January 3, 2006
Posted online January 7, 2006
Stop fighting dry indoor air and grow
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
Maintaining attractive houseplants
during winter months can be a challenge. Homes are often too dry
and too warm to provide the tropical atmosphere which most of our
favorite plants require.
Stop fighting the site and consider growing succulents.
Succulent is a descriptive term, not a botanical classification,
given to plants with thick, juicy stems and/or leaves.
"Succulents make great houseplants because they do not
require much care and grow well under the dry conditions
experienced in homes during the winter," explains David
Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
"All cactus plants are succulents, but not all succulents
are cacti. The succulents contain many genera and species; some
are tropical. and some grow under desert conditions. Even the
lily and bromeliad groups have some succulents." The aloe
group is one of the most popular succulent groups. Aloe vera is
the most popular and has been grown for centuries as both a
decorative and medicinal plant. There are many other forms
The milk-striped euphorbia is another succulent often selected
as a houseplant. This euphorbia grows erect like a tree and has a
spiny, three-sided trunk with small leaves that tend to drop off
soon after they are formed. The haworthia from South Africa is a
succulent belonging to the lily family. It is grown primarily as
a foliage plant. The Crassulaceae family is another well-liked
succulent group. A prize member is the jade plant, Crassula
Robson says that several of the sedums make good potted
plants. The burro's tail, jellybean plant and showy stonecrop
are great as hanging baskets. The sempervivum group also makes
attractive potted plants.
The culture -- care, soil, temperature and watering -- of all
succulents is similar. Generally, they need a porous soil mix
that is well drained and has some organic matter and soil in it.
Succulents perform best in a reasonably rich soil mix. The more
tropical succulents prefer soil on the acid side, while the
desert-type succulents prefer sunlight. A few grow under
low-light conditions but will have different colors than when
grown in full sunlight.
All succulents need good air circulation. The succulents
require less water than many other houseplants. They can go for
longer periods between waterings and can get on the dry side with
less damage than many other plants. During the longer days of the
growing season when the plants receive more light, they need more
water. During the shorter days of winter, they need less.
Succulents should be fertilized when the plants are growing
actively (usually the longer days of spring and summer). Never
use more than one-fourth to one-third of the amount recommended
on any of the houseplant fertilizer packages. Discontinue feeding
when the plants show no further growth.
Source: David J. Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
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