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Succulent flowers 101: What you should do with succulent flowers

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Succulent flowers 101: What you should do with succulent flowers

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Succulents as houseplants have taken the world by storm, and it's no wonder why - they boast stunning beauty and remarkable uniqueness but require minimal upkeep. While succulents are typically grown for their compact and evergreen foliage, their flowers are also a lovely sight to behold and make for a captivating addition to any indoor or outdoor area. With their vibrant hues, intricate contours, and captivating textures, succulent flowers offer a pleasant visual feast. From the delicate petals of the echeveria to the bold blooms of cacti, the diversity of succulent flowers is simply breathtaking and offers endless possibilities for creating stunning arrangements and displays. 

Crassula, Crassula Springtime, Succulent blooming

Succulent flowers offer a pleasant visual feast - Photo of The Tilth.

Succulents are known to bloom less frequently in cultivation, and if they do, it's typically during their growing season. However, with proper care, some species can produce beautiful flowers multiple times a year. It's important to note that succulent flowering is influenced by many factors. Let’s discover the world of flowering succulents!

How do succulents produce flowers?

The production of succulent flowers is a complex and highly regulated process that involves several environmental and genetic elements. One of the key factors that influence the blooming of succulent plants is their dormancy period. Many succulent species enter a state of dormancy during the winter or summer months, depending on their native habitat. During this time, the plant's metabolic processes slow down, and growth and flowering are temporarily halted. Once the plant comes out of dormancy and enters its growing season, it's more likely to produce flowers.

The process of flowering in succulents is heavily influenced by photoperiodism, which is the ability of plants to detect changes in day length. This process is regulated by a group of genes called "florigen," which produce and regulate the flowering hormones in plants. When exposed to a specific number of hours of daylight, these hormones stimulate a series of biochemical reactions that promote the development of floral buds.

Once the floral buds have formed, they continue to grow and differentiate into the different structures that make up the flower, such as the petals, sepals, and reproductive organs. The growth and differentiation of these structures are influenced by light intensity, temperature, and humidity. For example, certain succulent species require intense light and warmer temperatures to bloom, while others require cooler temperatures and higher humidity.

Types of flowering succulents

Succulent plants can be divided into two categories based on their flowering patterns: polycarpic and monocarpic.

Polycarpic Succulents

Polycarpic succulents are those that can produce flowers multiple times during their lifetime. This means that after blooming, they will continue to grow and produce more flowers in subsequent years. Examples of polycarpic succulents include Echeveria, Sedum, Aloe, Crassula, and most cacti. 

Monocarpic Succulents

Monocarpic succulents are those that only flower once in their lifetime. This means that once they bloom and produce seeds, they will typically die off, although some species may produce offsets or "pups" that can grow into new plants. Examples of monocarpic succulents include Agave, Sempervivum, and many species of Yucca. 

Cacti flowers vs succulent flowers

Cacti are technically succulents, so succulent flowers and cacti flowers share many characteristics. However, there are also several key differences between them that distinguish them from one another. 

One of the main differences between succulent flowers and cacti flowers is their morphology. While both types of flowers are often brightly colorful and adapted to arid environments, succulent flowers tend to have fleshy, water-storing petals and sepals, while cacti flowers often have tough, spiny outer coverings that protect them from predators.

Cacti. Cactus. Flower. Blooming

Cacti flowers often have tough, spiny outer coverings that protect them from predators.

Another important difference between succulent and cacti flowers is their reproductive strategies. Many succulent plants produce multiple flowers on a single stalk, which allows them to maximize their chances of being pollinated, while cacti flowers often produce large, showy blooms that are designed to attract pollinators from a distance. Additionally, some cacti species rely on nocturnal pollinators, such as moths and bats, which are attracted to the flowers' strong, musky scents and night-blooming habits.

Coloration is another area in which succulent and cacti flowers differ. While both types of flowers can have vibrant colors, cacti flowers often have more intense hues and may be more highly pigmented than succulent flowers. This is due in part to the fact that many cacti species are native to hot, sunny regions where they are exposed to high levels of UV radiation, which can stimulate the production of protective pigments.

Should I cut off succulent flowers?

The decision to cut off succulent flowers can vary depending on individual preferences and the specific needs of the plant. In general, leaving the flowers on the plant can be a visually appealing addition to your indoor or outdoor space, adding a burst of color and vibrancy. Additionally, allowing the flowers to fully mature and produce seeds can contribute to the propagation of the plant, allowing you to create new plants from the seeds.

However, cutting off the flowers can redirect the plant's energy back towards growth, promoting a fuller, bushier appearance. This is especially important for young or newly propagated succulents, as the energy required for producing flowers can be better spent on developing roots and foliage.

It's also important to keep in mind that certain species of succulents may benefit from having their flowers removed. For instance, some types of Echeveria are prone to stretching or becoming leggy if allowed to bloom, so removing the flowers can help keep the plant compact and encourage new growth.

If you choose to remove the flowers, it's best to do so when they are still small and in the budding stage, rather than waiting until they have fully matured. This can help save the plant's energy and promote overall health and vitality.

How to encourage blooming in succulents

Understanding the natural environment and growing conditions of your succulent can help you create an optimal environment that encourages blooming. Succulents that are native to regions with distinct seasons may require a period of dormancy or a change in day length to trigger flowering. 

  • If grown indoors in a stable environment without extreme changes, you may need to manipulate the amount of light your plant receives by adjusting its day length to promote blooming. Succulents are photoperiodic, which means they respond to changes in the length of the day and night. Short-day succulents typically bloom in the fall or winter when the days are shorter, while long-day succulents bloom in the spring or summer when the days are longer.
  • To encourage blooming in short-day succulents like Christmas Cactus, you can cover them with a black cloth or place them in a dark closet for up to 14 hours a day. This simulates the shorter days of fall and winter and triggers the plant's blooming process. For long-day succulents like Echeverias, you can extend their exposure to sunlight by leaving them outdoors or under grow lights for up to 14 hours a day. This simulates the longer days of spring and summer and encourages the plant to bloom.
  • In addition to the day-length method, it is important to provide succulents with the correct temperatures for blooming. If your succulent is native to a region with cold winters and hot summer, you can expose it to a period of cooler temperatures to mimic winter conditions. This can help trigger the production of floral buds.
  • Different succulent species have different blooming requirements, and not all of them are influenced by day-length and temperature changes. Some succulents may require specific soil conditions, fertilizers, or pruning techniques to encourage blooming. Therefore, before attempting any method to trigger blooming, it's important to do some research to understand specific needs of each succulent species. With proper research and care, you can help your succulents thrive and reach their full blooming potential.

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