Propagation 

Succulents are adept at propagating. Some will drop leaves, or plantlets, which are ready to grow on their own. You can also create plantlets by cutting a leaf or stem. Let the pieces dry for a few days, and soon roots will start to sprout, which is the signal they are ready to be planted.

Another option for succulents that are growing too large is simply beheading them, leaving just a bit of stem left attached. When done properly to a healthy succulent, it can act like a hydra: the headless stem will sprout anew, while the beheaded portion will grow a stem and roots.

 

Quality of life

Like traditional houseplants, succulents pump oxygen, absorb sunlight, and remove toxins from the air, all of which serve to create a healthier, purer environment. 

They also add water to the air, an act especially beneficial during the drier, colder, and darker months that help to prevent sore throats and dry skin. Moreover, there are any number of studies out there that indicate having plants around can improve wellness, enhancing a space to make it feel warmer and hospitable.

 

Succulent shopping list

Pots: If you're going to opt for rooted succulents, you'll likely want a more aesthetically pleasing container than the plastic they typically arrive in. These glazed pots have a unique look as well as a scientific design: A small hole at the bottom drains water so your plant doesn't drown.

Hanging terrarium: Air plants look particularly great when hanging from the ceiling. They don't need soil, which is why lightweight, ornamental terrariums, such as this set of three glass teardrops from Glass Home Gardens, make for fantastic displays.

Soil: While your rooted succulents will come already potted, you may decide you want to propagate them, in which case you'll need more soil. We prefer this blend made specifically for succulents and cacti.

Watering tin: When watering day comes around (although they'll be few and far between with your succulents), make the task easy on yourself with this stainless steel watering can.

 

Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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