Succulents for Small Spaces

Do you live in a small space?  Succulents are a perfect choice for your small space.

By Stephanie Halcrow, Extension Master Gardener Intern

Kalanchoe Tomentosa
Photo Creative Commons

Succulents come in all shapes and sizes with many suited to a small space. However, the defining characteristics of succulents is their ability to store water in their fleshy leaves, thick stems, or swollen roots. The variety of small succulents and their ability to survive in semi-arid environments with infrequent watering is what makes them a perfect choice for your small space.

One of the smallest succulents is the Lithops from Africa. Lithops, or living stones, store so much water in their leaves that the Lithops look like stones. Lithops can survive in areas with zero rainfall; some Lithops even collect all their water from fog. Not all succulents are small. One of the largest succulents also hails from the hot plains of southern Africa. Standing at 100 feet, the Baobab tree, or Adansonia digitata is not the tallest of trees but boasts an extremely thick trunk whose circumference can exceed 90 feet.

Thankfully, there are succulents which grow larger than a stone and smaller than the Baobab tree. Echeverias are popular due to their rosette formation and striking colors. The Kalanchoe tomentosa varieties have soft fuzzy leaves and are excellent choice for children.  Sansevieria varieties are smart choices for small spaces with poor light. Try a dwarf version, the Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hanhnii’, for a change of pace.

Regardless of which one you choose, following a few basic guidelines will ensure succulents thrive in your space small.

Water succulents infrequently

A good rule of thumb is to water once a week in the spring and summer but only water once a month in fall and winter. Adjust timing to ensure the soil is completely dry before the next watering.

Don’t drown succulents

Avoid drowning succulents by using the right soil AND pot. Succulents are averse to sitting in water and require a fast draining soil. A fast draining soil only drains fast if there is a hole in the bottom of the pot. If the pot does not have a hole, then the fast draining soil is a non-draining soil. When repotting succulents, use fast draining soil designed for succulents and a pot with a drainage hole.

Match the right plant to the right light

Succulents prefer bright indirect light usually in a south facing window (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). A succulent with lots of color (reds, oranges, pinks) will need the bright, indirect light of a south facing window.  However, choose darker green succulents for a north or east facing window. Be careful of direct light from any window as this can burn the succulents, especially if the succulents are fair skinned. One can create artificial, bright, indirect light with a lamp.

Sansevieria trifasciata hahnii 'Gaster'

Sansevieria trifasciata hahnii ‘Gaster’
Photo © GREGORIUZ, Creative Commons

For upcoming classes on “Succulents for Small Spaces”, check out the Master Gardener of Northern Virginia’s Public Education Events at . Free classes are now available in June and July.

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