Among the many types of plants, with which we can decorate our garden and interior, succulents occupy a significant place. All succulents have a common origin, from the southern and southwestern parts of Africa and Mexico. So, their basic environment is steppe and desert, so it is clear that they are not demanding to maintain. They do not need too much effort and commitment, it is enough to provide them with conditions that suit them and let them show their beauty.
They are named after the Latin word “sucus”, which means juice. Their basic feature is that they have fleshy, cushioned, thickened, juicy stems, which retain water. This water, of course, is used to survive in severe drought and in conditions when water is not available to them. They often have leathery leaves or are coated with a thin layer of wax, in order to slow down the evaporation of water as much as possible and prevent it as much as possible. These leaves increase their volume with constant growth and thus retain an increasing amount of water and nutrients. The adaptation of succulents to harsh desert living conditions is impressive.
Types of succulents
Plants with thickened, fleshy leaves, which include aloe, agave, etc.
Plants without leaves, exclusively with a tree, which, instead of leaves, have thorns. The common name for this species of succulents are cacti.
Both species are small in stature and look nice in shallow ceramic pots. Since they tolerate dry air and heat, they are suitable for growing indoors. Usually, different types and shapes of both groups are combined, so that they are extremely decorative next to the window. They need light, and watering should be minimal and infrequent.
Succulents are plants from areas where the heat is high, there is little water, and the soil is lean, rocky and dry. We need to keep this in mind when planting them. The heavy, compacted earth, which suffocates them, does not suit them at all. It is obligatory to mix the soil with sand and put a drainage layer of broken pieces of ceramic pot on the bottom of the pot. The ideal container for growing them is a pot made of terracotta, ceramics and natural breathable materials, not plastic or glass.
If they are planted in the garden, it is important to be in a sunny place, not to water too much and often. They can be grouped in decorative stones, made for that purpose. So, everything that is associated with desert and steppe areas will be pleasant to them and will successfully grow and expand. They tolerate temperatures of up to 40C, and some gardeners deliberately raise the temperature of succulents, heating them artificially, to change color.
Succulents reproduce very easily from their own leaves. It is enough to choose a healthy, clear leaf, full of water and put it on a mixture of earth and sand. The root does not need to be covered or covered with soil, it only needs to be sprayed with water once a week. The root system will begin to develop and expand, so after a few weeks it can be transplanted to the desired location.
Growing from seeds
A little more complicated and demanding way of obtaining new plants is sowing. It happens that the sown seed does not sprout and we wonder where we went wrong and what we did not do well. There are rules to follow and success will be obvious.
1. Seeds must be of good quality
It is recommended to collect seeds from already existing, older plants. These seeds are fresh and will certainly germinate more successfully than those that are imported and treated with chemicals.
The substrate in which the seeds are planted is one of the most important factors. Many gardeners have their own experiences and methods. Someone advises a combination of quartz sand, peat and humus. Some add zeolite instead of quartz sand, and some combine quartz sand and peat, without humus, so that there are no organic substances. If you opt for a third substrate, it has pros and cons like everything. The absence of organic matter prevents the existence of bacteria and fungi, thus preventing the disease of the plant.
The disadvantage is that it is deficient in mineral ingredients so that precisely balanced mineral solutions must be added after only two weeks. The addition of minerals should be continued until the transplanting of sprouted seeds, but too late, due to possible damage to the delicate roots.
The substrate can be sterilized in a simple way. It can be placed in a sickle, covered with aluminum foil and heated in the oven to a temperature of 150c, for about an hour. One must be very careful because exposure to higher temperatures would be detrimental to the beneficial substances. The substrate can be sterilized by pouring hot water or steam. The seeds are placed in a cooled substrate, which is taken for granted.
High humidity is something that is necessary for the growth of all plants, including succulents. The substrate must be constantly moist for at least 15 days. If the substrate dries out during this period, it is almost certain that germination will be absent. Humidity is achieved by water. Rainwater can also collect, but it is full of impurities, so it should be boiled and only then watered the substrate. By placing glass, transparent foil, or plexiglass over the container with the substrate, continuous humidity is ensured.
Seeds must have light to germinate, but by no means too strong. You just need to push it into the ground, not cover it with it. A light bulb or a little light is quite enough, exposure to too strong a source is a cardinal mistake and our efforts would be in vain.
The containers in which the seeds germinate must be clean, even boiled or wiped with alcohol. Various types of bacteria and fungi are persistent in the desire to lay eggs. It is very difficult to prevent that, so in addition to sterilizing the substrate, before laying the seeds, it is necessary to add a little fungicide to the substrate itself.
Transplanting sprouted succulents is a very delicate job. If you don’t transplant them, they become too thick and can’t develop properly. It is best to do this when it is about a year old.
It is somewhat demanding, but enjoying the work process and successful results is great. Succulents will reward the patient gardener with their beauty and unusual shapes and colors. Their resemblance to the backs of desert lizards and unusual animals, colors that overflow, from green and gray to shades of purple, will make our garden special. With a little imagination, we will feel like traveling around Mexico or the Wild West and our pleasure will be complete.