How I Started Growing Succulents and Cacti

In the eighties we moved from coastal Queensland to an inland Central Queensland town where temperatures averaged in the forties and rainfall was non-existent for months at a time. Water restrictions were a permanent fact of life. 

Many of my favourite plants that had travelled to the West with me simply and sadly exited my life. Over the following two decades that we made our home there, I came to realise the practicality and the beauty in growing sun loving, drought resistant plants.

I live near the coast again now, but I continue to collect and grow these plants that I love; and because I love them I want others to appreciate their value too, especially in these times where water does not flow as freely as it once did.

So here are some of the simple things I have learned over the years:

  • All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Succulents are any plants that store water in their stems, roots and leaves, and cacti do store water, so that makes them a succulent. So cacti are a sub-group of succulent. What identifies a succulent as a cactus is the presence of areoles, the little mounds where the spines grow from the cactus. Some succulents have spines without the areoles, but that does not define them as a cactus. 
  • That being said, in my experience, I have found cacti more tolerant of full sun and able to survive prolonged periods without water better than most other types of succulents - the exception being the agaves. They are tough plants, but dramatic in their shape and display. I have had to rescue some less aggressive growers from being smothered by them in the garden.
  • There is so much variety in succulents - in their shapes, textures, size, colours...and in their resilience. Whether grown outdoors in a garden, or in pots on a patio, bush-house or indoors, there is a succulent to suit almost any condition and any taste.
  • The best reward for the love and attention we shower on these plants is when they flower. There are few others in the plant world that can match the beauty of the cactus or succulent flower.
  • Some believe succulents thrive on neglect, but that simply isn't true. They will shrivel up with too much water, but they all need varying degrees of water and light, so part of the fun of growing succulents is to learn what works best (mostly by trial and error in your particular set of conditions- weather and soil etc). Don't feel bad if you lose a few along the way. Each time that happens, you have learned something from the experience. Succulents are just like any other plant in that regard...some are easier to grow than others; some are forgiving of the novice grower, while others will frustrate even the most knowledgeable collector.

When we decided last year to buy The Succulent Garden online store from Sue, I had to quickly learn the botanical names for so many succulents. In all my years of growing them, I had only retained some of the common names for my plants, but none of the latin; so this has been most educational for me to study the many varieties. We needed to reliably name and describe the plants in the shop for you.

 I am enjoying getting to know our customers along the way too, but there is so much we don't know about you yet; so please feel free to leave a comment, chat on facebook, or contact us via the Contact page on the web. I am genuinely interested to know how you came to be growing succulents, and if you are just starting out or are you a veteran?

Happy gardening

Liz