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20 Nov 2019

Succulents You See Them Everywhere Indoors


All types of succulent plants, you see them everywhere. In dish gardens, terrariums, pots, planters, on patios, even in modern foundation plantings. 

Succulents are plants without frills, geared to modern living. Functional plants that can stand today’s rapid pace.

If you are too rushed to water them, they fall back on their own reserve supply. 

Learn more about Watering Succulents from the Bottom.

If your air-conditioned room is too dry, it reminds them of their native warm-temperate or semi-desert home. If the children swoosh by too close, the pieces often root where they fall.

There are hundreds of different succulents. 

From tiny button sizes, you can grow in 1” inch pots to trees too tall to fit into a conservatory. 

But, beware. Once you fall under the succulent spell, you may find yourself searching for rare varieties to add for your collection. 

Dedicated fanciers hunt for succulents in nursery catalogs native to South Africa, Madagascar, and Mexico.

Growing Succulents No Green Thumb Required

Growing succulents does not require you to have a green thumb. Plant them in any good potting soil. Although we recommend a soil mix for succulents

If you mix your own, use a sandy loam and add some clean, coarse sand, and coarse leafmold or peat moss. 

Strive for an open, porous compost through which water will drain freely. 

Heavy soils drown plants by holding too much water around the roots. If the succulent potting soil is damp, don’t water the plants right away. 

And when you do water during the first few weeks, give them only a little so the soil will dry out again quickly. Healthy new roots start best in soil that is almost dry.

Spread out the roots and pot plants firmly. When using individual pots, small ones are best at the start. Later, as the plants grow, you can transfer them to larger containers.

Succulents Good For Decorations

Dish gardens of succulents make good decorations. For the best effect plant, many kinds close together in each dish. 

The bowls or dishes used for planting are usually glazed pottery without drainage holes, and excess water can escape only through evaporation. 

So never soak the soil. 

Give enough water to keep the plants plump but not enough to induce much top growth. Actually, the plants should be on the dry side most of the time.

Succulents enjoy the same light geraniums do. They want the sun, so don’t put them too far away from the window. Windowsills are perfect for cactus and succulents.

If you intend to succulents on tables where there is no direct light, keep them on the dry side – hardly water them at all – and they will keep in good condition.

Succulents To Consider For Your Collection

Here are some succulents you will want for your collection. You can see a number of them in full color throughout this article.

Agave striata (echinoides) – a dwarf century plant. Its many narrow stiff leaves have white threads on the margins. Young plants spring from the soil near the base. The tall, slender flower spike has inconspicuous flowers.

Aloe humilis – forms small, compact rosette clusters. Most aloes are from Africa and vary from small 3-inch rosettes to tall trees.

Aloe brevifolia – thick, blue-gray leaf rosettes covered with blunt prickles. Flowers are bright red on tall, slender spikes. Young plants grow around the base.

Aloe variegata – an old favorite called tiger or partridge breast aloe. The stiff, triangular, keeled leaves – pale green, blotched, and margined with white – grow in rosettes. In late winter, short spikes of slender, brilliant red bells appear.

Variegated Tiger Aloe with bloom stalk

Bryophyllum – also known as Kalanchoe. Produces many young plantlets at its leaf crenations.

Crassula argentea tricolor –  the sturdy, tricolored, jade plant. It will grow into a good-sized bush with a thick trunk, but small plants are more common.

Echeveria elegans  – commonly called Mexican snowball. It has thick, blue-white leaves in compact rosettes and spikes of fleshy pink bells. Grows in hot, dry places and is useful in dish gardens or carpet bedding outdoors.

Echeveria elegans growing in full sun in the landscape

Echeveria gibbiflora metallica  – a large rosette often a foot in diameter. Has bronzy-red leaves and a tall single stem that bears a spike of pale red flowers.

Echeveria pallida –  a Mexican plant with pale green leaves forming quite a large rosette. The flower spike is 2’ feet long with many bright red bells.

Echeveria setosa – commonly called Mexican firecracker. Leaves are covered with white hairs, and flowers, on short spikes, are bright red and yellow.

Echeveria sets the Mexican Firecracker with the fuzzy bristles on the leaves

Faucaria tigrina – called tiger jaws. This African succulent has thick green rosettes, each leaf white-flecked and rimmed with teeth.

Tiger's Jaw Faucaria succulent showing off it's yellow flower

Large, bright yellow flowers appear in autumn.

Gasteria verrucosa – a South African plant with thick leathery leaves, lying in one plane, covered with glossy white bosses, bears tall flower spikes with slender bright red bells.

Graptopetalum paraguayense – ghost plant. This handsome, long-lived species grows more beautiful with age. The stems of the mature plants tipped with their rosettes of thick, pink-white leaves, bend gracefully. The ghost plant thrives under adverse conditions.

Haworthia margaritifera – pearl haworthia. Handsome, and easily grown, it has a small rosette of thick, deep green leaves with many white bosses on the backs. Haworthia papillosa is larger and has larger bosses.

potted Haworthia zebra cactus (fasciata)
Potted Haworthia plants

Huernia pillansi – cockleburs, a member of the milkweed family, closely related to the starfish flowers.

Flowers of Huernia succulent planl

It belongs to a curious group of African plants called ‘dragon flowers’ because their blossoms are open mouthed. This is the only one that bears soft, hairlike prickles.

Kalanchoe marmorata – readily recognized as the pen wiper plant by its heavily mottled purple leaves. It forms a tall plant topped with a cluster of white flowers.

Kalanchoe synsepala – from Madagascar, has large obovate leaves of dark green. Flower spikes have thickly packed heads of pale pink blossoms. Produces stiff slender runners with young plants at the tips.

Kalanchoe tomentosa – panda plant. A fine plant from Madagascar. The leaves, densely covered with silvery wool, turn rich cocoa-brown at the leaf crenations.

Kalanchoe tomentosa - panda plant a well known variety

Pachyphytum oviferum –  thick, white-powdered ovate leaves that turn violet-pink during cold weather.

Details on Pachyphytum Compactum

Sansevieria – rugged plants that will do well under the most adverse conditions. There are many kinds, and the most popular is striped with yellow.

Sansevieria plants growing on a windowsill

Sedum rubrotinctum –  (S. guatemalense). This quick-growing species is very useful. Given poor soil and full sun, its leaves turn bright red; in richer soil and with more water, leaves turn bright, shiny green.

Close up of Sedum rubrotinctum - Jelly bean succulent

Sedum pachyphyllum – red tips. Has pretty yellow blossoms. If kept dry and in full sun, the leaves turn violet-rose tipped with red.



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05 Nov 2019

Learn About Upcycling Drawbacks And Benefits


Upcycling is kind of similar to recycling in that you are reusing an item. But with recycling, an item is often broken down in some way, making it less than it was before, whereas upcycling is just as the name suggests…taking an item “up” a notch and making it something more than it was before. While the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle and repurposing our waste are being beaten into us, others see an awful lot of upcycling drawbacks. So, in order to provide the best information possible, we must include both sides – the pros and cons of garden upcycling.

Upcycling Pros – Reasons to Upcycle in the Garden

(Nikki’s viewpoint) I love to upcycle, especially in the garden. Why? Let me count the ways, as the benefits of garden upcycling are bountiful, and anyone can reap from these rewards.

Saves money and reduces waste. This should just be a given. It doesn’t cost much at all to improve upon something, but it will get costly having to haul it off to the landfill. Take my son’s old truck bed liner, for example. This large eyesore could have costed us some money hauling it off to the dump, but why spend money when you don’t have to? With some drainage holes and the addition of some beautiful plants, this became the foundation for a backyard tropical oasis instead. Same thing for those huge truck tires. Some paint, some plants and some ingenuity, and an attractive dinosaur garden was created. Simple things like this can greatly reduce waste in landfills and beyond.

Great chance to be creative. Upcycling in the garden also gives you the chance to let those creative juices flow. Don’t have a creative bone? Yes, you do. Everyone does. Don’t overthink it too much. You can make upcycling as simple or complex as your artistic abilities can handle. Got an old terra cotta container that’s cracked or broken and ready to be tossed? Give it new life and another purpose as part of a fairy garden. How about those wine bottles piling up? Sure, you could haul them to the recycling center, but why not turn them into unique edging or create a bottle tree with them instead? Anything goes – it’s your creation.

Visually pleasing conversation piece. Taking something used up, broken or downright ugly and sprucing it up into something beautiful and purposeful in the garden can be a visually appealing asset to the garden. It can also become an interesting conversation piece. I once took an old desk and refurbished it into a unique planter. Many people have commented on it as they pass by. I also have a teapot turned planter/wind chime combo – a gift my daughter-in-law made. Dresser drawers have found new life housing plants in the garden after a previous life storing clothes.

Preserves precious mementos. Another reason to upcycle in the garden is preserving memories, or maybe even history. I have old rain boots from my daughter and toys that once belonged to my son. They’re grown now, but these trinkets can be found amongst the plants in the garden, some even spilling out their own flora. Each time I’m out there, it brings me joy, as those fond memories of their childhood antics live on in a different way.

Cons of Garden Upcycling – Gardening Upcycling Drawbacks

(Amy’s viewpoint) I know that upcycling is supposed to result in turning our trash into something useful or even beautiful, but too often the results look pretty disastrous, pretty much like the rubbish they started off as. And that isn’t my only upcycling beef.

Upcycled items cannot always be recycled. Upcycling is touted as an extension of recycling. It is changing or customizing an item to reuse in a different way than what the item was intended for. Okay, that sounds pretty good, but the fact is that sometimes the objects that have been upcycled can no longer be recycled. For instance, if you upcycle toilet paper rolls and transform them into holiday napkin rings but in the process painted them with toxic paints and rolled them in glitter, are they still recyclable? I think not.

Most are not attractive and return to junkyard. Many of the dearths of projects for upcycling that can be found seem to be, well, pretty crappy, either designed for children or those without an iota of artistic talent or taste for that matter. Once you’ve created your upcycled masterpiece and realize it’s a piece of crap, what do you plan to do with it? How long are you going to hang onto it before it finds its way into the trash bin? The concern here is that upcycling becomes less of a green, sustainable activity and instead just a delay to the landfill.

There better ways to reduce waste. Really, when I think about it, the major upcycling negative is that it depends on our failure to reduce our use of things we now have to upcycle. For instance, is it really saving the planet by upcycling plastic bottles into feeders or planters? A better idea might be to quit drinking soda.

Acquiring more “junk” material is never ending. Also, it’s likely that the crafty upcycler will still buy new stuff, which is sort of a non-renewable idea. We often buy stuff just because we want it, not because we need it, which I guess perversely for the upcycling proponent just means more usable upcyclable material. In the end, I see upcycling as a rather twisted excuse.

Weighing the Garden Upcycling Negatives Against the Pros

You may agree with some of the upcycling negatives presented here but, overall, the benefits of garden upcycling seem to far outweigh any drawbacks. Sure, if you want to save the planet by minimizing your footprint, you can use less and be mindful about the things you purchase. If everyone gave a second thought before impulsively buying, there would be little need for activities like garden upcycling, let alone recycling. But that’s not realistic. There will always be “stuff,” much of which ends up in landfills or backyards taking up space and cluttering the environment. Recycling is great, but if you can put a creative spin to some of these items and find other uses for them in the garden, what’s wrong with that?



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