Why Succulents Are the Ideal Houseplants You Can't Kill No Matter How Busy You Are

Why Succulents Are the Ideal Houseplants You Can't Kill No Matter How Busy You Are
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Move over, love fern, you've been officially overtaken by a much cooler plant that's proven to outlast the most neglectful of owners (we see you, Ben Barry). Oh, and you've probably been seeing them everywhere for what seems like years.

So what the hell is a succulent? Succulents are a family of plants with thick, fleshy leaves that trap and hold water, making them easy to care for and hard to kill. They're the camel of the plant world, if you will.

They're also the botanical star of the Instagram world, the backdrop to our tablescapes and the greenery accenting our #latteart photos (before matcha came into our lives, of course). 

As far as decorating trends go, there aren't many that transcend the realm of high-end décor magazines and end up going viral, particularly among people with minuscule decorating budgets. So what gives?

Succulents have social media to thank: "I think their popularity as an indoor houseplant coincides with the popularity of online social platforms, such as Pinterest and Tumblr, and the rise of home and design blogging," Erin Marino of the plant delivery site the Sill, told Mic. "Bloggers not only shared their aspirational images, but also how accessible and easy to care for the plants are."

Marino's theory is certainly supported by the existence of targeted blogs like Succulents and Sunshine and popular home décor sites like Apartment Therapy, which feature succulents as sleek, modern design accessories. Succulents have crept so far into the botanical zeitgeist that you can even buy them from IKEA.

Fantastic Gardens' Dave Tifford has been growing and selling succulents for decades, but told Mic that he's noticed a marked increase in demand over the past three to four years (a time frame that Google searches confirm) that has not abated. 

One thing boosting their popularity? They look great, especially on camera.

"They grow architecturally," Tifford told Mic. "They are unique-looking."

On Instagram, the hashtag #succulent alone has nearly 1 million posts, not to mention the dozens of accounts dedicated to the potted plants. On Pinterest, you could log endless procrastination hours scrolling through board after board of inspo. Succulents on a wedding cake? Why not?

Said Marino, "Their no-hassle manner, combined with their striking and unusual appearance, makes them great ornamental plants, even for beginners."

A photo posted by (@) on

A photo posted by (@) on

A photo posted by (@) on

A photo posted by (@) on

A photo posted by (@) on

A grownup decorating decision: Young adults decorating their own homes are almost guaranteed to be beginners. Tifford said succulents are popular with kids in college dorms and young adults because they fit nicely into a busy lifestyle and are easy to maintain. They only require watering once a week (or even once every two) and can survive in both bright and low light.

"They are just super easy to care for," Jeremy, 27, told Mic. "If I forget to water the succulents for a few weeks, it's not a big deal, they will be fine."

Even if you're not going to bother Instagramming it, getting a green plant (and actually keeping it alive) can feel like a nice shortcut to adulthood. Grownup rooms are rooms with plants.

"I live in a [New York] apartment with no yard or other outdoor space, so having a few living plants at least makes me feel like I have something outdoorsy," said Jeremy.

They also are a healthy decision, as they help keep your living space stress-free. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that plants suck carbon dioxide out of the air and create oxygen.

It does, however, take one figure out what other poisonous compounds plants filter out. In the 1980s, in an effort to figure out which plants to take aboard spaceships, NASA scientists tested various plants to find out which were best at pulling contaminants from the air. Amid the top 10 list of plants that rid the air of toxins such as formaldehyde and household chemicals? Look no further than the aloe plant for a succulent with the space agency's stamp of approval.

Succulents in New York City's Union Square Greenmarket, a stone's throw from New York University dorms.Source: Rachel Zuckerman
Succulents in New York City's Union Square Greenmarket, a stone's throw from New York University dorms.  Rachel Zuckerman

Too easy not to get: As with anything that's gotten wildly popular, getting them is easy, as they're now found at grocery stores and corner shops. Or you can rely on a friend, said Jeremy: "You can easily cut off a limb off of most of them and replant them for a friend that might want one of their own." 

Too busy to make the effort? Like almost everything else, you can have them delivered right to your door through websites like the Sill, which offers a range of trendy potted plants that they'll mail directly to your home. Plus, you don't have to know your rhododendron from your ranunculus — the Sill educates on which are which and how to care for them.

To get you started, some of the site's top recommendations include Echeveria, Haworthia, aeonium, agave, aloe and jade plants. If those are hard to pronounce, you can just go with "love succulent."