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When it comes to creating exotic gardens and living environments, succulents have always been a popular choice. They’re diverse ornamental plants belonging to 25 plant families found across the world. Growing succulents can be fun, but are there any disadvantages to it?
If you’re wondering whether growing succulents really is for you or not, weighing the pros and cons before you begin will help you to decide.
Pros of Growing Succulents
1. Boost the visuality of your surroundings
Succulents come in dozens of single and blended colors with eye-catching foliage that’s vividly patterned and shaped. Their geometrically unreal look can add a bold and attractive appearance to your home and garden.
2. Have excellent drought-resistant qualities
These plants don’t need much water to thrive because their thick, fleshy leaves and stems store water inside them. Through this, they can live on with very little to no water for months. They can even tolerate temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius!
Due to these reasons, succulents are often used in “xeriscaping”, the practice of creating gardens with minimum water requirements; especially in areas with insufficient water resources. If you’re living in an area like this, you can easily create a beautiful xeriscape garden using only succulents and rocks.
3. They require very little care and attention
Succulents are low-maintenance plants that require hardly any care. They don’t need frequent watering or fertilizing, and they’re fairly pest resistant with only some common exceptions of a few garden bugs. If you’re worried about not having enough time to grow succulents, caring for them, or not having enough experience with gardening, then worry no more! Succulents grow just fine on their own with minimal care so you can save your time and energy.
4. They’re versatile plants
These plants are highly versatile and can be grown in planters, pots, or even beds. Some species make excellent ground covers as well. They also come in both blooming and non-blooming varieties, giving you a lot to choose from! Due to their diversity, and availability in various colors, sizes, and shapes, succulents can create breathtaking landscapes and sceneries.
5. Some succulents have air-purifying characteristics
According to a clean air study done by NASA, some succulents can remove harmful gasses and pollutants such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde such as toxins, dust, and pollens in the environment. As a result, you’re left with clean, purified air to breathe.
Succulents have micro-sized pores, called “stomata” and with the help of these, through photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide (Co2) throughout the day. Then, they convert the absorbed Co2 into oxygen before releasing it back into the air at night. So as you can see, succulents aren’t just ornamental plants, but also work as natural air-purifiers by making the atmosphere around you clean and refreshing to breathe.
6. Some have medicinal properties
According to various sources, Ancient Egyptians used succulents to treat minor ailments such as earache, fungal diseases, and digestive issues. Today there are many new species of succulents that are used to treat sore throat, acne, and cold. Some are consumed in the form of herbal teas or made into lotions and creams to be applied to the body to treat dermatological conditions and also to improve skin health.
Succulents can also boost metabolism and reduce excessive appetite by decreasing the harmful bacteria in your stomach which, as a result, can be highly effective in weight loss and controlling obesity.
Apart from these, succulents are used to produce several medicinal products for pain relief, nausea, tuberculosis, muscle spasms, and even anxiety. They’re known to have a number of medicinal components that can improve our overall health and well-being.
7. They’re easy to propagate
Unlike some houseplants, succulents are extremely easy to propagate. Though buying an already established and potted succulent is also an option, if you’re willing to try, you’ll find that propagating them is surprisingly fun and interesting.
Take a few stem or leaf cuttings from a healthy plant that has offshoots or ‘pups’ and stick them in a succulent potting mix. Within a few days, these cuttings will reproduce new, young plants. In the best growing conditions, one cutting will give you multiple plants.
8. They can improve concentration
Some studies show that succulents can improve your concentration by increasing serotonin levels in the body. It’s said that growing brightly colored succulents can increase your creativity and instill positive thoughts in your mind.
This is due to a phenomenon called “bio photons”. In this process, plants with noticeable and striking foliage emit high amounts of energy and specific frequencies that can help you focus better. This means placing one or two colorful succulents on your office table can help keep you from getting distracted while you’re working.
9. They’re highly adaptable plants
Another benefit of succulents is that they can easily adapt to different growing environments and conditions. They’re especially capable of tolerating a wide range of lighting and temperature set-ups.
Most succulents can withstand high temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some can even put up with temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. These qualities make them ideal to be grown as houseplants.
10. Some varieties are edible
With their watery leaves and flavored roots and fruits, some succulents make great natural and organic food resources. For example, succulents like prickly pear, Saguaro cactus, and dragon fruit produce juicy fruits that can be eaten both raw and cooked.
Due to their sweet taste, they’re also used to make jams and jellies in some countries.
While succulents like Cuban oregano are added to increase the flavor of various dishes, the juice of herbaceous succulents such as Aloe Vera is a popular ingredient in making herbal drinks. The leaves of edible succulents include the friendly fibers our body needs as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
Some succulents such as Purslane and stonecrop can also be eaten raw or cooked when used in salads and soups. However, not all succulents are edible and some can be fatally toxic so it’s important to make sure that you’re only eating the safe varieties.
11. Some succulents have long lifespans
Lots of succulent varieties live for a considerably long lifetime. For instance, Saguaro cactus is identified as one of the longest living succulents with an average lifespan of 150-175 years, while other types such as Jade can live up to about 100 years. Though some succulents can only live for 3-4 years, they re-produce a lot within that time period, guaranteeing the continuous survival of their species.
Cons of Growing Succulents
Now that we’ve looked at the advantages of growing succulents, let’s take a look at the downsides:
1. They can rot easily
Succulents are highly sensitive to over-watering and excessive moisture. Soggy soil and high humidity will cause these plants to easily rot and die. Constantly damp and wet growing environments can also increase the risk of the plants getting exposed to various fungal and bacterial infections.
On the other hand, under watering can make these plants dehydrated, so it’s important to maintain a proper and scheduled plan to water your succulents. Although the amount of water you give them can vary depending on the soil, climate, and species, the general rule is to let the soil dry out completely between each watering. This can either be once every few weeks or even once every few months.
2. Some varieties are hard to handle
There are some succulent varieties such as certain types of cacti that are hard to maintain. Some grow far too large, while others have sharp prickles making them difficult to touch and handle. This can make tasks like pruning and moving the plants extremely tough and strenuous. Always wear thick gardening gloves and take any other necessary protective measures when caring for such plants.
3. Most succulents are slow-growers
In comparison to many other houseplants, most varieties of succulents grow at an exceedingly slow pace. This can also vary based on the growth factors your succulents grow in such as soil, climate, fertilizing, and watering.
Some can take years to shape up and be ready to re-pot, so if you’re looking for a plant that gives you quick results, succulents aren’t really your thing. There are a few exceptions to these, however as ground covers like sedum can spread widely only within a time period of one month.
4. Some can be toxic or dangerous to animals and children
Some succulents have sharp prickles and spines on them which can be harmful, to children and animals. Getting pricked can be very painful and can even cause medical complications such as skin irritations and allergies. Ensure that you keep such succulents away from your pets and children for their safety.
As mentioned earlier, some succulents can be toxic to both animals and children, so place them out of their reach, just to be on the safe side.
5. According to feng-shui, some succulents bring bad luck
If you’re a strong believer in feng-shui, succulents may not be for you. According to some teachings of feng-shui, when placed in crowded places, succulents attract negative energy, financial hardships, and bad luck.
6. Some succulents are toxic
Some succulent varieties such as Euphorbia and Kalanchoe are highly toxic to both humans and animals when ingested or touched. The visible signs of consumption and touch include:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive salivating
- skin irritation
- Allergies and rashes.
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.
Just like every other aspect of gardening, succulents, too, have both benefits and downsides to them. However, as you can see, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. Growing and caring for succulents can be fun and very rewarding at the same time, so if you’re really interested, go ahead and give it a try!