The simplest way to keep your succulent small is to plant it in a small container that will restrict its roots from growing and spreading, thus, keeping it in a manageable size.
Pruning a plant back to a size that is to your liking is also another way to keep it small.
Lastly, you can always choose to grow small species of succulents so you will not have to worry about wrangling large ones.
Are some succulents smaller than others?
Yes. The variety in succulent species is so vast that some can be a few inches high fully grown, while others can reach several feet high. Because succulents are generally quite slow-growing, people seem to assume that they will not grow over a couple inches.
Make sure you do research about the plants you plan on growing so you have an estimate as to how much space you should be giving each plant. Here are some examples of how large succulents can get:
- A species like the aloe vera plant can be around two feet high, which is not small but also not big enough to look out of place when placed indoors. All these plants need is a spot in the house with ample sunlight and regular watering.
- Sempervivum plants grow only to be four to six inches wide and need not to be repotted for several years. You only need to remove any new plants and replant them somewhere else.
- The Lithops, or living stone plant, is one of the smallest succulent varieties. You might even mistake them for pebbles when you see them growing from the ground. You will know a Lithops is growing when you see a pair of leaves growing from the middle and the original pair dying.
- The Christmas cactus can reach up to two feet in diameter, which is bigger than most small succulents. With proper pruning, it can be kept to a manageable size that will not overwhelm your home.
How do I keep my succulents small?
Choose small succulents
One of the easiest ways to make sure your succulents don’t take up too much space in your house or garden is to choose small succulents to begin with. If you know that the plants you choose are not going to grow over several inches, then you can plant them in small pots without worrying about constantly changing them.
It is much more difficult to try and control a plant’s urge to grow bigger than it is to choose one that will always fit in the palm of your hand, even after five years.
A great example of a small succulent is the Mammillaria gracilis fragilis, or the thimble cactus. The thimble cactus matures into three inch tall clumps. When its tiny segments fall off from the stem, they tend to just take root themselves. Another example of a small succulent is the Mammillaria bocasana, or the powder puff cactus.
Etiolation is when a plant’s leaves and branches lack sunlight. It makes them grow out their branches longer in the direction of the nearest light source. This makes the plant grow faster as it seeks what it needs. Keep your plant to your preferred size and shape by pruning it.
When your plant has etiolated, it can be difficult to prune it properly so it returns to its original shape. It is best if you trim your plants before the plant has enough time to stretch. Another way to avoid etiolation is to place your plant in a place where it can receive appropriate amounts of sunlight. If a plant gets sufficient sunlight, it will have no need to stretch anymore.
Before pruning, sterilize the scissors or shears you will be using so as not to introduce any bacteria or fungi into the plant’s system. When you prune a plant, the area where you cut it is essentially a wound that germs can use to get access to a vulnerable plant. Make sure you sterilize the scissors between usage on different plants.
Pruning your succulent also gives you the cutting to plant in a new pot. You are basically getting another chance at your miniature succulent garden each time.
Confine the roots
As mentioned above, succulents are slow-growing plants. They also do not tend to have very thick or large roots. If you confine the roots in a space that will limit their root growth, this will also help keep the plant from growing. Restricted root growth also means restricted nutrient absorption, hence the stunting of growth.
You can do this by planting the succulents close together. This not only restricts the root growth but also makes for a visually appealing succulent arrangement. Succulents tend to look more beautiful when they are arranged with minimal space between plants. It will make them look fuller and healthier.
If you want to keep your plant separate while also keeping its growth at a minimum, try to plant each individual plant in small pots or containers so the limited space will keep the roots from growing too much. Just make sure that you are still using appropriate succulent soil and a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
Do research on appropriate care
Different species of succulents require different sets of plant care directions. Different succulent species come from different parts of the world with varying climates. So read up on the kind of soil and how much water and sunlight your new plant is going to need.
Succulents are very hard to kill and very easy to take care of; doing the bare minimum will keep it alive, but giving the plant TLC will make it thrive.
Some people do not have the space in their apartments or houses to take care of succulents that grow several feet tall or wide. Not having the space is no reason to deprive yourself of the experience of being a plant parent. You can keep small succulents so that you can have a sizable garden without it taking up too much space.
For greater success, choose succulents that are naturally small. Try planting them in small pots to confine their roots. Prune the leaves and stems, especially if they are going through etiolation, and make sure to always provide each plant with appropriate care.
Image: istockphoto.com / kynny