How I Became Obsessed with Succulents (And Why It’s Good for My Art)
If you follow me on social media, mostly Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve recently gotten into succulents. Some might even say I’m obsessed with succulents.
Maybe just a little.
So I’ve ended up doing succulent art. Go figure.
But seeing as I’m obsessed with them, and this is basically a post about succulents anyway, I’m going to give you my full succulent journey. With pictures, of course.
Let’s begin our journey.
Rewind to 2015
The succulent trend was out in full force. But I was living in South Korea, far away from hipster trends.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t know about the succulent trend. I mean, I had the Internet. The fastest Internet in the world, actually.
I’d heard about succulents and seen them around. But it wasn’t until one appeared in my friend Arria’s apartment that I really thought about getting one. It was just SO CUTE.
But I had one barrier. Being in Korea, everything felt temporary to me. I had less than a year left there. I was traveling around the country a lot. I didn’t want to commit to getting something I couldn’t take back to the US, like a plant.
Return in 2016
Fast-forward to my return to Colorado a year later. After just a month of being back, I decided to start a freelance writing business. One of the first gigs I landed was ghostwriting for a content creation agency. This meant I wrote about virtually anything.
Occasionally, I wrote for a gardening website that was one of the company’s consistent clients.
The client had asked for several specific plant care articles. One of my assignments was on Haworthia Attenuata or the Zebra plant. It turns out Zebra plants are a popular indoor succulent. (And being a zone 10 plant, they couldn’t survive outdoors in most of the US).
The more research I did on this plant, the more attractive it seemed. Just look at those dark mysterious stripes:
Photo by Stephen Boisvert licensed under CC by 2.0
After writing (and doing research for) my article, I had the knowledge to care for one, so why not finally get a succulent?
Feeling like a potentially capable plant parent, I did some browsing at Home Depot. With some advice from my sister, I picked out three succulent varieties:
- Sedum adolphii or “Golden Sedum”
- Sedum hernandezii
- Crassula Species Asstd.
Sedum adolphii / Golden Sedum
The Golden sedum was actually my favorite at the time, but don’t tell. It looked the most like the typical succulents you see on Pinterest and Instagram. I had to have one of those, right?
This sedum doesn’t seem to have a common name, but it’s easy to remember since it appears to be named after someone named Hernandez. Why do so many plant names have that double “i” at the end?
Crassula Species Asstd.
So I didn’t actually look closely at the name of this one before I bought it. I got home only to realize this was some sort of mystery Crassula.
Being a research-fueled plant parent, I was upset. How was I supposed to provide proper care when I didn’t even know the exact species?!
I made do. And later I deduced that this plant was Crassula perforata or “String of Buttons.” Bam.
Hunt for the Perfect Succulent Container
The biggest appeal of succulents, besides their cute planty selves, is growing them in cute containers. So the next logical step was to find a picture-worthy container.
Okay, well I wasn’t that set on a fancy container.
I spent a few minutes digging around in my room and found a random bucket I’d been using as a pencil holder. Voila! Cute succulent container.
I didn’t put much effort into this one.
But now I go to a store like Target and can only see containers for what they’re really worth – their succulent cuteness potential.
The Sketching Begins
Making yourself do art, when you should actually be writing, blogging, marketing yourself, and pitching to new clients, to name a few, is a task.
I could always be doing something more to further my business. Since writing is also a hobby, and I identify as a writer, it also feels like there’s more at stake to my work.
Art is an equally valuable hobby, but I’m not trying to use it to pay my bills. So art gets thrown to the curb quite a bit.
Fortunately, art can apply to just about everything. I can take my excitement or interest in one thing, like social justice, and do art about it. Orrrr, I can take my new obsession with succulents, and all the excitement that comes with it and transfer that to art.
And that’s what I did.
I’ve been sketching my new plant babies when I feel uninspired or just want to do some relaxing art. It’s been fun because I’m still in that honeymoon stage with my plants and I like just looking at them.
It’s also relaxing. I can focus on putting marks on the page instead of trying to think up some grand art concept. I really need to shake off that art school (and IB HL Art) mindset.
Perhaps this post is premature, since these are only quick colored pencil sketches. Or maybe this is just to say, expect more succulent art in the future. Much, much more.
My other favorite part about growing succulents is how easy they are to propagate. I already knew all about this, since I had to write articles on various plants and how to propagate them. So boy was I ready.
I started propagation from day one, using leaves that had fallen off of my succulents during transport or repotting. One leaf from the hernandezii was already growing its own plant! Currently, it seems to have stagnated a bit, but maybe I’m just too excited.
I rooted my first leaves in water because it seemed cool and I could watch them grow each day.
Out of the three plants I tried, only the hernandezii leaves rooted, and they’re still doing well. But I envy those photos with fifty gazillion succulent leaves all sprouting teeny tiny plants.
The Obsession Advances: More Succulents!
I didn’t stop at three, oh no. I frequented the garden sections of Home Depot and Lowe’s and eventually got my sister to split a plant with me.
- Pachyphytum bracteosum
- Sedum rubrotinctum
For myself, I chose a Pachyphytum bracteosum, with puffy pale green leaves. Together, we got a pot with four Sedum rubrotinctum and split them.
The Succulent Outdoors
Eventually, my mom noted, “don’t we have those kinds of plants in the front yard?” AND WE DID.
In my parents’ front yard, nearly buried under the mulch were three Sempervivum plants. These are also known as “Hen and Chicks” because they propagate easily on their own by producing “chicks.”
After some deliberation, I cleaned out a pot, took some chick cuttings, and potted them.
Don’t worry. I have plans for that empty space in the middle.
Foray into Online Succulents: No Hope Left for Me
I should mention that this whole time, I began following more and more succulent blogs. Pinterest and Tumblr became notorious time wasters. But also sources of endless entertainment.
Many people buy succulents online, especially if the plants don’t grow well in their region or they want a particular plant.
You’ll remember that the Zebra plant was what had gotten me into this whole mess.
Tragically, I still haven’t been able to find one. On my very first succulent shopping trip, I spotted a Zebra plant at Home Depot. Just one. It looked a little worn, so I opted for Golden Sedum and Co instead. I now regret that decision.
I haven’t seen a single Zebra plant in stores since. Except for a couple that were included in a larger succulent arrangement. No thanks. I can arrange them myself, thank you. Why take the fun out of it?
So my online browsing turned into seriously searching. I wondered whether Etsy was really a valid place to buy a succulent. Many online places didn’t have Zebra plants in stock yet. Was the world conspiring against me?
Instead, I ended up purchasing a few Sempervivums to pot with my existing ones outdoors. No, I didn’t buy a Zebra plant. Since it started me on this journey, it only seems right to finish this journey properly – to someday handpick a Zebra plant in person.
I still search for a Zebra plant sometimes often, drawn into home gardening stores as if to a siren’s song.
Photo by Stephen Boisvert licensed under CC by 2.0