How Do Succulents Grow? Hint – It’s Pretty Amazing

Succulents with pupsA crucial part of having a healthy succulent is understanding your plant. How do succulents grow? Do they go dormant? What is their “normal” life cycle? Having the answers to these questions and more can save you frustration and help your succulent live a long and beautiful life.

Today, our topic is how do succulents grow.

The Beginning

All succulents started with seeds.

I have a few succulents that bloom on a regular basis and I have a few others that I have never seen bloom. Different varieties bloom at different intervals and require different things (water, temperature, sunlight) to bloom. While succulents are easy to care for and you can ignore them for a while, their seeds are totally opposite.

Once a succulent blooms and the seeds fall to the ground (in their natural environment), they wait. They wait until conditions are right (water, temperature, sunlight) to start producing tiny little roots, this process can take a few weeks to a year. Yes, a year!

Then, they are very picky, any change in their environment can kill the new plant.

That is how all succulents came to be, through seeds, it is not how they stayed around. Succulents live in environments where other plants can’t survive, if they were dependent on seeds, they would be extinct.

Succulents have adapted, their fallen leaves can now produce more plants (jade is great for this) and some “mom” plants send “pups” out. A common example of this is chicks and hens (picture above).

I do not recommend starting succulents from seeds, cuttings are much, much, much easier. If you are adventurous or want to give it a whirl, go for it and please let me know the ups and downs.

A graphic explaining photosynthesis

The Middle

The baby succulent is firmly rooted and growing. Now what?

If you remember back in science class (I didn’t remember the details, I had to look it up) the teacher talked about photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is defined as:

“the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct”

So all plants use sunlight and water to make food. Great for some plants but a lot of succulents came from the dessert so how does that work?

Again, they adapted.

All plants have stomates (which I misread as stomachs the first few times I saw the word). Stomates are tiny little openings on the plant that allow it to take in carbon dioxide to help with photosynthesis (done during the day for most plants so they get sunlight).

As with anything, when there is an opening, allowing for something to enter, it can also allow things to exit. So having the openings for carbon dioxide is a must but those little openings can let precious water out (through evaporation). Uh oh

Desert succulents are the opposite of other plants, they open their stomates at night when it is cooler and less water will escape.

It works like this:

  • Humans breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide
  • All plants “breathe in” carbon dioxide (to make energy with water and sunlight) and release oxygen (photosynthesis)- we help each other
  • Succulents have fewer stomates (little openings on their leaves to take in carbon dioxide) than other plants to reduce water leaving the plant
  • Succulents have also adapted thick leaves to store water (so even without rain, they have water for photosynthesis), some also have a waxy coat to help hold in water
  • While succulents can get water from the ground, some can also absorb water in through their leaves
  • Succulents open their stomates at night (for photosynthesis) reducing the amount of water evaporation

Succulents still function as other plants (stomates and photosynthesis) but have adapted to survive their environments.

A bench by the window the succulentsThe End

Each succulent has a different life span but the purpose of the succulent, as with any plant, is to help its genes carry on. As long as you are taking care of your plant, it should live a long and beautiful life.

Questions or Comments? Leave them below!

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