Learn about the advantages of indoor succulents, plus everything you need to know about their light and watering needs.
While there will always be a ton of love for lush dreamy ferns and tangly trailing plants, right now it is time for the succulents to shine. This friendly family of plants that is big on personality is spiking in popularity ... and it's really no surprise. Not only are they just kind of adorable, but they have a lot of other advantages as well.
We had some questions about succulents and took them to "Plant Mom" (AKA Joyce Mast) from Bloomscape – a plant company I am a bit smitten with – and she was kind enough to share her wisdom on the topic with us. With more than 40 years as an experienced horticulturist, there's a reason she's been called the “Julia Child of plant care.” She's a walking encyclopedia of all things green. We asked, she answered:
TreeHugger: Do succulents have any specific advantages?
Plant Mom: Succulents improve and purify our air by taking in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen, which is the very thing we need to breathe!
Indoor plants are known to improve our mood and concentration, perhaps just by bringing a bit of nature indoors and having spots of green surrounding us.
Aloe plants are also used for healing cuts, burns and bruises, so not only do they beautify your home but are able to be used as a remedy for ailments!
TH: In my experience, succulents tend to fall in the easy spectrum of care; is that safe to say? Are there any that are especially easy to take care of?
PM: Succulents tend to be easier to take care of than other types of plants, as they generally require less water. Because of this, they make ideal houseplants for new plant parents and people with very little time or who travel regularly. The Hedgehog Aloe, Aloe Arista, Haworthia and Echeveria are all especially easy peasy succulents.
If you want to try your hand at a few other care free, non-succulent plants, take a look at the Ponytail Palm, ZZ Plant [pictured below] and Yucca Plant. You will be surprised at how little care they require and how they not only survive but can thrive while being ignored!
TH: What kind of light do they like? Are there some that like more or less light?
PM: Succulents need a lot of light and flourish in brightly lit areas. Place them in a sunny spot in your home, and they can even be kept outside during the summer. One example is the Hedgehog Aloe [pictured top], a very forgiving succulent that, if placed in the full outdoor sun during the late spring and summer, often produces unique spikes of coral-red flowers that attract hummingbirds.
TH: Do you have any watering tips, and/or care tips in general?
PM: In general, succulents do not require much water and thrive in dry conditions. They key to most succulents is that they store water and usually have a thicker, fleshier leaf or a bulb of some kind. One example is the Ponytail Palm, which is a drought-tolerant succulent-like plant that is perfectly happy being watered every 3-4 weeks and left alone to soak up the sunlight, as it has a bulb-like trunk that is used to store water.
Although most succulents can go a long time without being watered, they require more water in the summer months during their active growth period and less during their rest period in the winter. During those active summer months, be sure to keep the soil damp, but not soggy. In the winter, only water once in a while when the soil is completely dry. Look out for wilting leaves in the summer, which can indicate under-watering, and yellowing leaves which probably mean you are overwatering.
The reason most people fail with succulents or cacti is the tendency to overwater. My advice is to err on the side of under-watering; most of the time you can bring them back from dehydration stage.
For all indoor plants, be sure the pot has a drainage hole so the excess water has someplace to go. Without it, water can build up in the bottom of the pot and then the roots will drown and rot. Roots need air just like we do. If the roots start rotting, you’ll start to notice black or brown spots on the top, yellow leaves, or sagging and drooping of the plant.
We want to thank Joyce for taking the time to chat with us. If you have any questions about plants, you can ask her directly at the Plant Mom page on Bloomscape. And for more on houseplants, see our related stories below.