A kitchen is not the best place to grow a plant – as there’s little to no natural light coming into most kitchens. But some plants – such as succulents – don’t need an excessive amount of light and water to survive. In fact, some of them thrive in kitchen-like environments.
The best succulents for kitchens are aloe vera, snake plant, jade plant, zebra haworthia, burro’s tail, etc. Aloe vera can survive deserts, so your kitchen is simply no challenge for it. Besides living with less natural light, these succulents manage to look pretty in kitchens, too.
Keep reading to learn more about the above-mentioned kitchen-friendly succulents and the various other succulent plant options for your kitchen, how to take care of them and propagate, and lots more.
Aloe Vera is an evergreen perennial that typically grows in arid, tropical, and semi-tropical climates across the globe. It is one of the more than 400 aloe species indigenous to the northern regions of Africa. However, Aloe Vera is the most well-known around the world and is grown all over for a variety of reasons.
The plant is a short-stemmed or stemless plant that grows tall between 60 and 100 cm (24 and 39 inches). The leaves are fleshy and thick, green to grayish-green, with certain varieties having white flecks on their lower and upper stem surfaces. The plant grows flowers too, during summer.
It is usually grown for its medicinal and agricultural uses and less for its looks. A lot of people swear by the gel the plant produces within its leaves. Since the plant can serve as a home remedy for multiple ailments, it is a must-have plant in a kitchen garden. Even if your kitchen has space constraints, you can easily grow the plant in various size pots.
Aloe Vera’s leaves, however, can easily rot – which is quite typical of succulents. Therefore, when watering the plant, make sure you don’t overwater it. The plant’s light requirements, on the other hand, are quite minimal. It can make do with partial sunlight, making it an ideal indoor plant. A couple of hours of sunlight a day is generally sufficient.
It may not be the most attractive-looking succulent, but it certainly can be grown to look a bit more beautiful than it actually is.
Generally, Aloe Vera pups or baby plants are used for propagation. Seeds and leaf cuttings are equally good, but the latter is easier to work with. Either could be procured from mother plants or directly from sellers. Irrespective of the source, make sure the cuttings are devoid of diseases so that the new plant grows to potential or is disease-free.
If there ever were a prize to be given to the most tolerant, adaptable plant, the snake plant would likely win it every year. Snake plant (dracaena trifasciata) is a decorative plant that can survive almost all types of unsuitable growing environments, neglect, and abuse a plant can get subjected to. The plant’s durability makes it an excellent plant option for people living in houses with natural light issues. In short, killing sansevieria takes quite a bit of doing.
A snake plant would not be your typical succulent if the looks had to be taken into consideration. Its leaves are unlike the bulbous, fleshy leaves most succulents are known for, and their leaves are strappy, architectural.
The plant manages to look fresh despite mostly living in low light, drought, and being bugged by insects. The plant is also known for its ability to purify indoor air, removing formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxins from the air.
Growing the plant is relatively easy. However, you should also know that the plant can easily rot. A free-draining soil is, therefore, crucial. Leaf cuttings are ideal and also much easier for it to grow and propagate. The roots make fleshy rhizomes, which you can easily remove using a knife and pot thereafter. Kindly remember the pot should have free-draining soil.
For care and maintenance, putting the plant in indirect sunlight as direct sun exposure could burn. Do not water the plant a lot, particularly during winter. In fact, it’s recommended to let the plant dry out a tad between two subsequent watering sessions. If the plant is potted, use some general-purpose fertilizer.
Jade plant (crassula ovata), also called money plant or lucky plant, is a succulent found commonly in various households. Native to Mozambique and South Africa’s Eastern Cape, the plant has minimal watering needs and can survive in pretty much all indoor environments.
As far as the exterior goes, the plant has thick branches and shiny, smooth leaves growing in opposing pairs. The leaves are primarily rich jade green; some, however, could have a red tinge to them. The woody, thick stems and the oval-shaped leaves give the plant a miniature tree-like appearance, making the plant a truly decorative houseplant. The plant can live through generations and can grow as tall as three feet when grown indoors.
These plants can quickly adapt to the dry, warm conditions of most homes. During spring and summer (its growing season), the plant should be regularly watered. During fall and winter (the dormant season), keep the plant comparatively drier. The soil must be allowed to thoroughly dry out during the growing season between watering, as the plant is susceptible to rotting.
If the climate in your place is dry throughout the year, you can grow the plant outdoors as landscape succulents. If it’s too cold outside, or the temperatures are close to freezing or under, take the plant indoors and grow it in containers. Generally, 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) is the minimum temperature a jade needs to grow or survive outside.
The panda plant (kalanchoe tomentosa) is a succulent that can be a solid addition to any assemblage of houseplants. The plant has a woody base and can grow several feet high. However, when limited to the narrow base of a container, the succulent usually grows a foot to two feet tall.
The leaves make hairs, providing them a velvety look. The springy hairs also deflect light and limit transpiration. Due to the hairs, the plant is also playfully referred to as “pussy ears.”
The plant usually grows in medium to sunny light. Since it’s succulent, the leaves are relatively thick and store water, which means you need not water it too often.
As mentioned earlier, the plant grows fairly tall. Its thick stem can produce branches and several groups of leaves upon maturity. They provide a tree- or bush-like appearance to the plant, particularly when well-pruned.
Humidity is not a major factor in successfully growing a panda plant. Your kitchen or the average room shall offer the succulent plant enough humidity. During summer and spring, move the plant outside – but offer it protection from the afternoon sun. The fertilization can be carried out during these months.
Though the plant can flower, it’s primarily grown for its foliage within offices or homes. After all, when the plant blooms, you would see small tube-shaped flowers at the branch tips. When the plant matures and is in its full glory, it looks splendid – especially when placed in a hanging basket.
Zebra haworthia (haworthiopsis attenuate) is a small succulent plant species native to South Africa. The variety is among the most cultivated in its genus category, thanks to its ornamental looks.
The leaves are short, tapered, and have white tubercle-like bands on them. The species readily subdivides and offsets and can form large clumps when left in the wild. It is a popular houseplant, thanks to its resistance to general hardiness and drought.
Haworthias grow at a relaxed pace and do not need much care, and can even live without water for weeks together. Despite this, the plant manages to look quite attractive. And when teamed with interesting soil mixes or unusual containers, the attractiveness quotient only increases.
The good looks mean the plant can be a great gifting item, too, besides looking splendid in your kitchen.
But do not completely abandon the succulent or treat it like a plastic plant. It cannot completely sustain itself independently for too long. As the caretaker, place the plant in a space filled with some level of warmth. The kitchen’s warm environment is usually more than enough. Do not put it in direct sun or at the window. On the flip side, deep shade is also not ideal.
Extreme shade can weaken the plant and spoil its looks. On the other hand, direct sunlight would make the leaves go ugly red, brown, or purple. Deep shade would cause the leaves to turn excessively green. If you notice the leaves losing their original color and the plant becoming thinner or anemic-like, give it some light.
Also called donkey’s tail, the burro’s tail (sedum morganianum) is a succulent that grows both indoors and outdoors. It sits prettily in a hanging container or basket. Place it on a shelf or ledge to let it drape over. The plant blooms or grows flowers rarely – red or pink flowers can be seen adorning its stems during summer. The grey-green leaves closely resemble plump rice grains – both in terms of size and shape.
Burro’s tail is a drought and heat-tolerant plant ideal for regions with a warm-to-temperate climate. The stems can grow up to 3 feet (91.5 cm) long or more. However, to ensure the plant grows to its potential, subject it to bright light every now and again. During winter, the plant isn’t actively growing quite obviously.
As mentioned above, the plant grows equally well both inside and outside the house. If you’ve been growing the plant indoors all the while and are now contemplating moving it outdoors semi-permanently, introduce the succulent to the full sun slowly. Even if you’ve purchased it fresh from a nursery to grow it as an outdoor plant, be wary of varying lighting conditions between the nursery and your space.
The plant can grow well as a hanging plant or in a container. However, do not interpret the plant’s hardy sedum lineage for toughness. In other words, the plant is physically fragile and drops its leaves fairly often. If you have zero experience with succulents, this shouldn’t be the plant you should be looking to get started with. On the other hand, if you are a seasoned houseplant collector, you will find the pendulous, luxurious stems of the plant endearing.
Christmas cactus blooms just before the holidays (hence the name). At times, it could, however, bloom a month early. If it does, it’s a Thanksgiving cactus and not the Christmas cactus. The two plants look quite similar, but certain unique traits set one from the other.
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), unlike other cacti, do not sport sharp spines. The plant’s fleshy, segmented, flat stems could grow as long as one foot, usually draping over like a crab claw.
It is a tad thirstier than its spiky brethren. Therefore, water the top layer of the soil (by an inch) whenever it’s dry. When not watered at the right time, the plant may dry out. But it would bounce back out of it quickly once the water supply has been restored.
The succulent grows well in shady and cool environments (unlike most cactuses found in desert regions). This is primarily the reason why Christmas cacti are ideal houseplants in colder regions. They, however, need a bit more consistent watering compared to a desert-borne cactus.
Place the plant near your kitchen window for some bright light exposure. If regularly subjected to a good amount of natural light during winter, expect the plant to grow flowers during winter. Not to mention, when fully bloomed and in its complete glory, the plant can look absolutely stunning. The green stems and the colorful flowers are a sight to behold.
Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks (sempervivums) are succulents that grow small, mat-forming, identical plants (chicks) marginally offset from the hen (the mother). In other words, these produce rosette clusters. The “hens” are the parent rosettes, and the little rosettes springing from the parent are referred to as “chickens” or “chicks.”
Hens and chicks can grow both outdoors and indoors. They are, in fact, solid container plants. They require very little maintenance and can even get around with complete neglect from their caretaker. Not to mention, this low-growing plant can quickly grow up to 2 feet (61 cm) or more in width through self-propagation or manual intervention.
This hardy succulent particularly grows well in containers and also rock gardens. You may allow the plants to crowd collectively or pull the chicks off and replant them elsewhere to begin their own families.
The ideal pot for sempervivums is wide or long and shallow, as they do not grow too deep, and the chicks require some real estate for spreading. These plants, however, are quite adaptable or will grow in length based on the container and soil they’re put in. In other words, if space is restricted, it won’t grow as large or not grow out of the pot.
Growing Succulents Indoors
Due to their suitable shapes and forms, the ability to survive, and even thrive in moderate light and low humidity, succulents are great plants for your kitchen. If you’ve been gardening for some time, you would know that indoor succulents can live with more than just a little bit of neglect.
Planting Succulent Indoors
Planting a succulent in your kitchen is no different than potting other plants indoors. Ensure the pots you use have proper drainage holes. If not, lay the pot sideways to drain out excess water each time the need arises.
When planting a succulent initially, go with a ready-to-use cactus mix or any other well-drained potting soil. Add some pumice, grit, sharp sand, and/or perlite to the potting mix to facilitate drainage without disintegration.
When first learning to pot succulents, the roots are likely to be shallow and brittle. To plant the roots into the soil without breaking them, follow these steps:
- Gently loosen the soil and sift fresh soil surrounding the roots.
- Use your fingers to tamp the soil lightly.
- Cover the surface using gravel, grit, or sand, and let the plants dry for some days before watering.
The Key Is in Not Coddling
Succulents don’t need a lot of care or protection. They thrive in scenarios wherein they are not taken excessive care of. The lighting and hydration requirements could vary across varieties.
The succulents mentioned above grow well indoors, providing a good amount of light exposure time and again. Constant exposure to bright light (artificial or natural) may also work. In fact, sempervivum and certain other varieties develop their foliage hues if they get a few hours of sunlight consistently over a period. Some different types could become weak if there’s no bright light offered.
The best kitchen succulent garden would be in or close to the east, west, or south window for a couple of hours of exposure to direct sunlight. If your succulent variety’s leaves scorch or burn under direct sun exposure, offer it some shade with a curtain. Make sure you water these plants at regular intervals to ensure zero shriveling.
Also, pay close attention to the quality of water you use to hydrate the plant. Rain or distilled water is ideal as they do not leave behind harmful fertilizer and mineral residue after drying up. And soak the soil well once a year, at least so that all the hazardous chemicals are flushed out.
Taking Your Kitchen Succulents Outdoors During Summer
Most indoor succulents will appreciate some extra sun and outside air. Healthy levels of sunlight exposure mean zero stretchings, and better airflow allows the roots to dry out quickly.
It’s highly recommended to take your indoor succulents outside in the sun during the summer. However, the ones that cannot tolerate direct sunlight should be subjected to shaded sunlight.
Go Easy With the Change of Location
When moving your kitchen-based succulent containers outside, do it gradually. Do not grab your indoor succulent and put it under direct sunlight right away. The sudden change in the environment can be harsh and hurt the plant.
Instead, take the step-by-step approach. In other words, move the plant to an area that receives full shade. Move it to the place with more sunlight gradually thereafter.
Generally, large succulents with a more rooted base can tolerate increased heat and light more easily. Freshly planted succulents, on the other hand, must be under shade for longer. For such succulents and those that can withstand the increased amount of light and heat, morning sun exposure is ideal as it’s relatively cooler.
Fertilize your succulents during spring. During this time, most succulents come out of hibernation and are keen to grow. A little bit of care would help your plant regain its color and churn out healthy, fresh offshoots. Make sure the feeding is within bounds, however. Excessive use of fertilizer, particularly the high-nitrogen blends, augment leaf rot issues.
To make the ideal fertilizer blend, follow these steps:
- Grab a soluble, low-balanced fertilizer, and dissolve it in a gallon of water.
- Use only half of the amount recommended on the product packaging.
- For succulents that need more frequent watering, use a quarter or half of the fertilizer recommended above for dilution.
Based on the succulent’s size, fertilizer solution amounting to a gallon should be more than enough. Besides spring, you can also apply the fertilizer during early fall or late summer. Do not fertilize the plant during winter or when it’s semi-dormant.
Use Pot Feet/Base
Instead of placing the pot on the ground directly, use a pot base or feet so that there’s no damage to the pot. A damaged pot cannot be taken back into your kitchen. A scratched pot base could also hurt the floor it gets placed on indoors. Also, use a wire rack to facilitate airflow and water drainage for the plant.
Over the winter, your succulents may have stretched out. Echeverias can particularly widen its footprint without losing its shape. When your succulent has grown to its potential, grab a pair of plant scissors or any appropriate cutting tool to chop off the outgrown portions for propagation.
Make sure you use the right tool, as improper cuts can render the chopped-off portions useless or not fit to propagate. If you’re looking for a safe, sharp scissor for plants, check out the VIVOSUN Gardening Pruning Shear.
And if you’d like to know more about propagating your succulents, watch this video:
If your succulents grew bigger (than you expected) over the winter, or some of the plants sharing the pot withered away, repot the live plants. To do so:
- Dump the old soil out.
- Clear as much soil from the plant’s roots.
- Use soapy water to clean the pots, and then rinse.
- Replant the plant using fresh soil.
To clean the pot, you can also use an isopropyl alcohol spray. Your succulents would appreciate the shift to a clean home (pot) and new soil and feel rejuvenated.
Watch Out for Bugs
Mealybugs love plants that grow quickly. After you move your plant to a fresh pot and soil, it will likely grow faster than before, which means it will likely attract a lot more bugs.
Those little sap-sucking insects feed on your succulents’ juices, leaving them dull and lifeless.
As the bugs feed, they also lay eggs and multiply the bug population, further damaging plants. The eggs are usually laid under the soil.
Typically, mealybugs on succulents look like some white, fluffy substance, clinging to the leaves’ underside with their tiny legs. Some insects could look like small brown or black bumps, or black specks, clinging to the plants’ stems.
The first and the most critical step in preventing bug infestation on your succulents is to watch out for them. Knowing how they look is, therefore, critical.
Some succulents could be particularly attractive to pests. Echeverias during bloom, for instance, pull aphids toward them. These bugs and pests secrete honeydew, a sweet substance that can attract ants. In other words, if there are ants on and around your succulents, it’s a solid sign pests could be lurking around.
Succulents are popular for the varieties they come in and the fact that pretty much anyone (with or without gardening experience) can grow them. Their unique water-storing tissues let them survive in a range of environments. Even if you forget to water them for a fairly considerable period, the plant will hang in and be fine.
However, you still should not be taking the plant’s versatility and rigidity for granted. Some succulent plants may do better than other succulent types in specific environments. In other words, if you are looking to grow a succulent plant in your kitchen, the plants mentioned above are among the best varieties.
Kindly note even the most resilient kitchen plants need sunshine between watering sessions. Therefore, if the sun happens to shine bright and you realize you’ve got a plant in the kitchen, take it out and treat it to some natural light.