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Butler County


aloe plant

A succulent by definition is a plant with parts that are thickened, fleshy and engorged. These parts usually retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. The term “succulent” comes from the Latin word sucus meaning juice or sap. Cacti are a form of succulent that stores water in the stem and has very small leaves or no leaves at all. There are succulent plants in more than 60 plant families with many being cultivated for use as ornamentals and houseplants.

Succulents became very popular over the last few years because of their bright colors and their supposedly easy to care for nature. Some of my favorite succulents include the jade plant, desert rose, aloes, echevaria, kalanchoe and euphorbia. Succulents have some really cool features that set them apart from other plants and allow them to survive the hot and dry climates where they usually live. Unlike most plants, succulents open their stomata at night to reduce the amount of moisture they lose. As a result, they actually have a modified form of carbon dioxide fixation and photosynthesis which occurs at night rather than during the day like most plants.

The second cool feature are those modified plant parts that help hold water during periods of drought. Many succulents hold water through their thick, fleshy leaves while others like the desert rose hold extra water in the thickened stem at the base of the plant.

Succulents are relatively easy to care for. Indoors, most prefer very bright light (with a few exceptions such as snake plant), otherwise they can get leggy while outdoors most can be acclimated to full sun. They prefer to stay on the dry side and it is very easy to over love them and kill them by overwatering. The best time to water is when the leaves are starting to get slightly soft as this means the plant is pulling extra water from the leaves to supplement. Another way to check if they need watered is to stick a wooden kabob stick all the way to the bottom of the pot then let it sit in the soil for 10 minutes and pull it out. If the stick is completely dry the plant probably needs some water, if not wait a few more days and check again. There are many succulents that are hardy outdoors in Kansas such a sedums, cacti and hens and chicks but most will need brought indoors in the winter time.

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Have questions? Contact our office where our Horticulture Extension Agent will assist you with questions.

Phone: (316) 321-9660

Email: callae@ksu.edu