Succulents are free spirits, wild and unbound. It would be a crime to reign them in, chain them up, and lock them away inside your house.
The problem is… they are so darn cute. Who can resist those chubby, little leaves? Those plump plants would go great in my room that’s covered floor-to-ceiling in pillows.
Since we’ve already decided we’re going to overlook succulents’ innate need for the great outdoors, let’s talk about how to ease their transition to captivity.
Caring for Succulents Indoors
Cassidy Tuttle, the preeminent succulent blogger, has a great article about taking care of your succulents indoors. Here’s a summary:
Water: Watering succulents indoors is mostly the same as watering them outdoors. Make sure your pots have drainage holes! Water them thoroughly, but infrequently. A good drenching every week or two is sufficient for most succulents and cacti.
Light: This is the biggest issue for those of us with indoor succulents. We’ll discuss some plants that don’t need as much light, but all fat plants want some! To avoid etiolation (aka stretching), put them in a window with lots of light! If that’s not sufficient, you can use a grow light. If you’re gonna get grow lights, though, you might as well turn your home into a greenhouse since you’re not limited by window space anymore.
Soil: The most important thing is to have fast-draining soil. This is achieved by minimizing the amount of organic matter in your soil (no peat, coir, hummus, etc.) and using mostly grit (perlite, pumice, coarse sand, etc.). My website, Sublime Succulents, has lots of bigly articles talks about soils in lots of detail if you want to get into the nitty-gritty.
1. Zebra Cactus (Haworthia fasciata)
An iconic succulent, this Haworthia is actually not a cactus at all. Which is good, because we don’t really want a bunch of spikey things indoors, do we?
Zebra cactus is awesome because it can endure very low levels of light, as little as 4-6 hours a day. It’s also compact and slow-growing, so it works really well on a desk in your office.
If you’re feeling creative, it fits really well into succulent arrangements. There are few low-light succulents that are as versatile as the zebra cactus, and even fewer that play well with others in an arrangement.
2. Cylindrical Snake Plant (Sanseveria cylindrica)
A personal favorite, this Sanseveria has another, cooler moniker: African Spear Plant. It’s easy to see how it got the name – the tip of each stalk is capped with a hard, woody spike. Take care where you place the plant, preferably not at eye level. I wear an eye patch now.
This Sanseveria is one of those plants, like bamboo, which is often trained. It is commonly sold with multiple stalks bound together and braided. The plant is perfectly healthy while in this form, but it’s hard to maintain as it grows. Additionally, it may never flower – the flowers sprout from the center of the plant (which is tightly restricted when braided).
3. Aloe vera
Any list of indoor succulents would not be complete without a nod to the ubiquitous aloe. Even before the succulent craze started, aloe has been a staple of every household.
And for good reason! Their benefits are too numerous to count. Everyone knows you can use the gel to treat minor burns and sunburns, but did you know you can eat it as well? The gel from an aloe’s leaves is loaded with nutrients, and adds a nice texture to any smoothie.
4. Snake Plant (Sanseveria fasciata)
The second Sanseveria in this list (also with ‘snake’ in the name), this is a very popular choice for offices and other commercial buildings. Rarely will you find a lobby without an inconspicuous pot of these tall, bladed beauties.
The reason for their commonness is simply that they’re impossible to kill. Forget to water it for a month? Whoops, here’s a drink. Left in the dark over the weekend? They don’t mind. Is it getting chilly in here? I didn’t notice. Snake plants are indestructible; and if they do die, they will probably resurrect if asked nicely.
5. Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Bet you didn’t expect to see this one on here. A succulent is any plant that stores water in its leaves, stem, or roots – and many palms fit the definition.
Although not a true palm, it’s a nice change of pace. Some people prefer thick leaves, others prefer thick trunks. It’s a matter of opinion.
Jokes aside, ponytail palms are a pleasant, woody evergreen that add some variety to your indoor collection. It grows slowly, so you don’t have to worry about it busting out of its pot.