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    Succulents: The Un-Killable Plants

    Saying I love succulents, would be a severe understatement. Saying I’m obsessed with succulents is a more accurate portrayal of my feelings towards them! It could be that after years of killing every living plant I got my hands on I’m just elated to know that succulents give me a chance to right my murderous past. I owe a lot of my succulent love and knowledge to my husbands best friend. He has quite a green thumb and landscaped his whole property, mostly with succulents. A few years ago, he exposed me to the great beauty and variety of these plants. Like most people, I used to think succulents and drought-tolerant plants were really just boring and ugly cacti. Luckily, I now know the tremendous variability and diversity that these amazing plants have.

    For our wedding a couple years ago, all of our centerpieces, favors, escort cards, and bouquets even consisted mostly of succulents. A lot of people were very curious about the plants used and ended up being very surprised to hear what they were. We wanted people to be able to take a piece of our wedding home with them to keep for (hopefully) years to come. I planted a lot of the left over plants in large pots around our home and they have continued to grow and thrive. To give you an idea of just how strong and fertile these plants can be: my husbands best friend rounded up all the leftover plants from centerpieces and favors people had left behind, threw them in a trash bag, left them in a friends trunk for a few days, and then replanted them all around his home where they are now continuing to flourish years later. Succulents really are the plant for people who continually fail at keeping vegetation alive!

    Now, while I do love succulents, I have always just bought them and never ventured into the world of propagating them.  I keep hearing how easy it is, but I have a very flighty and forgetful mind, so I figured it would still be more work and commitment than I was willing to put in. Well, I finally got the gumption to give it a shot. After introducing my father to the wonderful variety of these gorgeous plants, he gave me the confidence to give propagating them a shot with him. While I have heard of people successfully just clipping the bud off a succulent and replanting them instantly, I figured I would have greater success and would yield more plants by taking the longer route. This has paid off exponentially just in the excitement and self-adulation from seeing success so quickly! As I have nearly two dozen different varieties of succulents around my home to begin with, we were really able to see the subtle differences in how each of these clippings sprout and grow new offspring. I encourage you to take a couple of hours this weekend and give it a shot with any succulents you may already have. While the process does take a few weeks, it is extremely simple and a REALLY great project to try with kids.

    You will need:
    – Cactus soil
    – Succulents
    – Garden sheers or sharp scissors
    – Spray bottle
    – Box tops (I used the lids from the boxes that reams of paper come in, but you could certainly use any box lid, including shoe box’s if you’re starting off small)

    Step One: First, you’ll want to go around and snip the succulents you want to propagate. To do so, you can do two things. First, you can take off the rosettes, or heads of the succulents. Just cut them clean an inch or so below the head. A new one will grow in its place, and then the head can be replanted to grow a whole new plant. The second thing you can do is to carefully rip off the leaves from the stem. You’ll want to make sure you rip them clean from the stem so that they can grow new roots.

    Step Two: Lay the leaves and rosettes in the box lids with a small amount of space in between each plant. Let them dry out for a few days. You’ll notice the ends of some of the plants beginning to scab a bit. They may not all scab the same way, so don’t get concerned.

    Step Three: After you notice some scabbing (approximately 4-7 days) dump the cuttings out and fill them with a couple inches of the cactus soil. Lay the leaves and rosettes back on top of the soil, with a small amount of space in between each plant. You’ll want to leave these boxes in a location with lots of sun! Spritz them with a spray bottle full of water every other day. Not too much water, but enough to get the plants and soil moist.

    After about a week or so, you’ll begin to notice pink roots coming out of some of the plants. Once you see the roots, go ahead and replant! You can use Dixie cups, or the plastic planters that plants come in from a nursery or home improvement store. Then a week or two later, you’ll notice some of the leaves will begin growing new rosettes out of the end of the leaf that scabbed over. Once they grow large enough to where you personally feel comfortable replanting them, you can go ahead and transplant them from the box to the same cups/planters. Be careful with the original leaf that the rosette will be growing off of. If you don’t feel confident enough to rip it off carefully, you can just leave it attached. Note that not all of these cuttings will turn out. Some of them will simply wither or die, but you should get a nice yield!

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    These rosettes have a number of pink roots that started growing about a week and a half after being cut and dried. You may notice a root growing from anywhere on a stem that you took off a leaf.

    While succulents are maturing, they still need water regularly, but be careful not to go too crazy- succulents are susceptible to root rot, so you will not want to water them as much or as often as normal houseplants or flowers. I have three large pots with many succulents, and I split a single watering cans worth of water among all of them about once a week. If it rains, let them dry out for at least a week before watering again. If you go on vacation, don’t worry about having anyone water them. I was out of the country for the two weeks last September when we experienced extreme heat and my succulents did wonderfully without any watering at all. I have some that only get about 4 hours of sunlight a day, and they have done wonderfully. I also have a planter that gets full sunlight about 8 hours a day and those are thriving as well, so these plants should really work with whatever environment you give them. Happy planting!

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    Photography by: Natalia Cruz

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