No Green Thumb? Try Growing Succulents

Are you prone to buying new house plants, convinced that this time you will not forget to about it only to find it dried up and dusty several months later? Are you guilty of never knowing how much or how often to water a plant? Do you readily admit to having a black thumb? Do you still hold on to the hope that someday maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to make a plant grow?

You, my dear, need to try succulents.

Succulents are plants that have thick juicy (succulent) leaves. Their leaves are fleshy because they store water in them. STORE. WATER. That’s the key phrase for poor gardener’s everywhere.

Many people are jumping on the succulent bandwagon—and why wouldn’t they? They thrive in almost any climate, they only need watered once a week (once a month in the winter) and they’re virtually indestructible. Succulents are the saving grace for lazy or inept gardeners.

And there are lots of varieties to choose from. Lots. We have six or seven different varieties ourselves.

Sure there’s aloe and agave, with their blade-like leaves poking up into the air. There’s also the round and layered “Hen and Chicks” variety that your grandma probably has growing in her yard. But there’s also the white succulents that grow in clusters (Moonstones), curled and rounded stems that point their flat bottoms upwards (Baby Toes), pink leaves with tiny clusters of flowers growing along their edges (Pink Butterflies), long hanging branches with little tear drops drooping off like a plump little weeping willow (Donkey Tail) and exotic star-shaped succulents (Star Flower).

The seemingly endless shapes, sizes and colors of succulents make them easy to arrange in interesting and unusual groupings. And with the low-maintenance and endless creativity presented by succulents it’s no wonder they have a cult-like following.

But that’s not all that makes succulents so great. I’ve saved the best for last.

Let’s say your sister-in-law has a succulent collection that makes you green with envy. Her succulents have won grand prize at the country fair for the last three years in a row. She’s got 25 different varieties of succulents and it seems every week she’s calling you to tell you about the newest and greatest she’s managed to get a hold of. You’ve begged her to tell you who her source is. Where is she finding these beauties? But like a secret ingredient in a signature recipe, she’s not divulging any more information than she needs to. “Oh, here and there.”

“Oh, a dash of this and a sprinkle of that.”


Here’s what you do: the next time you’re over at her house for coffee, gossiping about that other sister-in-law (you know the one) when she’s not looking (or when she is—no need to be sneaky but it might be kind of fun to hum the theme to Mission: Impossible while you’re doing it. Just sayin’.) reach over to that new fancy schmancy succulent that she’s been boasting about, and tear off a leaf.

Make sure it’s a nice clean tear—with nothing left behind. And don’t worry, you haven’t hurt her plant. Not a bit. Then smuggle your contraband back home and let it dry out for a day or two. Then fill a container with soil and lay the leaf on top of the soil. Water the leaf often—whenever the soil is dry (I recommend using a spray bottle so that you don’t overwater). In about four weeks you’ll notice little roots sprouting from the end of the leaf, and in another four weeks after that you’ll see little flowers beginning to grow.

And when she asks you where you got your fancy schmancy succulent? “Oh, here and there.”

Darla Antoine in Washington State

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.