Gems of the plant world


    Succulents are said to be the gems of the plant world. They brighten up the room, improve air quality and are veritable eye-candy. You could even say they are an out-of-this-world bunch, seeming to have landed from another planet based on the way they look, their capabilities and behaviors.

    These plants have been known to produce some of the biggest and most extravagant flowers on the planet, some bigger than a whole hand. This is why it is considered to be treasures of the plant world.

    Contrary to popular notion, succulents are not endemic to the Philippines. None of the species originated here. Thanks to collectors who brought them over, these plants were introduced to the Philippines and became widespread, thanks to an ideal climate (no winter), thereby jumpstarting the succulent industry.

    In the Native American Indian tribes, it is said to symbolize warmth, protection and endurance. Some say it represents a mother’s nurturing and unconditional love. The Opuntia or Bunny Ears’ with yellow flowers are used to treat ailments for the digestive system and more.

    The first time I laid my eyes on different succulents I was in awe. I remember being so hyped up that I could not sleep, wanting to know and have all of them. Indeed, succulent caring is a collector’s dream, serving up 30,000 species and counting—waiting for you to “catch ‘em all!”

    So how do you care for these beautiful plants? Based on constant experimenting from our own gardening, I have come up with these guidelines on how to take care of your fauna.
    The Mixture: 3 L’s

    It is very important to mix your potting medium well before potting or re-potting your succulent. Majority of succulents here in Manila come from the Benguet province; some would have moss, some are too dry (like a clump of rock) and some are too clay-like.

    If you would like your succulent to thrive, the best potting consistency is required. It is better to make your own potting mixture, which will be discussed in the next part.

    Potting medium should be considerably light, and doesn’t put too much pressure on the root system of the plant.

    Having loose potting mixture is very important so that the root system has room to grow. This will also make way for new pups (babies) to grow from the base of the plant.
    Avoid mixtures with too much “clay-like” consistency. Clumping can be detrimental and can cause rotting.
    Tip: When scooping the mixture in your palm, it should fall off like sand.

    Lets go of water easily
    While others think that succulents are better off without water, this is not entirely true. If you want flowers on your succulents, you have to water them. Even if they do have the ability to store water, they still need to be watered on a regular basis (three to four times a week, depending on the weather and the species).
    Stick your finger into the mixture to check if the soil is completely dry before watering again.

    Making Your Own Mixture
    In making your own mixture, you may use two or more different components. There are two main components to the mixture.

    Volcanic cinder (red or black)
    Pumice (binistay)
    Rough pebbles (avoid smooth/shiny, should be at least mung bean sized)
    Crushed mineral rocks like limestone

    Compost or Coco peat
    Rice hull may be used (although we don’t recommend a lot of this)
    Soilless mix

    Ideal Ratio:
    A:B = 60 : 40
    Other succulents
    A:B = 50 : 50 / 30 : 70

    The bigger the pot, the better

    Most of the time, we see those display pieces that have small pretty-looking pots; this is not good for the plant. This can stunt the growth and cause over saturation of water.

    Keep your plants in a pot at least twice its size and continuously transfer them as they grow in size.

    Experimenting has made me adept at understanding each species in depth, especially in keeping your succulent in the best condition. The best way to care for them really depends on your location and the average sun exposure, heat and many more factors depending on the type of plant that you have. So don’t be afraid to check the best place they should be. Do not hesitate to try propagating them. Make researching part of your daily routine.

    You are now all set to take care of your beauties. Keep these tips in mind, if you want to see them bloom their first flowers and thrive even until the next generation!



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