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How to Shop for Healthy Succulents and Cacti

How to Plant, How to Shop for Plantscolleen jordanComment

When you’re shopping for succulents, there are several signs to look for to make sure you are buying the healthiest plant that you can get. There are no definite rules on what to look for when shopping for plants, but these tips will help you determine which plants are the healthiest when you’re out shopping. This post is part of a 3 part series on how to shop for succulents. In this post I’m going to focus on signs of healthy plants, and in the next two posts I will share with you warning signs of unhealthy or uncared for plants, and what to never buy.

Plump and Full Leaves


Looking at the leaves is one of the easiest ways to tell if a succulent is healthy. Succulents are often called “fat plants” because of their plump and full leaves. Succulents store their water in ways different from most plants by storing most of their water in their leaves. The appearance of the leaves will give you a status report of the recent health of the plant. If the leaves are full and plump, than the plant is currently getting the right amount of water, and unless there are signs of insects or physical damage, the plant is in most likelihood currently healthy. If you see mushy or black leaves on a succulent, the succulent was overwatered and will most likely die soon (seriously, don’t buy an overwatered succulent, it will only lead to heart break). Wrinkly leaves mean that the succulent has not received enough water. Succulents with wrinkly leaves can still be healthy and plump back up in a few days when properly watered.

Close Leaf Spacing


We’re going to keep looking at the leaves for more clues about the health of the plant. Looking at the leaf spacing will give us clues about the longer term growing conditions of the plant. When you’re looking at the succulent you want to buy, pay attention to the spacing of the leaves along the stem. Leaves should be closely spaced together and tightly overlapping. Etiolation, or the far apart spacing of the leaves, is a sign that the plant has not received enough sunlight. Etiolation on a succulent is not a sign that it is unhealthy, just that it was not receiving enough sunlight for a portion of its life. You can buy an etiolated succulent and still have a perfectly healthy plant, it just might not be “instagram-worthy” right away. If you do buy an etiolated plant you can also cut off the bottom of the plant and remove the lower leaves to propagate smaller plants.

Dry Soil


When you’re shopping for succulents, you’ll also need to look at the soil for clues about the health and care of the plant. If the soil is dry and you don’t see any signs of mold or mushy leaves, than the plant has never been properly watered and you should have healthy roots and soil. If you see soft wet soil or any signs of mold or mushy leaves on the plant, this means the plant has been overwatered and can cause root rot, a condition where the roots stayed wet for too long and have begun to rot and cut off water to the plant. 

Also, look for succulents planted in a well-draining soil mix that includes perlite or sand. If you don’t see these in your soil, but the soil is still dry, you can always replant it with a fast draining soil mix when you get home.

Bright and Even Coloring


 The coloring of the leaves will also give you more clues about the health of the plant. Not all succulents are green or brightly colored, but look for even coloring of the plant. Some succulents might be light green, dark green, pink, purple, or even black, but what matters is that the leaves all have consistent and even coloring. Some species will also have a gradient in their leaves (like the succulent in the picture) where the color might change color towards the tips. As long as the coloring doesn’t show signs of sunburn or stress, and is consistent throughout the plant, this color is a sign of good health. 

Farina Bloom


 Farina bloom is a light, dusty, sometimes waxy, flour-like coating over the leaves of some succulents. Not all succulents have farinaceous bloom, but several species of crassula, pachyphytum, and echeverria do. If you see a flour-y coating on the leaves of the succulent, make sure that it is mostly undisturbed and has not been dusted off. Farina acts like sunscreen for succulents who love bright sunlight and should not be removed. The farina bloom is something that occurs on the leaves as they grow, so once its been removed it cannot grow back. If this has been removed, it does not mean that your succulent is going to die, but you should take more caution in the amount of light it receives and pay attention for signs of sunburn. Leaves that have had the farina removed could still be used for propagation of new plants.

I hope you liked this guide of what to look for to ensure you’re buying healthy plants! The next part of our series will focus on what to avoid when buying succulents, and will give you more tips and photos of what to look out for when buying plants and signs that some plants might need more love.

Exploring New York's Flower Market

Just for Funcolleen jordanComment

Hidden on 38th street in New York between 6th and 7th avenue is a small green oasis within a concrete jungle. On this block is something know as the New York flower market, full of vendors and stores selling fresh cut flowers, plants, and other floral supplies. The market is not one individual store, but a street full of small shops all specializing in something different. On my recent trip to New York, I decided to check out the shops there and share with you some of the wonder found on this small block.

If you're going to look for flowers, the earlier you get there the better. You don't have to wake up as early as the florists who shop the market before sunrise, but if you are there before 9 or 10 am, there will still be a good selection of flowers and plants to choose from. You don't want to arrive there too late though, some shops close around noon and most close before 3pm.

Wholesale flower shops are where florists and businesses can buy plants and flowers directly from the flower wholesalers. Here you'll find much more variety than the usual roses and carnations that you'll see at most grocery stores and retail florists. Prices per stem and per plant are usually lower, but you may be required to buy more stems of a specific flower than you would at a regular florist's shop.

I went to the wholesale flower market one morning while on my trip to New York. I arrived there around 8:30 am, and there was still a lot of selection of flowers and plants. The streets were bustling with deliverymen loading cars and shopkeepers preparing large orders to go out. I was absolutely blown away by the color and the selection of what I found while I was there. I had visited the market before in the middle of winter, and had gone in search of succulents and tropical plants instead of stopping to smell the flowers (very literally!). Since it is nearing the end of summer, most stores were teeming with seasonal blooms like dahlias and sunflowers!

If you plan to visit the Flower Market, there are a few things that you want to remember before you go. Most stores will sell to the public, but some of the stores I went into require you to set up an account with a business license, so be sure to check before you pick out your flowers and dream of possible arrangements. Not all stores will take credit and debit cards, so carrying some cash will help you make sure that you can buy everything that you want. Also, one thing most new buyers won't know is that some wholesale florists are kept really cold! Sometimes their stock will even be stored in walk-in coolers. If you're someone who doesn't like the cold, bring a sweater!

Shopping at wholesale florists is not only a fun adventure to see a side of the flower business most don't know about, but it is also a great way to buy flowers in bulk. If you have an event or wedding that you need to purchase flowers for, buying them wholesale and then arranging them yourself is much less expensive (but more work) than buying them through a florist. Wholesalers like these are also not unique to New York, and you can find flower wholesalers in most cities.

Make Your Cut Flowers Last Longer

DIYcolleen jordanComment

We're getting through the last few grey days of winter, and I've started bringing in more flowers to take photos with and to brighten up the studio and house before more flowers bloom outside. I've had a few requests lately about how to make cut flowers last longer, and the trick that I use is really simple.

We made these bouquets with stock and wax flowers.

We made these bouquets with stock and wax flowers.

To make my flowers last as long as possible, I cut the end of the stems every two or three days to keep the stems from drying out. I cut at least 1/2" off of each stem which allows the water vessels to keep carrying water up to the flower. Each time I cut the stems, I make sure they have a fresh change of water, and I add a little bit of sugar and apple cider vinegar to the water, about 2 tbsp of each to a quart of water. The vinegar keeps bacteria and mold from growing in the water, and the sugar provides nourishment for plant. Each time you change the water, remove any foliage below the water line and make sure the ends of each stems is covered by at least 1" of water.

Doing this, I can make most of my store-bought flowers last a little more than 2 weeks before they need to be thrown out. This of course isn't the only way to make sure your flowers last as long as possible, but it is what I have found works best for me. Do you have another way of keeping flowers fresh for longer that you like to use?

Festive flower picks for your planter

Just for Funcolleen jordanComment

The holidays are here, which means its time for holiday parties and festivities with friends and family! We're coming up on New Year's Eve, and I wanted to wear this new planter to some of the fun events that I get to attend. We chose to search for something to pair with our new Tall Vase Necklace and pair with darker colors that I like to wear this time of year. This planter works well with picked flowers, so we chose button mums, astrantia, and wax flowers that we found at our local independent flower store, Candler Park Flower Market to pair with this necklace.

One of the best things about working with plants and flowers is that I get to learn about flowers and find some unexpected and unusual blooms, I had seen mums before, but button mums are something completely new to me. Astrantia is a flower that I've used before, but never knew the name of until now. 

Next week we'll be showing off some more seasonal picks to match with our bike planters! If you have any suggestions, or would like to share what you're wearing in your planter, tweet us at @wearplants on twitter.