Everyone loves low maintenance plants. So much that they even like the fake ones. But a growing trend is taking advantage of live plants that are about as low maintenance as you can get: succulents.

This term refers to a group of plants that have the ability to store water in their stalks and leaves in order to survive drought. This means that they can grow in basically any condition, and don’t need to be watered as often as your typical houseplant.

Succulents include cacti, jade plants, sedums, aloes, hens and hens-and-chicks to name some of the more popular varieties. Generally succulents have unusual leaf shapes and foliage colors. In recent years, they have become wildly popular as décor for the home, as gifts, and in vertical gardens.

Once you have chosen the succulents you want for your home, there are a few ways to plant them to be sure they will be happiest. You will want to get some sort of shallow saucer or dish, soil and pebbles. The dish itself doesn’t actually need to have a drainage hole, which means you can use almost anything. The number of succulent plants you need depends on the size of the dish you are using to plant them in. Generally you can plant them fairly close together, so sometimes it’s best to bring the dish with you when shopping for plants.

When you go to plant the succulents, be sure to get a potting soil that is for succulents. This potting soil is formulated for good drainage, but you could always add perlite or sand to your soil to give it better drainage. Mound the soil in your dish and plant the succulents around the mound. That mound will, again, encourage the drainage.

Use pebbles, or other decorative pieces like colored glass, to put on top of the soil. This will dress up the dish for your home. Give the succulents a few tablespoons of water every few weeks, more so in the summer than in the winter when they are dormant. This planter should be large enough for the succulents for about a year, then it will need to be re-potted.

While succulents do not need a lot of care, they do have some requirements to ensure healthy, thriving plants. Succulents prefer bright light, so placing them in a south-facing window when indoors is best. The leaves of the plant will be able to tell you if the plat is getting too much or too little light. The leaves will turn brown or white if the plant is being scorched by the sun. If the plant is not getting enough sun, the plant will begin to stretch to reach the light. So watch for elongated stems, widely spaced leaves.

Succulents can also tell you if they are getting too much or too little water. While the succulents need to be watered more often in the summer, it is best to let the soil dry between waterings. During the winter, while the plants are dormant, cut back to watering the plants to once a month. If the plant is overwatered, the plants are soft and discolored. The leaves will start to lost their color, and often this is the first sign that the plant is rotting from too much water. If the plant has not been watered enough, the plant will stop growing and begin to shed its leaves. They can also develop brown spots on the leaves.

Kim Boyer