Posted on: May 13, 2020 at 6:13 pm
Last updated: October 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Perhaps you are one of the thousands of people who have had to cancel vacation plans this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of relaxing on a white sand beach somewhere, you’ve been stuck inside your house wondering if and when you’ll be able to travel again. But now, you can bring the spirit of the sea into your home with a mermaid tail succulent.

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While it’s difficult to say when international travel will become a possibility again, why not try to bring a few ocean vibes right into your home, to help give you that vacation feeling while you wait out this storm?

Home decor, specifically plants, has a unique way of creating a tropical feeling no matter where you are, and one special plant does a particularly good job at accomplishing exactly that: the mermaid cactus.

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The Mermaid Tail Succulent

This unique succulent, with its blue-green color and upcurved leaves, bears an uncanny resemblance to a mermaid or whale’s tail. Its one-of-a-kind appearance will make you think of the ocean and help you to feel like you’re in a tropical paradise somewhere far away [1].

Instead of growing upwards, this cactus gets wider as it grows, and can reach a width of up to three to five feet. Originally from the eastern cape of South Africa, the mermaid plant grows in the winter and is dormant during the summer, the opposite of the majority of succulents [2].

The best part about these cacti is that they are very easy to take care of, and require very little care. They are highly resistant to drought and prefer sand or well-drained soil, so they don’t have to be watered very frequently. They also do well in sunny locations, as well as lightly shaded areas, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use [2].

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Read: Rose Succulents: The Rare Plants That Could Have Come Straight Out Of a Fairytale

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What’s the difference between a cactus and a succulent?

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, cacti and succulents are technically different

A succulent is any plant that stores water in its leaves, stems, or roots in order to withstand a possible drought. A cactus is a succulent, but it is placed in its own category. So all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

Cacti do not have leaves. Instead, they have stems that are modified into cylinders, pads, or joints to store water in case of a drought, with thick skin to reduce evaporation. They usually have spines or bristles to protect them from animals, however, some have long hair or a wooly covering instead.

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Most succulents did not evolve in the harsh, extremely dry conditions of the areas where you typically find cacti, so they have leaves. Their leaves will soak up water to tie them over during dry spells.

While cacti are mostly found in desert areas, succulents are usually found in places that have a rainy season followed by a very dry season, hence why they have leaves, and cacti do not [3].

Six Rules for Taking Care of Mermaid Tail Succulents

Although they are very low maintenance, especially when compared to other types of plants, there are still some rules to follow if you want to make sure your mermaid tail succulent stays healthy, and ultimately doesn’t die.

1. Sunlight is important. While some varieties (like the mermaid cactus), require less sunlight than some, succulents as a group love sunlight. If you’re keeping them inside, try to put them near a window where they will get at least six hours of sunlight every day. If you have a newly planted succulent, however, it is a good idea to provide partial shade using a sheer curtain, to avoid scorching them in direct sunlight until they are more mature and established [4].

2. Rotate them often. If you leave your succulent sitting in the same spot day in and day out, it is likely that only one side of the plant is getting adequate sunlight. Succulents will lean toward the sun, which could also be a sign that they need to be put in a location that receives more light. Once you’ve found a good spot, rotate them frequently so the entire plant will get enough light [4].

3. Adjust their water according to the seasons. When succulents are in their growing phase, they require much more water than when they’re dormant. A good way to know if your cactus needs water during the growth phase is with your finger. Stick your finger into the soil, and once the top 1.25 inches are dry, you know it’s time to water. It’s very important not to over-water your cacti, or else they will die. Most succulents grow in the spring and summer and rest in the fall and winter, but make sure you check if your particular succulent is different, so you can adjust your watering properly [4].

It is also important that you water them correctly. If your container has drainage holes in the bottom, then you should soak the soil until water begins to run out the bottom. If you don’t have drainage holes, simply use less water. You also want to avoid getting the leaves wet, as this could cause mold, so be sure to water the soil directly [4].

4. Keep them clean. Indoor plants will inevitably collect dust over time, which can inhibit their growth. If you notice this happening, gently wipe the leaves of your plants with a damp cloth, or use a soft paintbrush to get at the spots that are more difficult to reach [4].

5. Plant them in the right soil. Regular potting soil, or even dirt from the ground, will not be a good option for your succulents. They need soil that drains well, so choose cactus soil, or mix potting soil with sand, pumice, or perlite. If you are repotting your plant, be very gentle because succulents’ roots are very fragile [4].

You can also give them a small amount of fertilizer during the growing season, but you must be careful when doing this. Too much fertilizer can cause your succulent to grow too fast and become weak [4].

6. Watch out for bugs. While this is generally not a problem for house plants, gnats and mealybugs are attracted to soil that is too wet and doesn’t have proper drainage. If you do notice some pests on your plants, move the infected plant away from the others, and spray the soil with a seventy percent isopropyl alcohol solution [4].

Keep Reading: Jellyfish Succulents Will Transform Your Garden Into An Otherworldly ‘Aquarium’

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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