Posted on: February 6, 2020 | Written By: Doug Oster |
A long greenhouse bench is filled with an array of succulents at Soergels Garden Center in Wexford. These varieties are
indoor plants that have become increasingly popular over the past several seasons.
Randy Potter is a general manager here and wears many hats at the nursery. One of his jobs is deciding which succulents and houseplants should be carried at the garden center.
“I think people really respond to how much having a potted plant can do for you,” he says.
They are one of the easiest plants to grow on the windowsill, but there are two essential rules though for making them thrive:
“(Give it) bright light, and don’t kill it with love,” he says with a laugh. “Most people are more inclined to kill their succulents by overwatering them rather than underwatering them.”
One key is using a container with good drainage. A standard planting mix is fine to use as a growing medium, he says. Just be sure to choose one not loaded with compost, which holds on to water longer than other mediums.
“There are good succulent mixes out there,” he adds, “a little bit lighter and faster draining.”
To test moisture, he just pushes his finger down in the soil; if it’s dry, it’s time to water.
The clear windows along the plant show off the diversity the succulents have to offer. There are a wide range of textures, colors and sizes to choose from.
“There’s a whole lot of cool and different plants hitting the market,” Potter adds. Echeveria is one of the most popular, along with haworthia, sansevieria, aloe and many others. The echeverias have beautiful flowers, which surprises many indoor gardeners. Other succulents can have spectacular blooms, too.
“All of a sudden out of nowhere it will shoot out this giant spike,” he says of the succulents.
“Really spectacular and fun,” Potter adds of the flowers.
Haworthias don’t need as much light as many of the others and come in many shapes and sizes, with some resembling aloe plants.
The most common sansevieria is known commonly as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue (as the leaves come to a sharp point), but it also has a diverse variety of cultivars. Sansevieria cylindrical ‘Starfish,’ looks similar to its namesake.
It’s fun to mix and match the plants too as many have the same light and water requirements.
“It’s pretty easy to have a lot of plants in a small space,” he says. “There’s a lot of artistic expression playing with a tall one, fuzzy one, spiky one or vining plant.”
Every cactus is a succulent, but not every succulent is a cactus. Potter has learned the hard way when dealing with the sharp needles of cactus.
“The big sharp ones are one thing, but those aren’t really so bad. It’s the little furry ones, that you don’t realize that you even touched until five minutes later and you’re itching your hand,” he says and adds with a smile, “I guess it’s just an occupational hazard.”
There are also hardy succulents like hens and chicks along with other sempervivums, sedums, peperomias and even prickly pear cactus.
“These are different plants that you can add to your garden and give you that succulent aspect,” he says.
Sansevieria and many other succulents make pups, which sprout from the base and can be used to make more plants.
“It’s super easy and fun to do,” Potter says. “You just dig it out or break it off. You can either stick it in some water to propagate or just plant it as is, and it will keep growing from there.”
Some leaves and other growths of succulents can be removed and planted as a way to make more plants.
It’s fun for Potter to guide gardeners in the right direction as they look over the row of indoor plants.
“That’s really why I do what I do, to see other people experience that joy of gardening and share that with them,” he says. “It’s always a good feeling for sure.”
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.