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Gardening

SUCCESS WITH SUCCULENTS

The Perfect Plant for Forgetful Gardeners
Story and photos by Joshua Kornegay

Hearty and exotic, it’s no wonder that we keep trying to bring succulent plants indoors to add a touch of color and drama. They’re built for resilience, using their thick and fleshy parts to retain water in arid climates, but that’s also where we run into trouble.

"Oh, I love succulents, but they always seem to die on me!" I hear this a little too often. The good news is that most succulents are quite easy to grow if you keep a few basic things in mind.

First, always plant them in a pot with drain holes in the bottom. It isn’t enough to just put gravel in the bottom of the non-draining container, no matter what you've heard. You want a planter, not a fishbowl.
It’s best to use a gritty, well-draining soil. The best option is a soil designed specifically for succulents, or try a mixture of half potting soil and half sand.

Remember that not all succulents like full sun. Some only thrive in mostly shade and there are a few that can be grown indoors, but only just a few. For inside the home, try species in the Crassula genus, like jade. Many aloes and Gasteria do fine as well. One of our favorites at Joshua's Native Plants & Garden Antiques are the spotted Haworthia. These are great in average lit rooms, as long as you’re getting light from the sun and not just a lightbulb — there's a big difference.

Also, consider the size of your selections. Ask your horticulturist questions when choosing a starter succulent. Many cute little inexpensive plants are deceptively small when young, but can grow to be quite large.

Most of the smaller succulents have small roots, which means you’re free to plant them tightly together for a dense, dramatic look. Or choose a single plant that will offset with pups and eventually fill the pot over time.

There are hundreds of succulents found around the world but, for success in the Houston area, try to choose locally grown varieties. Many cannot take our high humidity and temperatures along the Gulf Coast.

Last, but not least, water sparingly. Most succulent plantings are failures because of overwatering. Remember these simple guidelines when choosing your plants and you'll have success with your succulents.

Joshua Kornegay is owner and president of Joshua's Native Plants & Garden Antiques in the Heights.

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