The Pros and Cons of Succulents Explained

Pros and Cons of Succulents explained

Succulents are desert plants and are well-known for their understated yet elegant appearance. They’ve enjoyed much popularity over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. If you’ve never owned a houseplant before, or you’re unsure whether a succulent is a good idea, there are several pros and cons to consider before you invest in one. 

Succulents are easy to maintain. They can be kept indoors or outside, and are easily propagated. Some of them can be used as herbal remedies. However, succulents with spiky leaves can be dangerous for kids or pets. They grow slowly, rarely produce flowers, and can die quickly. 

Choosing a succulent is a personal decision. This article will help you make an informed decision. 

Pros of Succulents

Below are some of the many benefits to buying a succulent:

Succulents Are Low Maintenance

Succulents are low maintenance in the sense that you only need to water them every 2 to 3 weeks. 

This is known as the “soak and dry” method of watering and involves saturating the soil entirely and then allowing the succulent to absorb the water it needs. 

Other than this, the only other work needed is to ensure that there’s no dirt or dust on the leaves, and to check that the plant looks healthy. This only needs to be done about every other month, and should only take you a few minutes. 

You might also want to give your succulent some special food or fertilizer once a year to keep it healthy. 

As you can see, succulents don’t require much of your time, and if you’re a busy professional or you’re away from home a lot, taking care of your succulents shouldn’t be an issue. 

They Can Be Cheaper in Comparison to Other Houseplants

Mini succulent plants are available for only a few dollars, and the price will, of course, go up according to the size of the succulent and the variety. 

Generally speaking, though, buying a succulent is often a cheaper option than investing in a regular houseplant. 

The most inexpensive houseplants (not including succulents) typically sell for around $10. These include fern or English ivy plants that you can buy from a local supermarket. 

Succulents Are Versatile and Multi-Functional

Not only do succulents make excellent houseplants, but you can also use them in a wide range of other ways.

Some common examples of how you can use your succulent include:

As a Holiday Wreath

Traditional holiday wreaths are still popular and the most widely-used method of creating wreaths, but if you’re looking for an exciting take on a classic wreath, using succulents can take your wreath to a whole new level. 

Whether your wreath is made entirely from succulents, or you combine some mini succulent plants with some holiday-specific materials, your wreath is sure to be a conversation piece.

An advantage to creating a succulent-only wreath is that you can use it for any holiday, and add in and remove decorations as you see fit. You may use it not only on special holidays but the whole year round.

Party or Wedding Favors

Finding the perfect wedding or party favor can be tricky as everyone has their own taste. 

It’s not easy to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the elegance and simplicity of a succulent, and they, therefore, make excellent party favors that everyone will like. 

They can be made even more special by decorating the pot with some ribbon and a personal message to the recipient. 

Since they are inexpensive, succulents are an excellent choice if you have a strict party or wedding budget.

Housewarming or Birthday Gifts

One of the most common housewarming gifts is a houseplant as greenery can greatly enhance any indoor space when someone moves into a new home.

A drawback to gifting a regular house plant is that you may not be sure if the recipient will take care of it correctly. In the case of someone who isn’t au fait with houseplants, the plant could soon die, and they’ll therefore not be able to enjoy your gift for as long as you would’ve liked. 

On the other hand, a succulent is easy even for beginners to care for, and the recipient will be able to enjoy a plant in their home for a long time. 

Table Centerpieces

If you’re looking for a unique, elegant, and natural centerpiece, using succulents is an excellent choice. 

You can create a beautiful table centerpiece by grouping together a few succulents in different colors and shapes. The contrast in color and shape makes an eye-catching and pretty centerpiece that you can use for any occasion. 

To give your succulent centerpiece some holiday flair, simply include some ribbon or a few small decorations. These can be removed once the holidays are over, and your centerpiece can again take on a more generic look. 

As Part of a Floral Arrangement

Over the past decade, floral arrangements have become more sophisticated and creative, with some even resembling works of art. 

Succulents are versatile plants that can be included in floral arrangements. Since they’re available in many different colors, a succulent will always complement a bouquet and provide a unique touch. 

Once the floral component of the arrangement has died, the succulent can be kept as an individual houseplant. 

They Are an Excellent Introduction to Plant Care

It can feel intimidating when you first buy a houseplant, especially if you have no experience taking care of one. This is often enough to put some people off gardening or plant care. 

As long as you follow a few key pieces of advice regarding its care, your succulent should thrive and provide you with many happy years of life. 

Once you’ve successfully cared for your succulent, you might feel more confident about your plant care abilities, and you could be tempted to try out some other house plants that are more complicated to maintain. 

In the same way, if you have kids, having them care for a succulent is an excellent introduction to the world of gardening and plant maintenance. 

Succulents Can Be Kept Indoors or Outside

Succulents thrive indoors but can also be kept outside if you live in a temperate climate. 

They’re not able to withstand long periods where the temperature is below freezing, but if your area experiences mild winters, your succulent can do well outdoors throughout the year. 

Some people like to move their succulents around continuously. For example, during the summer, they may want to have their succulent decorating a table on the front porch where it’s visible, but they may move the plant indoors during the colder months so that they can make the most of its beauty inside. 

Succulents Are Easily Propagated

Gardening experts know that succulents are incredibly easy to propagate so that new plants can be made. 

Once the plant is fully grown, a small piece can be cut off and then transplanted elsewhere. 

Propagating succulents is a great idea if you really like the plant, you want to have another one, and would like to do so in the most economical way. 

Some succulent owners enjoy giving friends and family succulent offcuts so that they, too, can experience the pleasure of owning a beautiful plant.   

To propagate a succulent, all you need to do is gently cut a leaf off the stem. This should be done by carefully twisting the leaf base and ensuring there is a clean break from the stem. 

You should then allow the leaf to dry in a place with indirect sunlight for about a week, after which you can plant it in some soil that is suitable for a succulent. 

The leaf cutting will soon grow some tiny roots and begin to develop an entirely new succulent plant. Once this happens, the transplanted leaf can be taken off the new plant. 

They Are Elegant and Minimalist Interior Decor Items

Succulents have only a few well-defined leaves with a distinct stem, which gives them a minimalist, stark but unique appearance. 

They make excellent interior decor items and can be used in place of other trinkets and ornaments as they look neat, compact and won’t make your home look untidy.

Of course, a bonus is that, unlike other inanimate ornaments, succulents are plants and therefore help purify the air by releasing oxygen and helping to absorb harmful toxins in the surrounding air. 

You can also choose a succulent color that matches your interior decor as they come in a range of beautiful colors: purple, green, gray, blue, and red. 

If your home is modern and contemporary, succulents with large, pointed leaves and ones in interesting shapes can further enhance the futuristic look. 

Succulents with gentle, rounded shapes and more delicate leaves can blend in well with a more traditional home. 

There are also many different kinds of pots in which you can house your succulent. These come in various colors, patterns, and shapes and can further enhance the look of your home. 

Some Succulents Can Be Used As Herbal Remedies

Some succulent varieties have been used as herbal remedies for many centuries throughout the world. 

Popular succulents offering healing benefits include:

  • Aloe veraa plant whose leaves contain juice and gel that can be used to soothe common skin ailments (e.g. eczema, sunburn, and psoriasis). Aloe vera juice is also rich in fiber and makes an excellent treatment for constipation. Many folks use aloe vera juice to make a tasty yet healthy drink. 
  • Baobab its fruit pulp can be made into a cream of tartar which is an excellent natural remedy for diarrhea and fever. 
  • Pig’s Ear is a succulent whose leaves produce a juice that can help soften corns and warts, which can later be removed. 
  • Sour Fig its leaf juice can help soothe sore throats, eczema, digestive pains, and toothache. 
  • Gethyllisare succulents that produce fruit that can be fermented into an alcoholic drink to treat indigestion and colic.

They Come in Many Different Varieties

With succulents, you’re spoiled for choice. You can choose either a small, medium, or large-sized succulent plant and one in the color and shape of your choice. 

Mini succulent versions come in tiny pots that you can use to brighten up your desk or combine with other mini plants to create a unique display. 

Homeowners often put medium-sized succulents in decorative pots to enhance their interior decor or to use in place of a regular houseplant. 

Large succulents are better suited to the outdoors, where they make striking and eye-catching additions to your backyard or front door area. When larger succulents are kept outdoors, they can be planted directly into the soil, or housed in attractive pots to further enhance the look of your yard. 

Cons of Succulents

Even though the pros are definitely in favor of succulents, there are a few cons of succulents you should note before you make a final decision. 

Below are some of the drawbacks to consider:

Succulents With Spiky Leaves Can Be Dangerous to Kids and Pets

There are many varieties of succulents, and some contain spiky leaves, while others don’t.

If you like spiky-leaved succulents, this could pose a risk of injury if you have kids or pets. 

Young children love exploring new things through touch. Large succulent spikes can easily cut skin and cause pain, while succulents with delicate spikes can get embedded in the skin like a splinter. 

Dogs and cats are curious by nature, and it’ll only be a matter of time until they try to sniff or lick the succulent, causing injury to the nose or tongue. 

Spiky succulents include:

The Growth Rate Is Lower Than That of Regular Houseplants

If you’re looking for a plant that you can nurture from a tiny shoot into a large and impressive houseplant, a succulent isn’t your best bet. 

Although the growth rate of succulents varies from species to species, generally speaking, succulents grow much slower than regular houseplants. 

The growth rate of succulents also depends on the size of the container in which they’re housed. Many succulents only grow as much as the container can accommodate them. 

In addition, the growth rate of succulents is even lower during their dormant period in the winter when they do not need as much water and nutrition. 

Succulents Rarely Produce Flowers or Bloom

Many houseplants grow long, trailing leaves and pretty flowers in the spring that brighten up the home. 

Succulents are different in that they’ll only produce one or two small flowers, if any. For instance, the Sempervivums succulent will only bloom after 2 or 3 years if the growing conditions are optimal. 

Indoor succulents are known to bloom less than succulents that are planted outdoors. This is because succulents are accustomed to very high desert temperatures in the summer which helps create the right balance of chemicals for flowering. 

If you keep your succulent indoors during the summer, the chances are that your home’s temperature is much cooler than that of a desert summer. 

Some succulents will need fertilizer or succulent food to produce flowers, while others won’t bloom if the light conditions aren’t optimal (i.e., access to plenty of indirect sunlight). 

They Can Easily Die if Not Watered or Planted Correctly

Though they’re low maintenance plants, if your succulent isn’t watered correctly or has been planted in unsuitable soil, it could easily die. 

Succulents originate from the desert, where the soil is loosely packed and drains quickly. Domestic succulents need the same soil conditions and won’t do well if the surrounding soil is a type that retains water well. 

Additionally, succulents need to be housed in pots that have at least two drainage holes so that the water can easily move through the potting soil.

Surrounded by too much water for too long, the succulent’s roots will start to rot, and this rot will gradually move into the upper parts of the plant. If these conditions are left for too long, it’ll be too late to salvage the succulent, and it’ll die. 

The best way to water a succulent is to soak the soil completely every 2 to 3 weeks (or whenever you notice that the soil is bone dry). 

Watering succulents too often can result in rotting, the leaves becoming too saturated, and the leaf cells exploding. 

Not watering it enough could cause the plant’s leaves to shrivel up and dry out. 

Final Thoughts

Succulents are beautiful plants that are simple to maintain. To recap, these are the pros to owning a succulent:

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Versatile and multi-functional plants
  • Excellent introduction to plant care
  • Easy to propagate and care for
  • Looks elegant and minimalist
  • Certain succulents are used as herbal medicines.
  • Succulents come in many different colors and varieties.

Although there are plenty of benefits to owning succulents, there are a few downsides: 

  • Spiky-leaved succulents can be dangerous to kids and pets.
  • Succulents grow slower than regular houseplants.
  • They hardly ever produce flowers.
  • Succulents can die quickly if not cared for correctly.

Tina Painter

Tina Painter is a Succulent Plant Advisor. She is interested in helping others learn the proper care, maintenance, and growth of healthy succulent plants. Tina is well known as a succulent lover and is in the process of developing her "Growing Succulents Masterclass for Succulent Lovers." She also loves creating artistic and whimsical gardens with succulents.

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