Gardening beautiful plants is not just for those with a green thumb. While some expertise is needed to successfully cultivate and harvest a garden, even those with just a little bit of green and a tiny bit of space can also benefit from the world of growing greenery. Lovely gardens can be as large as a farm-sized plot of land or as small as a pot on a windowsill.
Each type of garden has its particular benefits and challenges, and most aspiring gardeners are able to produce a lovely and usually rewarding crop regardless of the size they have to dedicate to their growing greenery. But since countless plants require a large amount of sun, many ambitious gardeners fall short in their partially sunny locales.
Still others have only the tiniest of locations in which to nurture their greenery and opt to not indulge their excitement about growing plants, herbs, or flowers. When utilizing a large plot of land complemented with the ideal warm, sunny days is out of reach, what is an aspiring gardener to do? Plant shade succulents instead to take advantage of the cozy space you do have.
With fewer requirements than sun-loving plants, shade succulents are a surprisingly adaptable option that likely will fit in your space and still provide the cheerfulness to your indoor or outdoor space that only plants can give. Since succulents have their own characteristics that make them special, we will look at what defines a succulent and how shade succulents differ.
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What are Succulents?
The class of plant called a succulent gets its name from the Latin word that means “juice” or “sap.” Succulent plants are drought-hardy plants that are characterized typically by thicker or fleshy leaves. Instead of a paper-thin leaf that characterizes most plants, a succulent has plumper leaves that retain or hold in water.
These mini marvels usually do not grow exceedingly tall, although there are some large varieties that are very big. A typical succulent uses its thicker leaves to hold in moisture, allowing it to thrive in a dry, hot environment.
Leaves on succulents sometimes do not even look like what we normally expect for a plant leaf. Instead of being thin, veined, and with pointy-shaped tips, a succulent’s leaves might take on any number of shapes. From a fat circle to a spiky spear shape, the leaves on these distinctive plants vary widely in their shape, color, and size.
Since these plants are all about conservation, they are commonly found in xeriscape landscaping as well as being popular as an indoor or patio planting. Most succulents need a lot of sun and well-drained soil since they are built for holding on to moisture and can tolerate the high heat that typically comes with sunshine.
It is interesting to note that all cacti are actually succulents due to their ability to thrive in hot, dry, and sunny or shady areas. Many people can easily identify a cactus on sight even with the hundreds of varieties. Tall or compact, spikey or rounded, barren or flowery, the variations in cacti are stunning. As a shade succulent, cacti are an appealing choice for many home gardeners.
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What is a Shade Succulent?
A shade succulent is a type of plant that does not require full sun to thrive. Instead, these low-maintenance beauties only need partial or dappled sunshine to be healthy. Of course, they can tolerate some sun, but do best when they have bright light but not only direct sunshine at all times.
Shade succulents are not, however, a plant that will flourish in the dark, despite their moniker. Instead, they are perfect for sun-adjacent areas that receive plenty of sunlight indirectly or dappled sunshine. Unlike their full-sun siblings, they may need even less watering, as the shade lovers will not lose quite as much moisture in a shaded area.
These unique plants are also easily recognizable by their distinctive leaf style, but shade succulents are typically smaller than their sun-loving cousins. In fact, some varieties that prosper in low light are actually smaller versions of a succulent that needs full sun and heat. While some of these shade succulents stay fairly small, all are growing, living plants, so they may not stay “mini” for long with the right care.
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Caring for Shade Succulents
Just like any other plant, shade succulents need water and sunlight, but just a little less of both than you might be used to providing. Planting them in well-drained soil is a must, since sitting in too much water can cause rot. When planting, also avoid adding in a heavy layer of mulch instead opting for a light inorganic layer of mulch or even small rocks or stones to help with water drainage.
A shade succulent is equally at home in a well-draining pot on a windowsill as it is planted in the ground nearby other greenery that has similar needs for low water and bright light. Choose the perfect location for your shade succulent with light and water in mind, and your plant will show off its unique shape and colors as a thank you.
These drought-hardy plants also need less water than their thin-leaved relatives, as their plump appendages hold in moisture easily. If the plant is outside, watering it about half as much as you might water another outdoor plant is a good rule of thumb to keep your shade succulent happy. If the surrounding soil is dry to the touch, it is time to water. Take care to only hit the roots, however, to avoid overwatering the absorbent leaves.
Pruning a shade succulent is simple. Just like with any plant, as leaves or stems die back, be sure to carefully remove them to encourage growth elsewhere. If flowers do bloom on your plant, harvesting them will encourage new growth as well. Many shade succulents do not flower in a traditional way with large showy blooms. Instead, they may have small clusters of beautiful blooms that have a bit thicker of a petal, somewhat mirroring the characteristic thick succulent leaf.
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Choosing the Right Shade Succulent
Since these beauties come in all shades of green, pink, blue, white, and everything in between, choosing just one shade succulent might be the most challenging part of having one! They also vary in size and height, with some shooting straight up tall while others droop lazily over the side of your pot, happiest as a companion to other plantings. Let’s look at some of the most loved varieties and their notable characteristics to help you choose the perfect shade succulent for your windowsill or greenspace.
Tall and Spikey
Petite and Trailing
On the Larger Side
Unusual Shade Lovers
Easy Care with a Big Impact
From plants with unusual name origins to fancifully descriptive names, shade succulents are playful plants to include in your home. Whether indoors or out, these shade loving plants are a perfect choice for the gardener with little time to devote to and even less sunshine.
But even the most dedicated gardener will enjoy tending a shade succulent as they reward their minimal efforts with striking colors, unique shapes, and lovely, bright blooms in unexpected seasons. Shade succulents are an almost effortless way to bring some uncommonly delightful nature into your life.