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Succulents 101

Succulents are plants that store their water in their stems, leaves, and roots, causing their "succulence." Here's how to take care of them.

Martha Stewart Living, August 2010

Gardeners use the term "succulent" to describe any plant that evolved to withstand drought by storing water in its roots, stems, or leaves. The diverse group is made up of plant families from all the arid parts of the world. Growing a collection -- or just one lone specimen -- is relatively easy.

Know the Basics
In warm climates, succulents can be planted in the ground or outdoors in pots year-round. Indoors, the best place for them is a sunny window or a greenhouse, planted in a fast-draining potting mix. Keep watering and fertilizing to a minimum, letting the soil dry between waterings.

Keep Them Clean
Succulents tend to collect debris. You can clean them with paintbrushes, long tweezers, or even a vacuum cleaner, using the crevice attachment.

Banish the Bugs
Most succulents are pest- and disease-free. But if they get mealybugs, wipe them with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol. If aphids appear, wash the plants with a focused stream of water. These methods will keep you from rubbing away the waxy bloom that gives some succulents their distinctive coloration.

Watch Those Spines
To avoid getting pricked, display the plants away from high-traffic areas. Just because you can't see the spines doesn't mean they aren't there. Some cacti have tiny barbed spines that can bury themselves in your skin.

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