Cactus cousins growing in popularity

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By Katherine Grandstrand

kgrandstrand@aberdeennews.com

In the last couple of years, succulents have become a big trend in the horticulture world.

The funky little — or not so little — cactus cousins have made a big splash for people who don’t have the greenest of thumbs. They’re often tiny green plants that almost look fake.

“The last two years we’ve seen an increase in the sales of succulents and cactus,” said Dana Althoff, retail manager at Parkview Nursery.

Succulents are also popular on social media platforms like Instagram.

There are 5.3 million posts tagged #succulents on Instagram, 3.4 million posts tagged #succulent, and nearly 600,000 posts tagged #succulentgarden.

“Especially after our classes, they always tag us,” Althoff said.

Because they’re related to cacti, succulents need very little maintenance, she said. A good soaking, then wait until the soil is really dry to do it all over again.

That’s about once every two weeks if succulents are outside, and every month if they’re inside, said Annette Feiock, floral manager at Beadle Floral and Nursery. When watering outside, let the plants dry in the shade for about a day before putting them back in the sun.

The water droplets amplify the sunbeams and can burn the plants, Feiock said, though succulents generally like sunshine.

Some succulents can be planted in northeastern South Dakota, which is in U.S. Department of Agriculture Zone 4 in horticulture terms, Althoff said. The best are select varieties of hens and chicks. Otherwise, they should be potted and moved inside during the winter.

“Remember to take them in before the first frost hits,” Feiock said. “Start acclimating them to come into your house so they are ready to be inside for the winter.”

Because they’re cactus cousins, succulents don’t thrive in regular potting soil. They need sandy soil.

Some varieties are so tiny they can be grown in almost any type of container, Feiock said. The best are ones with drainage, but in containers that don’t have that feature, succulent gardeners can add horticulture charcoal.

Both the nurseries have classes to build fairy gardens and other succulent arrangements.

Depending on the variety, succulents can be the gift that keeps on giving, Feiock said.

“You can make a new plant for a friend, especially if they like your garden,” she said.

Hens and chicks get their name from their reproductive abilities, Althoff said. And jade can be replicated by plucking off a leaf.

Succulents are a popular feature in fairy gardens, which combine small figurines with the plants to create a scene that’s right out of a Brothers Grimm tale.

“They just use them in a lot of mixed containers, for your coffee table or your window sill, or just for fun planters outside,” Althoff said.

Whatever container they go in, people seem to like their succulents.

“Everyone kind of comes in and actually finds the one that really draws them,” Feiock said. “They come in thinking what they want, but then once they see them, the plant actually draws them to them.”

Follow @kgrandstrandAAN on Twitter.

Annette Feiock of Beadle Floral and Landscaping points out an offshoot of a tiger’s jaws succulent plant that can be used to start a new plant. American News photo by John Davis
Succulents come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Succulents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Farm Forum photo by John Davis
Succulents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Farm Forum photo by John Davis