Gardening: Succulents all the rage for a reason

Nancy Szerlag

A few days ago, an acquaintance asked me what all the buzz about succulents is about. She said she sees them all over the place — in garden centers, grocery stores and big boxes — and can’t understand the excitement.

I explained to her most succulents are prized for their unusual and dramatic architectural forms that make perfect accessories for the popular mid-century modern home decor that is all the rage now. And if given the right amount of sunlight and not over-watered, they’re easy to grow. My home decor is eclectic French country, but I have a little collection of succulents that live under a grow light in my office. One little guy who has been with me for more years than I can remember survived a five-day winter power outage when the temperature in my house dropped below 40 degrees.

Succulents are plants you can actually play with. Many produce rosettes that can be severed from a plant and glued to a hair clip, headband, bracelet or pinned back and worn as an adornment. Keep them out of the hot sun and these creations can last for several weeks. If you wish to grow more plants simply take cuttings of rosettes, let the them sit for a few days so the fresh cut heals and then stick them in potting soil. Should a leaf break off in handling, let it sit to heal and it will form roots and begin to grow a new plant. Do a Google search on crafting with succulents and you’ll be hooked.

If you’re looking for a cool housewarming gift for a guy, a container of succulents is a great choice. They’re the perfect accent piece for large screen TVs and black leather furniture. And the best news is they are easy-care, and can withstand periods of owner-imposed drought. That said, they do need to be watered but you can program a “time to water” notice on a smartphone as a reminder. Also, if the leaves lose their luster and develop fine wrinkles, the plant is announcing it needs a drink.

A great companion piece to a gift container of succulents is the book “Succulents Simplified” (Timber Press) by the Queen of Succulents, Debra Lee Baldwin: Along with a list of 100 of the easiest to grow, and tips on plant care, Baldwin includes a list of low-light lovers, and step-by-step instructions on how to create container gardens.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.