Succulents for an unconventional Valentine’s Day gift

Fresh flowers are a popular choice for romancing your significant other on Valentine’s Day. However, they can be pricey and their beauty (unfortunately) does not last very long.

This Valentine’s Day, why not gift your loved one with a potted plant? With proper care, these plants continue to grow and are no less beautiful than roses or gerberas.

Often, plants come in standard nursery production pots which may not look very attractive. However, you can take this opportunity to personalise your gift by decorating the pot or grouping it with a selection of other plants and decorations to make a container garden.

For busy urbanites, succulents are fuss-free plants to care for. Succulents are plants that have thick, fleshy tissues which store water as a means of survival in their arid habitats. Cacti, which many of us are familiar with, are a type of succulent. Many succulents are visually attractive, which makes them unique gifts for Valentine’s Day.

A selection of recommended succulents for the beginner

Astrophytum

Commonly cultivated species of Astrophytum are globose to short cylindrical-shaped cacti which are spineless. Cultivars of A. myriostigma are commonly sold in local nurseries. When viewed from top the plants have a star-shaped appearance, making them look like potted starfruits!

Another Astrophytum species worth getting your hands on is the A. asterias (see above photo) for its striking similarity to marine animals such as sea urchins and sand dollars. It has white woolly areoles along the ribs, and some of the other cultivars also have beautiful patterns on them.

These plants are slow-growing and are best grown on a sunny windowsill with filtered sunlight for 4 to 6 hours daily.

Cotyledon ladismithiensis

Commonly known as Bear’s Paws, this plant grows as a small shrub with chunky green leaves that are fuzzy to touch. The tips of the leaves have prominent ‘claws’, resembling the paws of bears. When you buy your plant from the nursery, the claw tips are likely to have a reddish tinge.

Over time, the colour will fade to green. These plants are fragile and its leaves will break away if handled roughly. They are best grown on a sunny windowsill with filtered sunlight for 4 to 6 hours daily. Avoid overwatering.

Senecio rowleyanus
This is a well-known succulent commonly known as String-of-pearls or String-of-beads due to its appearance. The plant grows as a creeper where its stems trail on the ground, rooting where they touch and forming dense mats.

If you look carefully at one of its pea-shaped leaves, you will find a “window” which allows light to enter the interior of the leaf, increasing the area of leaf tissue for photosynthesis. In our local climate, its leaf size may be smaller than those observed in cooler environments.

This plant is best grown on a sunny windowsill with filtered sunlight for 4 to 6 hours daily. It can also be grown under artificial light. Avoid overwatering.

Kalanchoe tomentosa

This succulent is commonly known as the Panda Plant or Pussy Ears. It is commonly sold in local nurseries. Like the Bear’s Paws, its greyish leaves with dark-red rims are covered with dense hairs and are fuzzy to touch. There is a cultivar called ‘Chocolate Soldier’, which has brownish leaves.

This plant is best grown on a sunny windowsill with filtered sunlight for 4 to 6 hours daily. Avoid overwatering.

Haworthia cooperi var. truncata

There are many different species and cultivars of Haworthia being sold in nurseries. Still relatively rare but highly sought after is the Haworthia cooperi var. truncata. It has leaves that have attractive transparent leaf tips. In its native habitat, plants grow mostly buried in the ground with only the transparent leaf tips exposed to harness sunlight for making food.

This plant is best grown on a sunny windowsill with filtered sunlight for 4 to 6 hours daily. It can also be grown under artificial light. Avoid overwatering.

Light
Many people have the belief that succulents require lots of light to grow well. However, the truth is that there are species which can be grown under lower light conditions, for example on a windowsill. The ones listed in this article can be grown in places that receive about 4 to 6 hours of filtered sunlight daily.

Some succulents can also be grown solely under artificial lighting. If you choose to follow this option, place your plant about 15 cm under a 24W daylight or warm white fluorescent light bulb. Leave the light switched on for about 12 hours daily.

Media
Succulents demand a porous and well-draining mix. There are a myriad of different mixes that can be used to grow your plants. The components and proportions to use greatly depend on the species grown and its prevailing growing conditions.

I have achieved success with a growing mix made up largely of fine expanded clay pellets (LECA) and coarse aquarium gravel.

Watering
Due to their low water needs, succulents make good plants for busy urbanites. It is important to water your plant thoroughly and allow all excess water to drain away completely. 
Plants should NOT be left sitting in excess water collected at the base of the pot. They should also not be left to dry out completely for prolonged periods.

Depending on the environmental conditions, plants may need to be watered only once or twice a week. Excessive moisture will cause the plant to rot.

Text and photos by Dr Wilson Wong

Total Comments: 0
Comment
Enter the captcha

Have views or comments on this article? Let us know via this form. If you would like to give us feedback on any other areas relating to our parks and gardens, please submit via https://www.nparks.gov.sg/feedback