I love succulents.

In my hometown of Carmel, California, one can’t step more than five feet without encountering these fleshy, variant baubles. Here in Rhode Island, the weather isn’t mild enough for many succulents to survive out of doors with exception to Hens & Chicks, Seedum and some crawling carpet succulents. But indoors, my visual appetite for succulents could be considered voracious at minimum.

I collect them a variety of ways, but mostly from trading and  cuttings. I don’t know the names of all of varieties that I have, but this one to the left is a new growth from a cutting that I started several months ago. Right now, its very small. The pots that house most of my rootings are only about an inch in diameter. Behind the new growth, you can see the cutting slowly deteriorating. Like most of my rootings, I can’t remember what this succulent looks like at full growth, so it will be a lovely surprise in just a few months.

Most succulents are “puffy” or “juicy” and require little-to-no watering, but not all. These three succulents all need a little special attention and are not as drought-tolerant as some of the others. The one in the middle —  the flower-shaped one — didn’t start growing until I re-potted it. For at least six months it held its compacted shape in its very tiny pot. Then almost immediately after I transferred it, it started growing upward.

The two on the outer edges are similar, but the one on the far left has many hairy bits between the leaves.

The last time I was in California, I took all kinds of cuttings, namely from my brother’s front yard (which is also our family home). This Aeonium, at full potential will be close to 5 feet tall! I took a couple leaves from the plant, and this is what I have a little more than a year later.

Because I’m not certain of the exact variety of this Aeonium, it was difficult to find an example online to show you how magnificent these plants really become. I did find a video of a woman talking about her high & mighty Aeonium here.

From the same house, my brother clipped me a nice, healthy branch of a Jade Plant that when I was born, was only a small bush. Now that bush is over six feet tall. I started using well-spent coffee grounds to “fertilize” the Jade and they’ve been growing splendidly since. Even in this photo, you can see the bright green new growth.

When Justin & I left California, we left our plants with friends, scattered around the Monterey Bay Area, but mostly with our friend John Borba, our old neighbor and compadre. Borba still lives in the same apartment where we were once neighbors, so when we visited, we got to see all our old plants flourishing under his lackadaisical care.

This is a cutting from one of our old plants, which I believe was originally a cutting from Homescapes, Carmel, a store that two of my brothers co-own and where I worked for most of the time I lived in California. They have amazing succulents, and whenever I could find a lonely leaf, I would take it home to nurse it into a plant.

I suppose it is only fair to note that I am absolutely not opposed to pilfering in many cases. Specifically, I mean that if I see a succulent that is in poor shape or otherwise close to death, especially with dropped leaves, I will take (at least) that leaf and grow a new plant of it. Or at minimum,  I will try.

Our former downstairs neighbors had this really beautiful succulent, for which I do not know the variety, at left. When they brought it home in the late spring and put it on the porch, I was both enamored and, truthfully, a little envious that it wasn’t mine. As mentioned, many succulents cannot survive cold temperatures, and so as the evening temperatures started to drop, I noticed the plant starting to wilt, so I took one healthy-looking leaf and brought it inside to nurture. This is the baby plant to that long-dead mess only one year later. I consider it a revival, not a theft.

The very tiny little green “button-like” succulent to the right of the pot is the last surviving chunk of what was originally a lovely little succulent carpet I bought from Home Depot, whose plants — despite my shining green thumb — almost always die within a few months. Now, I only buy succulents from Home Depot as a sort of pity case because I genuinely feel bad for these plants. I have mentioned to the nonchalant checkers that they ought to hire better garden center workers and I highly doubt I stated it with much eloquence.

In any case, if you should find yourself in a superhero’s apron looking to propagate succulents, it’s very simple: put any part of a succulent in a small pot with reasonably dry soil. Do a little research online to find out what kind of succulent you might have. Like any living creature, plants carry certain kinds of characteristics within plant families, succulents notwithstanding. Some succulents like more water than others, but not usually while they are propagating, and that can take several weeks to several months, depending on a number of conditions, including the time of year. So be patient.

It is never necessary to steal somebody’s entire plant when only a leaf will do and many of them drop on their own, so look around your neighborhood or ask friends for cuttings. Before you know it you will have an inexpensive, beautiful collection of exotic plants.


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