What are Succulents and Cacti?
Succulents, also known as “fat plants”, have some parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy so as to retain water. This allows them to stay resistant to drought in dry environments. Succulent plants may store water in their leaves and stems.
Cacti are plants which have thickened, fleshy stems to store water, as they usually live in extremely dry environments like deserts. Most cacti species highly modified leaves called spines, to reduce water loss. These spines also prevent them from getting eaten by herbivorous animals.
In botany, the word “succulent” includes cacti. Almost all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. However, for us hobbyists, the term “succulent” excludes cacti. In this article, we will refer to succulents and cacti separately.
Which Succulents and Cacti should I Choose for my Terrarium?
Aeoniums are succulents with fleshy leaves, that grow in a pronounced rosette shape. Most of them originated from the Canary Islands and parts of central Africa. Looking like large, colourful and rubbery flowers, they are one of the most popular succulents. Aeoniums make excellent plants for terrariums. They can flourish in partial shade to full sun, the typical weather we encounter in Singapore. With their main water-absorbing roots near the surface, regular potting soil, rather than a fast draining soil, will allow aeoniums to maintain an optimal moisture level. The deeper roots function almost solely as support.
Haworthias are small succulent plants, forming tight rosettes of leaves from 3 to 30 cm in diameter, depending on the species. These rosettes are usually stemless. Haworthias tend to have firm, tough and fleshy leaves. Their leaves vary widely within a species, but their flowers are very similar between species. As haworthias thrive in partial shade, they are suitable for a terrarium placed indoors. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. As these plants rot easily when overwatered, the soil should be well draining to prevent prolonged wet soil. Haworthias are very tolerant of underwatering.
Astrophytum is a genus of six species of cacti. Many variations of each species exist, with highly coveted ones fetching thousands of dollars. Strong light is not advisable for Astrophytum; a good location should have filtered sunlight, such as a sunny window. They also require draining soil, as too much water will cause the hard and dry surface of the plant to crack. The Astrophytum genus is one of the few that can flower well in Singapore. They are easy to care for and make wonderful plants to include in terrariums.
Gymnocalycium cacti are popular as they tend to flower easily. Most species are small, varying from 4 to 15 centimetres, making them suitable for terrariums. They also provide a pop of colour in the home, with their bright and showy flowers in white, yellow, orange and pink. Most species require sunlight to bloom well, but sunlight that is too strong will result in loss of flowers. Lightly shaded sunlight would work best. The soil should allow good drainage so it will not remain soggy for too long. Allow the soil to nearly dry out before rewatering. Gymnocalycium tend to be very hardy and do not require much attention.
The above succulents and cacti are suitable for open terrariums in Singapore’s hot and humid climate. These plants are low maintenance yet allow us to add some greenery into our homes and offices, perfect for our busy lifestyles in Singapore.
You can also check out our range of ready-made terrariums and terrarium supplies.