Plant and Garden

The Why, When, and Where Of Succulent Blooms

Succulent flowers come in all shapes and sizes, but most are designed by nature to attract their pollinating insects.

Often succulents are shy to bloom, especially if they are indoor container plants.

You should try to learn as much as possible about your plant’s native environment to get clues about what growth conditions and seasonal cycles they need.

Supplying winter cold, summer heat, fertilizer or more intense light may be all that’s needed for successful flowering.

Cactus plants as an example are renowned for their gorgeous brief flowers, that appear only after a long period of drought.

Epiphytes like Schlumbergera and Epiphyllum are misleadingly dull until they flower with masses of flowers all at once. 


Some succulent flowers use perfume to help the insects locate them. Stapelia and Huernia are known as ‘carrion flowers’ because of the smell of rotting meat, designed to draw in flies to perform that same role.


While some colonizing plants make a carpet of texture, many succulents lift their flowers high into the air on arching stems. 

Some can get very large outgrowing their garden space or container.

When Do Succulents Bloom?

Succulents have different bloom times, Sempervivums, for an example will not bloom until after the second or third year.


No matter where you live, most succulents and cacti bloom in the approximately same season that they would in their native habitat.

At the beginning of the year, Aloes, Mammillarias, Euphorbias,  and, Crassulas will give you a beautiful flower.

Early Spring brings blooms to Agaves, Aeoniums, and some Echeverias varieties.

Flowering cactus plants, often bloom only right after the spring rain.

By the middle to late Spring, into early Summer, the types of succulents flowering are vast. Including Kalanchoe, Echeveria, Sedum, and Gasteria.

Sedums are still blooming in the Fall and Holiday Cactus begins later in the season.

At the end of the year, many of the Echeverias are blooming, as is Cremnosedum, Lithops, Agave, Pachypodium, Cerochlamys, and Glottiphyllum.

Succulents will dazzle your homes and yards with natural displays that mimic the best firework show.

Some succulents, such as Senecio bloom at different times during the year, but not all of them bloom in cultivation at all, or as well as they do in the wild.

What Makes Succulents Bloom?

Taxonomists categorize flowering succulent plants by blossom shape and details, not leaf structure.

A succulent flower can be star-shaped, bell-like, tubular, or frilly; some point upwards for easy pollinating, others hang down to protect tender parts.

Temperature

Many succulents are native to the desert region. They require higher temperatures during the summer to set their blooming chemistry.

For the most part, climate-controlled homes don’t provide the needed temperature extremes.

Indoor succulents benefit from being moved outdoors for the summer months. The relocation should be gradual, exposing them to more heat and sunlight slowly over a couple of weeks.

Plants from cold-winter deserts need winter dormancy and cold temperatures to induce spring blooms.

Water

Timing is everything. Succulents need water to form flower buds and produce new growth.

If they don’t get it, they deplete the stores of water in their tissues that they need to survive drought.

They live but do not thrive. During growth periods you should water plants thoroughly until the water comes out of the drainage holes. Don’t water again until the top inch of soil is dry.

Most succulents undergo dormancy for part of the year. This is usually in winter for cacti or summer for plants like living stones (Lithops).

The period of rest is needed to set the stage for flowering.

Keep the plant drier during dormancy.
Light

Even if they’re growing under a bush in nature, succulents receive a lot of direct and indirect light. This can be difficult to duplicate indoors.

An eastern or southern window is a good choice for most cacti. Most succulents need sunlight for half the day, preferably morning, to produce the food needed for blooming.

If growth is open and lax on the leaf or stem succulent species, there’s not going to be enough light for flowering. If globular cacti are stretching for the light, they won’t flower.

Succulents such as various Gasterias, Haworthias, and some Aloes will bloom if kept in full shade.

If sufficient natural light is lacking, you have the option to grow succulents under grow lights. Which can be easier than you think. They make all sorts of decorative fixtures. And every home decorating store carries a huge variety of light bulb styles.

Photoperiodicity is important in setting the biological clocks of all organisms, from humans to plants.

Some succulents, like the holiday cactus (Schlumbergera) need long-night, short-day conditions plus cool temperatures to initiate flower buds.

For many other succulents, it is the increasing day length plus warming spring temperatures that signal buds to grow.

Receiving supplemental light from the interior home setting will artificially lengthen or shorten the plants nights. This phenomenon can interfere with flowering.

Fertilizer

Producing a flower is important to a plant because seeds are needed to perpetuate the species, so they will flower if possible.

However, they need plant food to provide the building blocks for flower formation.

Desert soil actually provide good nutrition because there is very little rain to remove plant nutrients out of the soil.

Fertilize succulents beginning in the spring as the plant begins to grow.

Use half-strength fertilizer once a month while the plant is growing, suspending feeding in late summer or early fall.

Hint: Use a fertilizer higher in phosphorus, such as 10-15-10, to promote flower formation.

Will It Die After It Blooms?

Many succulents are monocarpic plants. These types of succulents grow, flower, set seed, and then die.

Monocarpic plants can be divided into annuals, biennials, and perennials.

Annuals flower and set seed in one year, biennials two seasons and perennials sometimes take many years to flower.

Most succulents can seal off damaged parts, it is always good to quickly remove broken, diseased, or dead leaves, stems, and flower stalks.

In Thailand, there is a legend that the number of flowers that bloom on a Crown Of Thorns predicts the future of the plant-keeper.


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