Wwhen the pandemic took hold in New York City in March 2020 and the Well + Goods office closed, I never got the chance to gather my pride and joy: a small, ridiculously sweet cactus that lived on my desk. But when I finally had to pick up my belongings six months later in September, I gratefully found that it clung to life. It resisted neglect of human care, but it clearly did not like it. While very much alive, the cactus was thin from using its water reserves. Contrary to what people think, I realized that some succulents and cacti need more attention than many of us are aware of.
“When I first became a plant parent, I went a little overboard with cacti and succulents because I heard they were some of the easiest to care for and they thrive on neglect,” says Maryah Greene, a plant expert and stylist who also retires The herbalist. “However, I was not aware that there are so many differences between the different types and that some prefer more water than others.”
“There are so many differences between the different types of cacti and succulents, and some prefer more water than others.” – Maryah Greene, plant expert
Greene shares what you should know about succulents and cactus care in the latest section of Greene Thumb from Well + Good, YouTube series on plant care. We often treat these plant varieties as a monolith, which Greene says is wrong and can lead to improper care.
“There are over 6,500 species of succulents,” Greene says. “Long ago in the history of evolution, cacti actually had leaves. But over time, they evolved into a transition so that they could live in their changing climate. As their climate changed and became drier, they began to store water, and they lost their leaves., and eventually they began to change shape, making them look a little taller and rounder, as they do now. “
In this episode, Greene dispels common myths and shares some great facts about succulents and cactus care. Check them out below
The 3 most important things to know about succulents and cactus care
Succulents need water
“A fairly common misconception is that succulents rarely need water,” says Greene. “It actually depends on the type of succulents and the region it comes from.” For example, some succulents such as aloe and haworthia developed in areas that received a lot of rain at once followed by periods of drought.
“This aloe vera plant is a perfect example of a succulent that can hold a lot of water in its leaves,” says Greene. “You may have seen them grow quite large and deserts, but even at home they can become quite large and leaf sizes.”
In addition to considering what type of succulent you have, you also need to adapt watering to the season. “This will dictate how often and how much water it should receive,” she says.
2. You should always water succulents first thing in the morning
“Another misconception that I hear from my clients all the time is that succulents can be watered almost anytime of the day,” Greene says. “They actually prefer to be watered in the morning, especially before the sun gets strongest.”
Succulents do not need to be replanted as often
“[Succulents] does not need to be replanted as often as other houseplants, “says Greene.” Most succulents grow quite slowly, as you may know. But they also will not go into anything too large because too much soil will keep the plant too moist … the soil should be dry. “For smaller succulents, consider a small plant box with a drain hole, like the pot below, there are four inches wide and three inches high.
You also want to make sure you are using the right soil. “You can often buy your own juicy cactus soil, because if you feel adventurous, you can make your own,” Greene says. “You can use ordinary homable soil and just add a little bit of perlite sand or an extra drainage stone.”
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