How One Plant Inspires a Garden of Life Lessons

Succulents are easy to care for—and to propagate. Starting new plants from older ones is both a satisfying and inspiring project.

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Posted in , Jul 3, 2019

What a succulent plant can teach you

I live in New England, which is not exactly a desert habitat. But succulents, members of the “xerophyte” family of drought-resistant plants with plump, water-conserving leaves, are favorites of mine, especially in containers indoors. 

Like all plants, succulents live to propagate themselves, to create future generations of their squat, happy selves. There are two main ways to help them along in this endeavor—and when you do, you can make a whole garden from just a single  succulent, or a couple of different varieties.

Each method comes with a few instructions—and the kind of inspirational life lessons gardening is uniquely equipped to teach.

Fully Formed Baby Plants

Instructions: Some varieties of succulents produce fully formed babies—adorably called “pups,” “chicks” or “plantlets,” that sprout from the base of “mother” plants and, like seeds, root wherever they fall. Watch your succulents for signs of these tiny wonders and ease them off their mother plants, setting them in sandy soil or cactus growing mix. Then let them find their way.

Inspirations: Everything that grows does so from a source that formed it, nourished it and, ultimately, becomes ready to release it. Discerning when to let go of something we’ve created and nurtured—or when to separate ourselves—is both a gift and a challenge. With confidence that we will root where we’re planted, though, we can find our way.

Leaf Cuttings

Instructions: Because succulent leaves are heavy with stored water, they carry within themselves the foundation of a new life. Remove a plump leaf from your plant and allow it to dry out for a few days, until it sends out the beginnings of new roots. Then plant in your sandy, cactus-ready soil mix. If a plant has become “leggy,” growing a long stem with a cluster of leaves at the end, this same method works—snip off the cluster with a small nob of stem left attached, dry out and plant.

Inspirations: Moving on and letting go doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes we need a moment to recover from a separation before we’re ready to set down new roots. Like the leaves that need some peaceful open air, we too should claim the time and space we need before embarking on whatever is next in our lives. Our next steps will be all the more fruitful for it.

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