You have just received (or bought) your first succulent and you are excited to see it reach maturity. But how quickly do these plants grow?
Compared to other plants, succulents grow at a sluggish pace. But even among succulents, the difference in growth rates between varieties and species can be diverse. Some succulents species grow faster than others. However, other factors come into play when looking at an individual succulents growth rate.
How quickly can you expect your succulent to grow?
There is no cookie-cutter answer to the question of how quick do succulents grow. Instead, you have to consider a few critical facts.
Succulent variety and species
For starters, you should know that the word succulent is an umbrella term used to describe a broad range of plants that come from anywhere from 50 to 60 plant families. The most popular among these are the Cactaceae or the cactus family and the Aizoaceae or ice plant family. These two plant families account for about 40 percent of the total number of succulents.
But what makes a plant a succulent?
Succulents can be identified by looking at a few of their key qualities. Compared to other plants, succulents have thick and fleshy parts that become engorged as these store water. This makes these plants thrive even in arid conditions.
Succulents can store water in their leaves, stems, and even their roots.
It should be noted that succulents do not form a single family. Instead, you can find succulents from different plant families, all sharing the aforementioned qualities. However, there are plant families like the cactus family which is composed mainly of succulents.
In simple terms, the sheer diversity among succulents makes it hard to peg a specific growth rate.
Generally, succulents grow slowly. However, it is not unusual for some species to grow faster than others. Even within a particular succulent variety, there will be some species that grow faster than others.
Growth phase and environment
Two plants from the same species can exhibit different growth rates if you place these under different conditions.
There are two key factors that greatly affect a succulent’s growth rate: growth period and environment.
Growth and dormancy
Succulents undergo two main phases, depending largely on the temperature. These are the growth and dormancy phases.
This simply means that succulents do not grow all year round. During their dormancy phase, these plants grow less or simply stop growing until the optimal conditions for growth return.
One important thing to note about succulents: they are opportunistic growers. If the conditions are right, they will continue growing. If these right conditions are absent, succulents stop growing and shift their focus on survival.
In the wild, succulents can be triggered into undergoing dormancy by different factors. The most crucial of these factors are temperature and the amount of sunlight they receive. This is why the dormancy phase of many succulents coincide with winter.
Kept indoors where temperature and light can be manipulated, succulents can continue growing and forgo dormancy altogether.
Outdoors, succulents undergo dormancy to help them cope with cold temperatures. The appearance of these plants may change, with some looking like they have died. However, they are just simply waiting for the climate to become warmer before they resume their active growth.
When a succulent enters the dormancy phase, it will require less water.
It is critical to note that not all succulents go dormant during the winter. In fact, some types of succulents grow actively during winter and enter dormancy during summer.
It is also important to learn how to distinguish between a dead succulent and a dormant one. The best way to check if a succulent is dead or simply hibernating is to check the roots.
To the untrained eye, dead succulents look similar to dormant ones. However, a dead succulent has dried and shriveled roots. Also, dead succulents have a noticeable stench that can be difficult to miss.
Hibernating succulents, on the other hand, may lose a few leaves. However, if you check their roots, you will see that these look healthy and do not emit any scent.
Another factor that affects the growth rate of a succulent is its environment. Environment refers to a host of different things, including light, heat, airflow, moisture, and soil.
If you provide your succulents with adequate sunlight and airflow, water it just enough, and use a well-draining soil, you can expect them to grow optimally compared to those planted in a poor environment.
Which succulents grow fast?
Aloe vera, Irish rose, hens and chicks, Haworthia, and the Christmas cactus, are some of the succulents that exhibit comparatively fast growth within a four-month period.
On the converse side of the coin, air plants, living stones, and the barrel cactus are known for their sluggish growth rates. For new succulent enthusiasts, these plants will seem like they do not grow. They actually do, albeit at a slower rate.
Of course, there are succulents that grow at a pace in between the two aforementioned groups.
Can you make your succulent grow faster?
As opportunistic growers, succulents can continue growing and avoid entering the dormancy phase if the conditions are right.
But what exactly are these right conditions for fast and sustained growth?
1. Well-draining soil
Broadly speaking, succulents need fast-draining soil in order to thrive. Quick-draining soil like cactus and succulent soil mixes allow plants to absorb enough water but dry fast enough to avoid potential root rot.
It is important to note that there are some succulent varieties that prefer specialized soil.
2. Containers with drainage holes
Unless you plant your succulents directly on the ground, you will need to use pots.
However, do not use the same pots you use for your other plants. Succulents need containers with drainage holes that help the soil dry quicker.
Many seasoned succulent growers swear by the effectiveness of terracotta and unglazed ceramic pots which facilitate quicker wicking of excess moisture from the soil.
3. Correct watering technique and schedule
Incorrect watering is one of the top reasons why succulents die.
Although succulents require less water when compared to other plants, they still need water. If you plan to collect succulents, it is not necessary to schedule your watering sessions.
Instead, you should only water your succulents when the soil in their containers is already dry. This prevents extra moisture from sitting in the soil for an extended period. The presence of extra moisture in the soil is the primary reason for root rot which actually kills succulents.
It is also vital to learn the proper way of watering succulents. Instead of pouring water on top of the whole plant, you should pour the water into the soil. Like the roots, succulent leaves can rot when exposed to excessive moisture.
4. Adequate sunlight
How much sunlight do succulents need? There is no specific answer to this question because the needs of each variety and species vary. Some may require more sunlight while others can easily thrive in low light conditions.
Generally speaking, succulents need between three to six hours of direct sunlight. Your particular plant may need more or less. Some succulents may even prefer the shade or filtered sunlight over direct sunlight.
If you do not have an area in your home that can provide adequate sunlight in your home, you should strongly consider using grow lights for your plants.
Succulents that do not receive enough light can stretch their bodies and take on a pale hue.
Seeing your new succulent grow into maturity can be exciting, especially if you are starting.
However, succulents typically grow slower than other plants. Do not get frustrated if your plant does not seem to be growing.
Continue to provide it with proper care and before you know it, your plant has reached its maturity and full potential. Be on the lookout for symptoms and act fast if you see something wrong with your plant.
Image: istockphoto.com / evgenyb