Plush leaves, vibrant colors, and easy maintenance — there’s a reason why succulents have become so popular.
Truth be told, as much as I enjoy them, I’d never had much luck with house plants. That is until I purchased my first jade. Reminiscent of the huge, seemingly ancient jade that lived on my grandmother’s porch, this plant was slightly smaller, adorned in tiny white flowers, and completely intimidating. It may sound silly to call a plant intimidating, but for someone who had never had much luck keeping green things alive, actually purchasing a plant with the intention of caring for it was a big step. Many years have passed since then, and I’m proud to say that my first jade is still alive and kicking, thriving even, and it’s been joined by many, many more succulents and cacti, because along with learning how to care for these plants, I learned just how much they can transform your home.
Cacti and succulents (plants that store their water in their leaves) are wonderfully easy to care for, but contrary to what many seem to think, they do require attention. Fall is the perfect time to bring some greenery into your home, so today I’m sharing my tips for caring for these incredible, sculptural plants.
The wonderful thing about these unique plants is that, despite the incredible variety available, they all require similar care. Cacti are a small subset of the succulent group, and are probably the simplest of all succulents to grow and tend to, but they do require some simple steps.
Cacti prefer sandy conditions, so be sure to pick up some cacti-specific potting soil if you plan to change the planter. When growing cacti, think of the conditions they grow naturally in: the desert, which is cool at night and hot and sunny throughout the day. Give your cacti access to full sun and a temperature range of about 70 to 80 degrees, in the winter, that temperature may be brought down to about 50 degrees, as long as the plant is protected from any drafts.
Cacti experience the most growth throughout the spring and summer, it’s during these times that they require the most water. When the soil is dry, water the plant completely, using a cacti-specific fertilizer if needed. In the winter, only water your cactus if it begins to shrivel.
Succulents are almost as easy to grow as cacti, and the care between plants barely differs. Like their thorny cousins, succulents prefer bright light and do best in sunny, south facing windows. The wonderful thing about these plants is how easy it is to tell if the plant is getting too much or too little light. Leaves will turn brown or white in too much sunlight, alternately, the plant will get “leggy” or stretch in too little light.
Succulents thrive in the summer, which is an ideal time to give them some time outdoors. Place them on a porch or front step, and you can almost see them grow before your eyes. After a season spent outdoors, your succulents will be hardy and ready to hibernate for the long winter ahead. Like cacti, succulents should be watered frequently in the summer — about once a week or whenever soil is dry, and very infrequently in the winter, about once every other month. Never allow your plants to sit in standing water, which can cause the roots to rot and the plant to die.
Similar to cacti, succulents should be potted in a plant-specific soil. Vintage planters found at thrift stores or flea markets are a great way to add color to your space, just be sure to thoroughly rinse the container before re-potting the plant to remove anything that could contaminate it.
Do you have tips for livening up your space with plants? Please share in the comments!