How fast do succulents grow?

How fast do succulents grow?

The human race is a very impatient species. Even more so nowadays with Gen Z wanting everything yesterday.  I can understand that when it comes to succulents, I cannot wait till my baby succulents grow and thrive, in the back of my mind though I hear a voice saying ‘succulents are slow growers’……. but are they?

As always, with succulents – due to the vast quantity of species and varieties – the answer is yes and no.

What is the definition of a fast growing plant?
It  depends on your individual interpretation of what is slow or fast!  To me growing overnight is fast growing! The only plants that literally grow overnight, that I remember from science class, are water cress and mung beans. Some varieties within a species will grow faster than other varieties within the same species. To me a fast growing plant is one that you can see a difference in size within a few months.

Each species will have some varieties that are faster growers than other varieties in the same species.  In general though I believe that most species are either fast, moderate or slow growing.

Which conditions increase the growth rate?
There are a two conditions that will effect the growth rate of a succulent.

Growing Season A succulent will grow faster during its growing season than it will in its dormant season.  Some succulents do not grow at all in their dormant season and some will grow; but a lot slower. (see post: When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons? )  So if you purchase/receive a succulent in its dormant season do not be worried if it sits there doing (almost) nothing.

Environment How fast a succulent grows will also depend on environmental conditions. Sunlight, temperature, soil and moisture can all affect the growth rate of a succulent. If the plant has its ideal amount of light, temperature and moisture and grown in the right soil medium it will grow at is optimum rate.

Which succulents are fast growing?
Firstly let me say what I consider to be fast growing. If I can see a succulent has increased in its overall size by about 25% within a 4-6 month period I would consider it to be fast growing.  I take a photo of a succulent the first day it arrives, including its name. If you are like me and check your succulents every day you would not notice their growth. Looking back at the original photo can show you how much they have grown in that period.

The following succulents are species that I grow in my garden and have witnessed their growth first hand.

Aeonium Aboreum
The Aeonium Aboreum below was planted in the middle of its growing season and had formed a thick mass after only 4 months. It would have been a totally different story if I had planted them in the summer when this species of succulent is dormant.  (see post: Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum ) Don’t forget succulents have a dormant season as well – so make sure you know when this is.

Aeonium Aboreum-July16

November 2016

November 2016

Echeveria
Most Echeveria are fast growing.  As long as you can see new leaves forming in the centre of the Echeveria then they are liking their environment and growing as fast as they can.  Most of my Echeveria varieties grow for about 9 months of the year due to our short winters.

sunburnt echeveria agavoides

December 2016

Echeveria Agavoides

April 2017 – 4 months later

Flowering Echeveria

June 2017

Echeveria Agavoides

Echeveria Elegans Succulent

June 2016

Echeveria Elegans

May 2017

June 2017

Echeveria Elegans

Graptoveria
Graptoveria are a very close relative to the Echeveria species as they are a hybrid of an Echeveria and Graptopetulum (see post: What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?)  Therefore they also are generally a fast growing species.

Graptoveria Fred Ives

September 2016

Graptoveria Fred Ives

May 2017

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Crassula
The Crassula species is also a fast growing plant.  Especially Crassula Ovata which is also a very hard variety.

Crassula Ovata Ribbon Plant Crassula Ovata grown in shade Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

Crassula Ovata

Research on the world wide web indicates that the following succulents are of the fast growing variety.

Coppertone sedum
Graptopetalum paraguayense
Haworthis obtusa
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi – Lavender Sallops
Sedum rubrotinctum – Jelly Bean Plant
Sempervivum Guiseppe
Crassula perforata – String of Buttons
Agave desmettiana

Which succulents are slow growing?
There are a few slow growing succulents.

Euphorbia Millie – Crown of Thorns
Euphorbia Milli is quite a slow growing succulent.  The one below suddenly lost all its leaves and flowers so I moved it to a different position and it grew again – but very slowly.  It took 8 months just to grow its leaves back but still is not any taller.

Euphorbia

November 2016

Euphorbia Millie Succuelnt

July 2017

Giant Barrell Cactus
There are some succulents that literally grow so slowly you wonder if they are growing at all.  The Giant Cactus Barrell (below) is one of these.  However, they can live for approximately 100 years.

20 year old cacti

Lithops
Lithops are very slow growing but like the Giant Barrell Cactus they live a long time.

Lithops the living rocks Lithops are awesome #leafandclay #succulents cc: @ishiiplantnursery www.leafandclay.co

How long does it take to grow succulents from a leaf?
Once again depending on conditions a leaf can sprout roots within a week and start to sprout within a 3 week period.  To grow to a new plant – depending on the species and variety you can have a new succulent baby within a 3 -4 month period. This is a huge generalisation but has been my experience with a lot of leaf propagation I have tried.

How to Root a Succulent Leaf - Collect a succulent leaf cutting in the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Choose a healthy plant with no signs of damage or disease...

In summary, I would say, most of the popular and more common succulents that are available in Australia are moderate to fast growing.  Taking into consideration the general growing conditions of succulents;  the weather in most parts of Australia are ideal and even with their dormant season thrown into the mix you will still see a huge difference after one year of growth. Below is a photo of my front succulent garden bed with just a 9 month growing period.

Succulent Garden - Australia

October 2016

Australian Succulent Garden

July 2017

 

 

 

Which succulents can survive frost?

Which succulents can survive frost?

Succulents are known for their ability to survive without water and thrive in the heat of summer.  There are some succulents that will survive extreme heat ‘and’ cold temperatures.  There are some succulents that can survive snow and therefore there are some succulents that also can survive frost!

This is not surprising as many succulents originate from the mountainous areas of Europe.  So which succulents can survive frost?

In the Garden
For those of you who are growing succulents in the garden – there are a lot of succulents that survive frost. They will get frost damage and look unsightly for quite a few months but will eventually grow new leaves and the old frost damaged leaves will die back.  The succulents below were victims of a hailstorm (see post: Succulents DO NOT like hail!! ) Hail is like frost so far as freezing water is deposited on the leaves of the plant.

Hail damaged echeveria succulent

Echeveria

Echeveria Succulent hail damage

Echeveria

Succulent dying

Graptoveria

The same succulents below 8 months later looking healthy with no signs of the hail.  (This would be the same for frost.)

Echeveria Succulent, Colour Change Graptoveria

In pots
For those of you who are growing succulents in pots.  If you are worried about your succulents getting frost damage the best course of action is as follows:

  1. Do not water
  2. Move your pots under the eaves of your house

There are some general points to observe when it comes to frost and how to avoid damage to any succulent.

  • Do not water
  • Keep the soil as dry as possible (they are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry)
  • Ensure adequate ventilation
  • Make sure your soil has good drainage

Aloe
It always surprises me how hardy the Aloe species of succulent is. Aloe is a very frost hardy succulent. However,  there are some Aloe species that survive frost but if they are flowing when they are hit with frost their flowers will not survive.  Cut the flowers off as soon as you have noticed they have been effected.

Aloe succulent Aloe Succulent

Sempervivum
Sempervivums are hardy succulents once grown on roofs to protect against storms. They are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and therefore are used to cold temperatures, snow and frosts. These are one succulent species that should survive frost without incurring any damage.  They can withstand extremely cold temperatures. Most will be fine even in temperatures that plummet down to -30. This is for Sempervivum growing in the ground or rock crevices – ie in the garden.  If you are growing your sempervivum in pots you should still move pots under the eaves of the house. The temperature of soil in a pot can drop very quickly AND be a lot colder than soil in the ground.

Sempervivum in Snow

Sempervivum covered by snow

Sempervivum

Sempervivum

Other succulents that are frost hardy are Sedums, Lewisia and Delosperma

What to do if a frost is forecast
When a frost is forecast, do not water succulents. They are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry. If you  have time to plan ahead, keep the plants on the dry side well before the weather cools. If it is a succulent that stores water in their leaves they are plump with water, their cells are more likely to burst when the temperature drops.

Point to note:  succulents that do survive frost and cold temperature tend to struggle with very hot summers.

What can I do if my succulent has been damaged by frost?
If your succulents are damaged by frost, the affected leaves will probably turn white or a very light colour within a day or so. The damaged leaves then turn black and mushy as they rot.  If only part of a plant is damaged, then the rest of the plant should survive.  Usually it is only the top leaves that will be layered with frost and therefore the under leaves should not be affected.

When my succulents were affected I left the leaves on the plant rather than prune them so if another frost/hail incident happened the leaves that had already been damaged protected the leaves below. They do look unsightly but this is better than more leaves being affected and rotting the plant.

Once the risk of frost or hail has passed and warmer weather has arrived you can prune the affected leaves.

 

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Mathew.

Can you transplant succulents?

Can you transplant succulents?

If you grow succulents in pots or the ground then there may come a time when they need to be transplanted. Even though succulents like growing in tight spaces they may outgrow a pot. The position in your garden might become shaded and the succulent needs to be moved to a sunnier one or simply because they have overgrown an area.  You may want to transplant a succulent from a pot to the ground. Whatever the reason the question may arise – Can you transplant succulents?

The answer is: of course you can !  Succulents are not like other plants that turn up their toes and die if they are moved. They are very adaptable to pruning, transplanting, tolerate drought and numerous other situations.  They have very shallow roots that makes them very easy to transplant. They are the easiest plants to transplant.

Transplanting from pot to ground
If you decide to transplant a succulent into the garden you will need to consider the following:

Echeveria succulent

a) how much sun or shade has been received in the pot
If the succulent has received only morning sun in the pot the easiest transition to transplanting into the garden is to find a spot that receives the same type/amount of sun.  If you transplant to a position that receives full sun in the afternoon the leaves will get sun burnt as they wont be conditioned to this amount and type of sun intensity. Conversely, if the pot has received full sun and the garden area is shaded for part of the day it will be coping with different conditions.The succulent will ‘not’ die but will take time to grow back to its previous condition in the pot while is acclimatises.

If you want to transplant to different sun conditions and want to avoid the sun burnt leaf situation you can put the pot in the garden position and increase the amount of time it spends in that position until the plant becomes used to it. When you see that the succulent is doing well (in the pot) in that area of the garden you can go ahead and transplant it in the ground.

b) how often you have watered the succulent
The succulent will receive annual rainfall when planted in the garden so keep this in mind when you choose the position.  If you have a very wet winter it may affect the appearance of the succulent.  Planting succulents under trees is often a good idea as the tree roots will use a lot of the water in the ground.  (as long as it is a sunny position under a tree!)

c) the type of soil/ground area
I have planted all of my succulents directly into soil in my garden and have not used special succulent potting soil. Succulents can survive in many soil types except probably clay which holds water rather than letting it pass through. A good tip for succulent planting is to build a small mound of soil and plant them in the top of the mound so that any rainfall runs off. This is the opposite of advice for normal plants when you dig a hole and put the plant in so water stays around the roots of the plant.

d)best time to transplant
I successfully transplant succulents at any time of year but general advice is : autumn is best for succulents with a winter growing season and spring is best for summer growing succulents. If you transplant the succulent into the garden and it doesn’t do well you can dig it up and move it to a different position until it does thrive.

See before and after photos below (7 month growing period) of one of my succulent gardens.

Succulent Garden

Succulent garden planted – October 2016

Succulent Garden Australia

May 2017

When they have outgrown the pot
Succulents will happily grow squashed in any crevice or rockery and also any pot.  Its sort if their ‘thing’ to do so. It will not kill them to be squashed but they would be happier if they had more room to spread and grow.  The more room they have the further they will spread.  (see below)

Echeveria Elegans

You can transplant a succulent into another pot the same way you would transplant any other plant.  Choose a larger pot, put some potting soil in, carefully upturn the succulent pot and put in the new pot.  The only difference would be not to water the new pot straight away. When you have transplanted a succulent, whether it be in the ground or another pot.  Do not water it for a couple of days (at least) so that it becomes used to its new surroundings and the roots can heal.

The photo below is a good example of a pot which I need to transplant into a bigger pot.

Echeveria outgrowing its pot Echeveria pups


Transplanting from one area to another
If you want to move a succulent from one part of your garden to another.  It is as easy as finding an area with similar sun conditions, digging it up and moving to the new area.  If it does not do well after a month or so you can transplant it again. Most succulents will thrive and prosper in any soil in the garden with the right amount of sun and with soil that drains well.

Why have the leaves on my succulent turned brown?

Why have the leaves on my succulent turned brown?

There are a few reasons why your succulent leaves have turned brown.  The first and most common is that the older leaves on the underside of the plant have died.  The second is that the leaves have sun burn.

Why are the leaves dying on the bottom of my succulent?
It is natural for leaves to die on any plant and is part of the cycle of the plant as it makes way for new growth.  On a succulent they are on the underside/outside of the plant.  Succulents naturally grow new leaves from their centre. Once they have turned brown and dried they can be gently pulled off. You can also snip them off with a pair of secateurs. Secateurs are required for succulents such as Agave as their leaves stay firmly attached to the stem of the plant.  If you do not pull/snip the leaves off they will eventually dry and fall off by themselves and rot into the soil/ground. The benefits of pulling them off, when they are ready, is two fold.  Firstly, they can be unsightly so the look of the succulent is much more pleasing. Secondly, without the dead leaves, there is better air flow to the underside of the plant and this discourages any bugs/diseases to take up residence.  It also makes more room for new plants (pups) to grow.

dead leaves on succulent dried leaves on succulent

Examples of dead leaves on underside of succulents.

dying succulent leaf kalanchoe with dying leaf

Examples of dead leaves on underside of succulents.

Why are there brown patches on my succulent leaves?
If you’ve recently purchased a succulent and have had it for a week (or less) and the plant suddenly has brown patches on the leaves – do not worry.  This is probably sun burn on the leaves.  Many succulents are propagated under shade cloth and therefore used to these growing conditions.  If the succulent is then put in direct sun, the leaves (which are not used to direct sun) can then burn.  See below for two examples of sun burnt leaves.

The leaves which have been burnt cannot be repaired.  However, most succulents will enjoy the direct sun and in time become used to it.  As long as you can see new growth in the middle of the plant then the succulent will survive.  Eventually the sun burnt leaves will mature, turn brown and drop off.  As per the above paragraph.

suburnt echeveria sunburnt echeveria agavoides

If your succulent looks similar to the one below this is not good. It is a dead succulent and there is nothing you can do. If you are unsure what went wrong read the following posts which may identify the reason:  Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part 1 and Succulents 101: A Beginners Guide to Succulents – Part II.

Dying Succulent

If the leaves turn any other colour such as yellow/orange and feel quite spongy this means the plant has probably been over watered. These leaves will fall off very easily.  It may be too late for the succulent.  The best remedy for this is to stop watering or to move the pot under the eaves if it is Winter and getting too much natural rainfall.

Do succulents need fertiliser?

Do succulents need fertiliser?

I have often wondered whether I should fertilise my succulents but have never really bothered to do so.  It is a question that many succulent lovers would ask themselves.  Plants can grow without any fertiliser, my garden has survived 20 years without regular applications of fertiliser.  The occasional watering with some Seasol (seaweed solution) when I remember is the only additional fertiliser they received.  They receive some natural fertiliser as possum poo is a regular addition to my soil.

To fertilise or not to fertilise?

There are positives and negatives for fertilising.

Here are some positives.

  • Succulents can benefit from regular fertilising, as with all plants succulents use nutrients to help them grow.
  • They can get nutrients from the soil. However, as they are succulents they generally need less fertiliser and not as often as other plants.
  • Fertiliser can help them to grow and produce more vibrant colours.
  • Fertiliser can also help your succulents to flower profusely.

Here are some negatives.

  • Fertiliser causes succulents to grow more quickly which can cause stretching if the succulent isn’t getting enough light.
  • If you use a fertiliser that is too strong it can burn the succulent.
  • Succulents are, by nature, slow growing, fertiliser will not speed that up.

example of stretched (etiolated) succulent

If I do fertilise how often should I do it?
Generally fertilising once per year in Spring should be enough.  For many succulents this is the beginning of their growing season so this is a good time to fertilise.  However, some succulents which have their growing season in the Winter should be fertilised in Autumn.

Succulents grow in stone crevices!
Succulents grow in stone crevices, sandy soils, paths and in rockeries where there is hardly any soil. Succulents are tough plants that can survive without the luxuries of the plant world. Yes succulents will do well with some fertiliser but they will survive without it and probably be a lot hardier because of the lack of it.

Image result for succulents growing in rock crevices

I doubt these succulents received any fertiliser

So if you want to fertilise your succulents make sure you check out the best type at your local nursery or hardware store. If you do not want to fertilise them they will be fine without it  I have used Seasol (seaweed concentrate)  on my succulents on occasion which is not ‘by definition’ a fertiliser but more of a plant tonic.  It can help the plants roots growth and help plants cope with stress.

Which succulents grow in full shade?

Which succulents grow in full shade?

It is great to know that if you want a garden full of succulents that there are plants for every area. Whether it be sun or shade, or a bit of both. Succulents are a great plant to grow under a tree because they can grow well in the shade. Succulents grown in the shade need even less water than those grown in the sun.

In general, succulents grow the best in the sun for at least part of the day; many will get leggy and weak (etiolated) and will not flower without at least six hours of sun; some are more colourful and flower with eight or more hours of direct sun.
However, some will scorch in the intense heat of full sun; these need to be shaded from mid-day from afternoon sun. Some will cope with growing in full shade.

Agave Attenuata
One of the few Agaves that can thrive in shade is the Agave Attenuata – also known as Foxtail.  They are amazing and versatile as they can thrive in full sun as well.  One point to note: if your Agave is growing happily in the shade if you move it to full sun it will look a unwell at first and would take a while (a few months) to adjust to being in full sun.

Agave Attenuata grown in shade

This agave has grown from a small pup in full shade.

Crassula Ovata
Crassula Ovata (Jade Plant) grows very well in the shade and is a lovely deep green colour due to the lack of sun. Crassula is one of those succulents that you can snap off a piece and stick it in the ground and it will start growing without any care or attention.  It also looks great when it flowers every year.

Crassula Ovata grown in shade

Crassula Ovata grown in the shade.

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

Flowering Crassula Ovata

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant grown in sun

Crassula Ovata grown in the sun.

Aeonium Aboreum
Even though Aeoniums prefer some sun I have grown them successfully in the shade.  They are not keen on hot Summers so if they have shade in the Winter and a bit of dappled sun in the Summer this is perfect for them.

Aeonium Aboreum grown in shade

Grown in full shade this Aeonium Aboreum has survived a long hot Summer and dry Autumn.

Dying Aeonium Aboreum

Grown in 90% sun. A hot Summer and warm Autumn with minimal rain- not looking too good!

Haworthia
Haworthia grow in a rosette of spiky, chubby foliage, and form a clump of smaller rosettes. They prefer to be grown in the shade, however, it should be bright light shade rather than deep darker shade. They are great plants to grow inside on a bright windowsill or light room.  If they get too much sun they turn orange.

Haworthia Succulent in Glass Jar

This Haworhia has grown in my well lit bathroom for the past six months.

There are a lot of succulents that can be grown in the shade, the succulents above are only a few that I have had success growing in the shade. Succulents that prefer the sun ‘can’ be grown in the shade but they will not be as healthy as if grown in the sun. Succulents are very adaptable so if you want to try growing a succulent in the shade do so,  You will know if the succulent has too much shade as it will start to stretch (etiolate) and possibly change colour.  Cutting/pruning it back and putting it in the sun should bring the succulent back to its correct shape and colour.