Succulents are plants that have evolved to store water in their leaves, stems, or roots.
This makes them well-suited to arid environments, and they can grow in many parts of the world.
While succulents come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all share one common characteristic: they can thrive with very little water.
However, this leads to the misconception that succulents can also grow on rocks. Succulents can NOT grow on rocks for the long term. They need some degree of soil as well to ensure that the roots don’t die off.
Yes, they look great, and you may have seen someone grow one on a bunch of rocks. But did you take a closer look at the roots?
Usually, they have a hidden root structure leading to the soil beneath.
In this article, we will look at how succulents grow, understand their root system, and how you can also “grow” succulents on rocks.
How Do Succulents Grow – A Peak at Their Root Systems
All plants, including succulents, have a root system that helps them absorb water and nutrients from the soil. The roots also anchor the plant in the ground and give it support.
A plant’s root system is usually hidden underground, but if you were to look at a succulent’s roots, you would see that they are often very shallow.
This is because succulents have evolved to store water in their leaves, stems, or roots.
They don’t need deep roots to access water as other plants do.
In fact, if you put a succulent in a pot with deep soil, the roots would likely rot because they would be sitting in moisture for too long. Soil that is too wet will kill a succulent.
How Succulents Can Grow Almost Anywhere
This shallow root system is one of the reasons why succulents can grow on rocks. The roots don’t need to go deep into the ground to access water.
They can get all the moisture they need from the air and from the occasional rain or watering.
However, while a succulent can survive on a rock for a short period of time, it is not a sustainable situation for the long term.
The roots will eventually start to die off because they are not getting the nutrients they need from the surface. To understand why let’s look at how plants absorb nutrients from the soil.
How Succulent Root Systems Absorb Nutrients
Plants absorb nutrients through their roots in a process called absorption. Absorption is a two-step process:
- The roots first take in water from the soil, and then
- They take in nutrients from the water.
The water that plants take in from the soil is called groundwater. Groundwater is water that has seeped into the ground and is held there by the soil particles.
The nutrients in groundwater are dissolved minerals that come from rocks and decaying organic matter.
When plants absorb groundwater, they also absorb these dissolved minerals. This is how plants get the nutrients they need to grow.
While succulents can absorb some nutrients through their leaves, they mainly rely on their roots to get the nutrients they need.
This means that if the roots are not in contact with the soil, the plant will not be able to get the nutrients it needs to survive.
In other words, a succulent cannot grow on rocks for the long term because the roots will eventually die off without access to nutrients.
How To Grow Succulents on Rocks
While you can’t grow succulents on rocks for the long term, you can create a short-term display that will look great and give your plants a chance to get some extra air circulation around their roots. All you need is the following:
- A shallow dish or tray,
- Some small rocks,
- Some succulents or cacti.
Start by filling the dish with a layer of small rocks. Then:
- Add enough water to wet the rocks, but not so much that they are sitting in water.
- Add your succulents and ensure their roots are in contact with the rocks. The succulents will grow on the rocks and look great for a few weeks or months.
However, eventually, the roots will die off without access to nutrients, so you’ll need to replant them in regular potting soil.
This method can also be used to create what is called a hypertufa planter.
Hypertufa is a lightweight concrete-like material that can be formed into any shape. To make a hypertufa planter:
- Mix equal parts peat moss, perlite, and Portland cement.
- Add water until the mixture is the consistency of oatmeal
- Mold it into the desired shape.
- Allow it to dry for 24 hours.
- Carefully remove the mold and allow the hypertufa to cure for 28 days.
- Spray with water to ensure a strong planter.
After it has cured, you can plant succulents, and they will grow on the surface of the hypertufa. Just be sure to keep the roots in contact with the moistened rocks beneath.
Adding Rocks on Soil
Another way you can make it look like your succulent is growing on rocks is by adding a layer of rocks on top of the soil in a regular planter.
This will give the succulent something to cling to, and it will start to grow around and over the rocks. This is a great way to create a more natural look for your succulent.
The success of this method will depend on the type of succulent you are growing. Some succulents, like sempervivums, have natural adaptations that allow them to cling to rocky surfaces.
Others, like cacti and echeverias, do not have these adaptations and may not be able to grow as easily on top of the rocks.
If you are unsure whether or not your succulent will be able to grow on top of rocks, it is best to consult with a local nursery or gardening center.
Using Hollow Rocks
These ” props ” are usually hollow inside but look and feel like real rocks. These are very commonly used in bonsai training or in Hollywood movies.
To use these, you will need to drill a hole into the rock that is just big enough for your succulent’s root ball to fit snugly inside.
Once the succulent is in place, you can add more rocks around it to create the look you want.
This method is often used for succulents that are not well-suited for growing on top of rocks, like cacti and echeverias.
It is also a good way to protect your plant’s roots from drying out if you live in a hot, dry climate.
Attaching Succulents to Rocks
If you want to grow a succulent on a rock but don’t want to drill a hole or lay down rocks, you can attach the succulent to the rock using a fishing line, wire, or glue.
This method is best used for small succulents like Sedum rubrotinctum or Crassula perforata.
To attach a succulent using a fishing line, tie a knot around the base of the plant and then thread the line through the hole in the rock.
Make sure that the knot is tight enough that it won’t slip through the hole.
Then, wrap the fishing line around the plant and rock several times to secure it in place. You can also use wire to attach a succulent to a rock.
Just wrap the wire around the base of the plant and then thread it through the hole in the rock.
Again, make sure that the knot is tight enough that it won’t slip through the hole.
Finally, you can use glue to attach a succulent to a rock. Just apply a small amount of glue to the base of the plant and then press it firmly into place on the rock.
Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours before watering the plant.
Whatever method you choose, make sure that you give your succulent plenty of time to adjust to its new home before you water it.
This will help prevent the plant from getting too stressed and dying. Once the plant has acclimated, water it as you would normally.
Just remember that succulents growing on rocks need to be watered more frequently than those growing in regular potting soil, as there is no water retention in rocks!
In conclusion, Succulents are easy to look after, look great, and require little water. Succulents look beautiful in a kitchen or bathroom.
You can get creative with succulents. You can find succulent plants on stones, trees, furniture, cement, and on rocks.
You can grow succulents all year round. You can grow succulents indoors, or even outside, and in any sunny place.
You can grow succulents outdoors, even in colder climates, if you bring them inside at night.