My favorite five easy-to-grow succulents:
Jade plants are one of my favorite succulents—they look good, they need little care and they are very durable. I’ve grown one for more than 20 years and it just gets bigger and better. That small potted plant is now a little 3-foot tree with multiple trunks. Jade plants are easy to grow with a half-day of filtered light from an east- or west-facing window. I water only when the top inch or two of potting mix is dry. If you overwater these plants, the leaves will turn yellow and drop. They will also drop if you don’t give them enough water. Test the top inch or so of the potting mix to determine if it’s dry. I water my jade plants once a week until the water runs out the bottom of the pot and then I empty the saucer.
Practically indestructible! The thick, tough pointed dark green leaves have white bands, stripes or dots. Depending on the cultivar, the leaves can be purple-bronze, orange-bronze or yellow and chartreuse. Plants occasionally flower in winter, sending up a long, wiry stalk with tiny white flowers. (I cut the stalk off once the flowers fade.) Water Pearl plants when the top of the potting mix is dry to a depth of 2 inches.
A very pretty plant even when it’s not flowering, Kalanchoe has thick, scalloped, dark green leaves. In late fall and winter, these attractive little plants bear large clusters of flowers in bright shades of pink, orange, red, white or yellow. Water the plants whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry. If plants need repotting, I do it in early summer. This is one succulent that prefers direct sunlight, so place it in a south, west or east window. During summer, I place the plants outside in a bright, but shady spot and bring them back indoors before the first fall frost.
Kalanchoe is a long-blooming succulent with pink, orange, white or deep rose flowers.
Photo by Nina Koziol
Hens and chicks form small rosettes of leaves that look like lotus flowers. Depending on the cultivar, the leaves can be rose-red, dark reddish-purple, lavender, powder blue or mauve. Give them bright sunlight and the leaf color intensifies with red, pink, bronze or purple. Plants can be 4 to 6 inches across and they sprout tiny rosettes on stems, which are the “chicks.” I separate the chicks from the “hen” and pot them up for more plants. Water them when the top inch of potting mix feels dry.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
Although they’re not quite like their desert-dwelling cousins, Christmas cacti have fabulous tubular flowers that appear in fall and winter. They do best in bright filtered light and are more drought tolerant than many houseplants. From spring through summer, I water the pots once a week to keep the potting mix lightly moist. In fall and winter, I water about every three to four weeks. Because these plants like higher humidity, I mist them with a spray bottle, especially during winter when the indoor air is dry. Christmas cactus launches into flowering mode in fall when the temperatures begin to cool and the sunlight decreases.