The word succulent conjures up images of plump juicy, as well as sweet, leaves from such plants as the aloe and the agave, as well for most other sorts of cacti. The obvious object of the thick plump leaves is for the storage of water, as these plants are accustomed to living in very arid, hot, desert like environments. This built-in self watering system makes them rather indestructible as house plants for these plants are most forgiving when a regular watering is inadvertently forgotten.
They are not tall showy plants, boasting vibrant blooms, but are rather short and stocky bloomless alien looking vegetation. They often sport such comical names as hens and chicks and lamb’s tails. Appearing in a wide range of colorful tuberous leaves, many varieties often form beautiful patterns with their concentric circles of leaves.
Succulents may appear to be the more lazy of the plant world as they just simply seem to sit around not doing much. Not all of them bloom or produce flowers. They don’t grow very large in stature and they require very little maintenance, often appearing dormant or even dead.
Yet they are a tenacious lot.
They are not faint of heart as they stand up to extreme heat and drought. They can handle being ignored and often forgotten. They are the type of plant that can certainly take a licking as they simply keep on ticking—they have been around for thousands of years. It is said that a single particular little succulent plant, living at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, dates back to 1780.
There is much to be learned from a succulent, or cactus:
They are self preserving (they gather everything they need, storing it for later)
They are self defending (the prickly varieties)
They can be self healing (as well as healing to others, as in aloe)
They can self nourish (they draw from their stored resources, think of sweet agave sugar)
They hold up under pressure (how well do you do in 120 degrees with a 4 percent rainfall total?)
They hold up under extreme heat (again, back to that 120 thing)
They hold up during the dry spells of life.
So it is, on this new day to this new week of this new season of life, that perhaps we should be mindful of the lowly cacti and succulent. Most often over looked at the garden center.
This hardy bunch of little stumpy leaved plants usually sit off to the side, pushed away making room for the rows and rows of garish flowering plants and shrubs–all as we make a mad rush wanting to purchase the more showy colorful plants as we ready our yards and gardens.
In the long run, which plant out lasts the others?
Those pretty boastful show plants most often need constant pampering and babying. Just the right amount of fertilizer, just the right amount of water–too much or too little and death is quickly at hand. We fret who will water the plants during our time away. Many of these plants are annuals, simply good for a single season which can equate to a costly endeavor.
On the other hand, there is the lowly succulent and the cactus. . .they are hardy, forgiving, tenacious, self sufficient, colorful–yet juicy, sweet, plump and long lasting. A rather good combination for endurance and some rather good attributes to attach to living a productive and prosperous life. We can learn much from these humble plants.
Here is to the succulents and cactus, those lowly and most overlooked of plants, yet some of the most hardy plants to have at home in the garden.
Happy Spring and happy planting. . .
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson