Succulent indoor plants

Published on September 9th 2020
A bowl of salad
Succulent plants are very popular indoor plants and there is a wealth of species from which to choose. These range from the dwarf cluster-forming, creeping types to larger robust solitary species. Many are well adapted to shady conditions and have been popular in Europe for the past three centuries. Some of these include Aloe, Gasteria, Haworthia and Sansevieria species.
A close up of a flower
Gasteria blooms.
There are also many small succulents for creating miniature gardens on window-sills or balconies. To create a miniature succulent garden, look out for these small species of crassula - Crassula expansa subsp. fragilis, Crassula socialis, Crassula pellucida subsp. marginalis, Crassula setulosa subsp. deminuta and Crassula orbicularis. Small gasterias, haworthias and aloes are also perfect for miniature gardens - Gasteria bicolor var. liliputana, Gasteria glomerata, Haworthia cymbiformis, [Haworthia turgida], Haworthia retusa, [Haworthia tessellata] and Aristaloe aristata. Another good succulent for the miniature garden is the bonsai-mint Plectranthus ernstii.
A close up of a flower
Crassula expansa subsp. fragilis.
The beautiful tiger jaws Faucaria britteniae, Faucaria felina, Faucaria tigrina and Faucaria tuberculosa thrive on windowsills, as do the small mesembs like Delosperma pruinosum, Delosperma esterhuyseniae, Delosperma rogersii and Delosperma dolomitica. I can also recommend Dracaena hyacinthoides (previously Sansevieria), Dracaena aethiopica, Cotyledon tomentosa and Cotyledon elisae, both cotyledons with hairy leaves and orange tubular flowers. And don't forget our one and only indigenous cactus - Rhipsalis baccifera. Curio rowleyanus is an interesting plant with round ball-shaped leaves and pendant stems. These succulent species require little attention but care should be taken not to over-water them. They can remain happy in the same container for years.
A group of fruit and vegetable stand
Cotyledon species
For larger pots, Crassula streyi has broad succulent leaves, purplish on the lower surface and Crassula multicava 'Purple leaf' is another useful house plant, especially when grown as a groundcover with the larger tree container plants. The larger indigenous Dracaena species (Mother in law's tongue) with their attractive mottled, leathery strap-shaped leaves are one of the hardiest house plants. I recommend the indigenous Dracaena hyacinthoides, Dracaena aethiopica, and Dracaena hallii. The leaves of the mother in law's tongue are extremely fibrous and are used for making rope, fishnets, string cloth and paper. Weavers often strip off the leaf margins for making their nests. The Afrikaans name 'maagwortel' refers to the medicinal properties of the plant as the roots, if chewed, are said to expel intestinal worms.
A plant in a pot
Senecio radicans
Balconies or stoeps (verandahs) are ideal for growing plants and you can choose succulents that require more light than their indoor relatives do, and which will provide some colour. They too will require very little attention. The summer-flowering crassula cultivars (red Crassula perforata and white Crassula dejecta) are good choices. The blue-green leafed Senecio ficoides, Senecio crassulaefolius and the grey-leafed Cotyledon orbiculata are rather striking and will provide a contrast to the green foliage plants. Vygies (mesembs) should do well provided that the balcony or window is sunny enough. I recommended Oscularia deltoides, Lampranthus roseus and Delosperma lehmannii.
Remember that most succulent species require a well-drained, sandy to gravely soil.
For inspiration, visit the Botanical Society Conservatory at Kirstenbosch for a truly wonderful selection of succulents.
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