Succulent 101

Here’s a brief summary on what succulents need and some pointers for keeping them healthy.

They look great on a sunny sill or side table. They’re child-friendly since they’re spineless and generally safe in case you brush up against one. Plus, they’re real cute. All succulents are adapted to dry environments with full sun and no shelter. According to a NASA study, succulents have even been found to purify the air of harmful toxins. Succulents are excellent starter plants because they’re low maintenance.

Succulents (from the Latin word “succulentus,” for juice or sap) are defined by their moisture-storing capacity and come from many botanical families. Botanically-speaking, the term succulent refers to ANY plant that has evolved adaptations to survive hot arid environments. It is a term that does not refer to any specific family or clade of plants, and in fact many succulent plants are not related to one another at all.

The definition of succulents in the consumer world is semi-arbitrary, and may exclude many plants that have succulent traits, such as bromeliads and other tropical plants. It has been used by collectors and in the marketing world for so long that the term 'succulent' is simply an accepted colloquialism at this point. Often, one will find collections of ‘succulents’ marketed towards families with children, or as child-friendly options because many succulents are spineless and generally safe to bump into. Cacti, on the other hand, have been kept separate because of the potential danger from the spines, even though they are indeed succulents.

Succulence can include many morphological characteristics: an epidermis with waxy cutin, thickened, fleshy leaves, an alternative mode of photosynthesis, and so on. Many plants would, by botanic definition, be considered succulent even though we do not normally think of them as such. For example, snake plants (Sansevieria) and Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea) have adaptations for surviving in desert conditions. Snake plants have thickened leaves and CAM photosynthesis, and Ponytail palms have a thickened, woody trunk for water storage. 

Bright, full-sun to medium, filtered light is the ideal scenario for your succulents. 

Size matters. Water semi-weekly for smaller succulents or monthly for larger ones. Cacti require less water than do other succulents, like fleshy Echeveria or Aloe. Allow potting mix to completely dry out before watering. Water more frequently during warmer months as the soil dries out and in drier months, and fertilize weekly during growth. Do not overwater as overwatering will cause plant to rot. Better to underwater than to overwater. This plant may be a good starter for plant parents who water their plants too little. 

Succulents thrive in any humidity.

Succulents are happy in a tempature anywhere between; 18°C-33°C. It’s best not to let it go below 15°C.

Dependent on species. Most grow slowly, so will remain the same size, or increase in size in flushes of growth. 

Succulents are generally very easy-going plants. May get scale and mealybugs. Treat scale bugs and mealybugs as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of horticultural (Neem) oil. 

Quick facts


BOTANICAL NAME - Succulent

NICKNAME - Succulent

PLANT TYPE - Succulent, indoor

AIR PURIFYING - Yes

PLANT HEIGHT (INCLUDING POT) - 5-10cm; 10-20cm

PET/BABY SAFE - Toxic if ingested

NURSERY POT SIZE - 5.5cm; 12cm