Saving dollars & cents – The frugal beauty of the succulent

I was at work some 20 odd years ago, when I made a passing comment to a colleague that I liked the plant on his desk. To my surprise, he arrived the next day with a cutting of the plant. If there was a level less than zero, that was my knowledge of plants. They were just green things my mum had in the garden.

My colleague advised me that the plant was a Jade plant and it was considered to be good luck. I flooded him with questions about how to care for it, what soil to use, what sized pot, how many times should I water it, etc etc. His response, with a bemused smile, was to put it in soil, give it a water and leave it be.

How right he was. I often neglected my Jade plant for weeks on end and still it thrived. With the knowledge that I obviously had a green thumb, I frequented the garden nursery for new plants every weekend. I applied the same principle of minimal plant care that I had to my Jade plant to find that they often went to plant heaven within a month. However, in the meanwhile, my Jade plant was still healthy and growing.

I decided I should so some of research about my Jade plant. Bear in mind that this was the early days of the internet and information was gained by those ancient devices called books. No Google search or YouTube information back then, so for me it was very much trial and error. I found out that the Jade plant was a succulent, a term that meant nothing to me at the time. I was familiar with the word ‘cactus’ though, which I understood was a succulent…but not all succulents are cacti. Slightly confused, I was still intrigued by these plants and purchased a different type at the garden nursery. Again, this plant thrived under my neglect until I decided that twice weekly watering would make it grow even more. Hmmmm….I guess not. Another dead plant but lesson learned. Still…the Jade plant lived on.

To cut a long story short, over the decades since, I have developed a real passion for the succulent. The variety of these plants seems endless and I find them beautiful. I still have no idea about plants and don’t even know their common names, let alone the Latin one, but succulents are my plant of choice. Look at the variegation on this one. Just wonderful.

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What I hadn’t realised until recently was how economical the succulent is. I don’t need to buy several of the one plant, I just buy one and use cuttings to produce more. I’m not into the time-consuming process of propagating, I just stick a cutting in the ground and it normally grows. They even look after the process themselves in some cases. The plant in picture I bought for $2.00. Over 12 months it grew steadily and then started to sprout new plants at the tips of the leaves. The weight of the new plant drew the edge of the leaf to the ground and starts up another plant. Even better for my lazy garden skills.

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My whole succulent garden is made up of plants that cost no more than $10.00. The majority, in fact, cost less than $5.00. Several more are from snapping off a freebie cutting while wandering the neighbourhood streets. When I want more, I just break off a cutting and make a new plant. Couldn’t be easier, or cheaper.

Money is saved again with the reduced need to water the succulents. We had a particularly hot, dry and humid summer this year. I was often drinking 3-4 litres of water a day to keep myself hydrated. My succulents received no such level of sustenance. I watered them fortnightly at best. They suffered through without issue, though they admittedly didn’t exactly grow much during that period. When the rain did come, they exploded with growth.

By chance, that initial comment to my colleague sparked a passion for the succulent that continues on. And that Jade plant? It lives on today.

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