Top 7 Words for Succulent Nerds

by Lynn KirkApr 12, 2022

succulent nerds


Here are the top 7 words for succulent nerds:

1. AREOLE.  It's a plant organ — yes, plants have organs, too! This one is a small round, cushiony structure that grows upstarts, like new branches, stems, and flowers. Areoles are especially easy to see on a cactus because they appear as raised bumps from which grow the sharp spikes that bite (botanically speaking, ‘spines’). Areoles are scattered all over cacti for a reason: self-protection from could-do-harm predators. TIP: Leave a plant’s areoles ‘be’ since their new ‘growths’ are free! 

2. AERIAL ROOT. A succulent’s aerial roots seemingly grow in the air. They appear along a stem or leaf, and typically they're soft, thin, and somewhat hairy. Some are short-lived, but those that stick around are workers that absorb water and nutrients from the air. Sometimes they even prop up the plant as a ‘built-in’ structural support. And typically aerial roots are the start of self-propagation (see PROPAGATION definition below).TIP: Lots of aerial roots might signal a plant's fight for more light!

3. DORMANCY. Biologically and botanically, dormancy is for rest and renewal -- the time when a plant slows its metabolic activities and grows little or not at all. But contrary to what you might think, the season of dormancy varies among succulents. Some go dormant during winter (after all, if they originated in desert-like places they aren’t particularly fond of the cold), while others take their respite during summer. Some telltale hints of dormancy range from shriveled or closed leaves to yellowing and droopiness. Tip: These changes sometimes signal serious problems, too--like overwatering, fungus, or rot--so know your plants' season of dormancy and you'll know whether to fertilize, propagate, reduce watering … or just leave them alone!

4. HARDY and SOFT SUCCULENTS.  Neither difficult nor demanding, a hardy succulent requires little care, even outdoors in zones 6 to 10. Its counterpart is, you guessed it, a soft or tender succulent that’s less tolerant, especially of cold temps. ‘Softies’ do better in warm climes, like zones 9 and higher (see PLANT ZONES definition below). Tip: Right plant, right place, RIGHT PLANT ZONE!

5. PERENNIAL. If a plant blooms, dies back, and then returns from rootstock the next year, it’s probably a perennial — the opposite of an annual that tends to run its entire life cycle in one season. Most succulents are perennials that pleasantly reappear each year (as long as they’re not overwhelmed by overwatering, pesky pests, or trying temperatures). TIP: Perennial succulents are time savers and cost savers because you don’t have to replace them year after year. Cha-ching!

6. PROPAGATION. In simple (really simple) terms, succulent propagation is asexual replication that doesn’t rely on pollination or seeds. Instead, this process uses some part of a parent plant to produce a baby plant. Think of it as plant multiplication through cloning. Propagation methods vary, from using offsets (a.k.a. ‘pups’) to cutting stems and leaves and preparing them for planting. Tip: Use propagation to grow your collection or teach kids about plants, nature, and stewardship!

7. USDA PLANT ZONE. Besides lava lamps and bubble wrap, another product of the ‘60s was the USDA Plant Zones. They divide the country into 13 zones that share similar climates, and each is numbered for nationwide reference among growers. The higher the zone’s number, the warmer the region. And of course, lower numbers indicate areas with colder temperatures and more frosts. So “hardy to zone 8” means that the plant has less chance of thriving and surviving outdoors in zone 7 or less. Tip: Proper planting zone = Comfort zone for succulents grown outdoors!

So there are the 7 words for succulent nerds! Learn anything new? We hope so! By the way, this “Top 7 Words for Succulent Nerds” blog was brought to you by the ultimate plant nerds: the folks at Succulent Market. We’re the nation’s #1 succulent propagator and retailer with hundreds of acres of domestically grown  succulents. Check us out --- and learn even more words for succulent nerds --- at