4 Things Succulent Plants Can Teach You About Life

Caring for these beautifully mysterious plants invites us to tune in to our own strength and power.

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Posted in , Jun 13, 2022

Succulent plants

I’ve been on a journey to improve my skills in caring for houseplants, and in recent months, that’s drawn me to succulents—a category of plant defined by the ability to store water in broad stems (think of a cactus) or in thick, juicy leaves (think of an aloe plant). Succulents are famous for being easy to care for because they not only enjoy, they actually prefer to spend lots of time in a dry, untended environment.

Part of the pleasure of learning and exploring the wildly diverse spiky, smooth, pointy, round, squat and spreading world of succulents is that it gives me the opportunity to see my own life—in all my hopes, worries, victories and challenges—reflected in those tiny pots of green. Here are four lessons my succulents are teaching me these days:

1)  Roll with Mistakes
Don’t get me wrong—there’s ample room for error in caring for succulents, from over-watering to setting in a too-sunny or too-shady spot to using a soil mix with poor drainage. I’ve made every mistake in the book, and each time I do, I wait for that moment when disappointment and frustration morph into learning and hope for something new to understand, something different to try.

2)  Let It Be
Sometimes, the best thing we can “do” for a growing thing is to leave it alone. Let it be—whether “it” is a succulent that likes its soil to get completely dry before having another drink, or a new routine or habit that needs some time to take hold before you adjust, fuss and study it closely again.

3)  Trust Inner Resources
A particularly satisfying aspect of succulent care is to give its leaves a gentle squeeze. Unless the plant is badly in need of a deep drink of water, the leaves will surprise you with their balloon-like juiciness, the inner nourishment it is able to draw on in its own time, when it needs to turn inward and support its own growth using the resources it has collected over time.

4)  Reach Out with Roots
Propagation—using a cutting or even a single leaf to create a new plant—is easier with succulents than with many other plants. Some plants, like the other-worldly “Mother of Thousands,” sprouts “pups” that send out roots while they’re still attached to the parent plant. Other succulents, like jade can be propagated by letting a clean 4-inch cutting or single leaf dry out and callous before sticking it into a well-draining mix of perlite and soil. From there, the plant knows what to do. Letting it reach for water, extending its roots with almost no effort on your part, is perhaps the ultimate metaphor for our own strength, the potential that lies within each of us to grow, to expand, and to find beauty and comfort wherever our roots can take hold.

What do you love about succulents? 

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