Cactus makes perfect!
My first foray into the wild west of the houseplant world was with succulents and cacti. Why? Because they're famously low maintenance. For someone who regularly forgot to feed and water herself, I knew I needed plants that were forgiving. Succulents and cacti ticked all my boxes.
Succulents: In botany, succulents are plants with parts that are thickened, fleshy, and engorged, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. They are adapted to harsh climates where rain comes sporadically. Think desert.
If you have a look around when you’re out at cafés or restaurants or even when you’re over at your friends’ place, you’ll probably begin to notice there are a lot of cacti and succulents around at the moment. Without doing too much, they can make a space look rather sharp, pun intended!
Globally, there are more people working from home at the moment than there ever have been. However, they are busier than ever before too and that leaves them with very little time to tend to plants. Low-key plants are key if you're worried about killing your new plant babies.
Succulents and cacti are here to stay. Here are a few reasons not to overlook these easy houseplants. Enjoy!
1. Succulents and cacti are super low-maintenance
One of the best things about succulents and cacti is that they grow anywhere. They don’t need much tending to at all, and they are also a great way to spruce up a room. Adapted to harsh climates, they're generally more hardy and tough than other houseplants that grow wild in the tropics. You can generally have bigger ones outside in New Zealand too - as they can tolerate the winters here better than most houseplants.
If you're a new plant parent, consider starting out with some cacti and succulents. You would have to try really hard to murder them! They don’t need too much water – most require watering infrequently which makes them so easy to take care of!
In fact, some of my very first houseplants were succulents. I thought I had killed them, but it turns out I hadn't. I dumped them out on my balcony in the "I'll get to this later" pile and promptly forgot about them. A few months later, I went outside and realized their pot had tipped over and they were slowly growing across the floor of the balcony.
Like I said, hardy!
2. Succulents are easy to propagate
Once you get into houseplants, the next step is learning to propagate or grow new plants from your existing collection. Like you can imagine, some plants are easier to propagate than others. If you guessed that succulents are super easy to propagate, then you are correct.
In fact, there are some succulents you can propagate using just their leaves while the rest can be propagated with cuttings. They are efficient and fuss-free plants to grow, especially as a newbie.
You can quite literally just pull off a leaf from a plant like a donkey's tail and stick it in soil and boom, you'll get a new plant eventually. But watch out for sticky-fingered folks (especially the cheeky grandmas) who often pluck leaves wherever they want to add to their collections.
3. In one word - versatile
While most of your common houseplants are variations of green, green, and more green, succulents and cacti come in all sorts of amazing and unique shapes and colors! Some examples of beautiful succulents are variegated string of hearts, lithops, jelly bean succulents, and especially the echeverias – they are fun and they look great!
You can quite literally build a rainbow with succulents and cacti a home, perfect for those who love a pop of color. Succulents often go more pink and purple and red when they're stressed by the sun. Succulents also look great when you plant a handful of them together in pots into little gardens to display.
But what can you do with succulents, other than just plant them, you might ask…well, they are so versatile that there is a whole heap of things you can use them for. Some examples are:
Terrariums (perhaps the most popular way of using succulents)
Succulent bowls/dish gardens
Trailing succulents: best used on shelves where they can hang and trail down
Multi-textured arrangements in any kind of old or vintage container
As an alternative to rock gardens
Wreaths!! I didn’t even know this was a thing, but how cool would it be to have your own succulent wreath just in time for Christmas?
Come join us on the 1st of Nov for a living succulent wreath workshop in our store in Lyttelton!
4. They flower!
Now that spring is on here in New Zealand, our plants are alive and kicking again. While many of our popular houseplants don't flower here (not tropical enough) you can count on the cactus to flower - and the flowers that come off of them are drop-dead gorgeous.
Brightly colored, extravagant, and flashy, cactus and succulent flowers are showstoppers, and they're one of the main reasons why I'm so drawn to them. It's stunning.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that cacti and succulents are indeed very efficient and awesome plants, easy to look after, and incredibly cool. There’s so much one can use them for! I think it’s fair to say, our life would suck without them - pun intended.