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how fast do succulents grow

Picture of Growing Succulents

There is one common aesthetic that has been doing the rounds on all popular social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook — a bunch of green succulents that add a ton of character to any room and setting. As living spaces become smaller and more and more people move to larger cities with limited space, it is difficult to keep large plants or those that require a greater deal of maintenance inside the house. Succulents, on the other hand, are small and attractive, almost always becoming true conversation starters when you have guests over. As these are mostly kept inside the house, you can really show off your green thumb to everyone who visits you!

These indoor houseplants come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, with relatively easy care requirements and slow growth patterns — at least in many cases. Some succulents grow so slowly that you may even confuse them for artificial plants when you first go about growing them in your house. If you are wondering how slowly succulents grow or looking for ways to make them grow a little faster, you have found yourself in the right place. Through this guide, we will be walking you through the basic care details of succulents and ways in which their growth may be aided.

What Are Succulents?

Not all plants are the same and before getting to the speed at which succulents grow, it is important to know what these plants really are and how they are categorized. If you look at how succulents are described in botany, these are just plants that have parts that are thickened or more fleshy than the regular plants that you may see around yourself. These fleshy leaves — or in some cases, full bodies — are specially designed to retain water, as such plants are typically found in drier or arid climates or in places where the soil does not retail much water.

When you simply look at such a description of succulents, you may be tempted to fall for the misconception that succulents and cacti are the same thing and can be used interchangeably. This, however, is not true. The category of succulents is much wider and encompasses the regular varieties of cacti that you may see around you. However, plants like aloe vera and crassula ovata — popularly known as the jade plant — are also included in the category of succulents.

Succulents are easy to spot because of their thick, fleshy body. It is important to note that while succulents are usually found in drier regions, there are species that do particularly well in temperate regions and can manage even in freezing temperatures. The key here is the variety that is available in succulents. Non-cactus succulents can also be much easier to propagate. While cacti share a bunch of traits with succulents, they grow needle-like spines instead of leaves. In addition to that, they are very slow to grow.

How Fast Do Succulents Grow And Can We Speed up the Process?

Now we come down to the main question that may have been playing on your mind if you already have succulents at home — how fast do these indoor plants grow? At this point, it is important to state that there is no exact rate that can be stated for the entire category of succulents, as while they do grow slower than most other plants around you, the amount of time it takes to grow can differ from species to species and from season to season.

For example, there are some species that can be clubbed under the banner of fast-growing succulents — which will be discussed later in this section — and there are others that are comparatively slower. At the same time, most succulents will grow even more slowly in the winter, as it is considered the dormant phase for them. Till the time the weather changes — with the days getting longer and temperatures rising — you may also notice that the succulents have stopped growing altogether. There is no reason to worry because they will start growing again when the optimum conditions arise.

Not everyone can agree on what kind of succulents they want to grow in their house. For example, some people may enjoy exciting phases where a fast-growing succulent changes its shape and size right in front of your eyes. On the other hand, there may be others who prefer plants that grow very slowly, so as to reduce the amount of upkeep that may otherwise be required with a faster-growing plant. Regardless of what category you identify with, there are lists of some of the popular fast- and slow-growing succulents mentioned below.

If you are looking for fast succulents, where the growth can be noticed in as little as a month, the list given below can be immensely helpful for you. Most of these plants, which are mentioned with their scientific names, will show you a noticeable increase in dimensions over a period of four months or so.

⦁ Irish rose (Aeonium arboreum)
⦁ Copper pinwheel (Aeonium ‘Sunburst’)
⦁ Hen and chicks (Echeveria species)
⦁ Pink Jelly bean plant (Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurorum’)
⦁ Jade plant (Crassula species)
⦁ Haworthia (Haworthia species)
⦁ String of buttons (Crassula perforata)
⦁ Lavender Scallops (Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi)
⦁ Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
⦁ Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera species)

For all those of you who don’t want to worry too much about taking care of overgrown succulents and would prefer varieties that take a lot more time to grow, there are a few species of slow-growing succulents that may be the right option for you. Some of these are listed below:

⦁ Living stones (Lithops species)
⦁ Air plants (Tillandsia species)
⦁ Crinkle leaf plant (Adromischus cristatus)
⦁ Barrel cactus (Ferocactus sp.)
⦁ Gasteria

While these are two extremes when it comes to the rate of growth, you can also find a wide variety of succulents that will fit in between. These plants can also work very well as indoor houseplants, as they are both interesting to watch grow and slow enough not to add too much work for you.

How Big Do Succulents Get?

Another common question that people have is how large will the succulents get over a period of time? Instead of giving an exact size or dimension, it is important to note that succulents in itself are a large category of plants. It is almost like asking how large a tree may get over time. While there are some succulents that barely grow inches and are small enough to be kept at the desk where you work, there are also some types of succulents that can grow up to many feet in height, for example, the saguaro cactus, which has the propensity of growing up to 40 feet in height.

Another point to be kept in mind while discussing household succulents is that they work differently from their wild versions. If they are out in their natural environment, newer buds will fall off and give rise to new plants. However, when they are being grown in a controlled environment as a houseplant, the buds stick around near the bottom of the plant, giving rise to a wider base. If you are looking to avoid this and prevent the succulents from getting too wide, you can simply cut away the newer buds that come up. After that, you can either put them in a separate pot for a new plant or just get rid of them.

The size of the succulent that you have at home will be entirely dependent on how much you let it grow, so you can prune it according to your preference.

Succulent Care

A lot of people assume that getting succulents means that they don’t really need to care for these houseplants, but if you really want them to grow well and last you a long time, there is a significant amount of care that goes into raising succulents in your home. In order to do this to the best of your capabilities, you need to get a better understanding of how succulents grow and what their basic needs are.

First and foremost, the most important factor that influences the growth of your succulents is the amount of sunlight they get access to. Under regular circumstances, if you do not give these houseplants at least 6 hours of direct light, it will be difficult for you to notice actual growth in the plant. In case you don’t have access to natural light, you can also add a couple of electric lamps to increase brightness. A good way to ascertain whether your plant is getting too little sunlight is by looking at the growth trajectory. If you see that the plant is getting taller and thinner, it is highly likely that it needs more sunlight.

Another important factor to keep in mind is watering. Yes, succulents are mostly used to dry climates and arid soil conditions, but that does not mean that you don’t need to water the plants at all. If you notice that the soil has dried up completely, you will need to soak it with water and then let it be for a couple of days, before indulging in another watering session. Keep in mind that the soil should be draining well, or the roots will be affected by the standing water. This will help ensure that the fleshy leaves of the plant retain the water they need for subsistence.

If you are wondering how often you should be giving the succulents water, remember that there is no set pattern, but once a week can be a good enough time if the soil is well hydrated. During the winters, there are also plants that need to be watered as rarely as once a month. Try to use terracotta or unglazed ceramic pots so that the water can evaporate with greater ease. This helps in ensuring that the soil remains dry enough and no water logging occurs. If you live in warmer climates, the succulents may perform well in the outdoors as well.

Long-Term Commitment

The best part about succulents, like other plants that grow very slowly, is that they can live for a longer period of time than your other houseplants. While this is an advantage, it also doubles up into being a responsibility. For example, you may get a particular cactus species just because it is good to look at, but it could survive for a few decades — if not more. This means that while the care that you have to give to the succulents in your home is quite limited, they will be with you for a long period of time, almost like a long-term commitment.

While most people turn to succulents because they think that it isn’t as much of a commitment as getting a pet home, you must keep in mind that this plant could survive for a longer period of time than an average human being — sometimes living for as long as 100 years. The plant’s appearance may change so slowly that you do not notice at major changes, but there is a big chance that the succulent will grow all through its lifetime. A lot of people wonder when their succulents will achieve their full size, but there is no particular time frame that can be stated for that. The most common way to look at it is that if your plant is still living, it is also probably growing at the same time.

Whether you are a young adult who has never kept houseplants before, or an experienced plant parent who has been doing this for a while now, succulents are a great option because of their slow growth and minimalistic care requirements. You don’t have to worry about providing them water every day, but giving them good amounts of sunlight is always recommended. As different species of succulents grow at different rates, you can choose the ones that suit your individual needs in the best possible manner. In the end, it is important that you only bring these plants home if you can take care of them. They are just like any other plants and work best with some love and care.

Written by Shane O'Connor

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