7 reasons why you shouldn’t touch your succulents

7 reasons why you shouldn't touch your succulents

Succulents are a piece of beauty and people are often tempted to touch them. Their color and texture make it impossible to not want to touch them(trust me I have been there), but should you touch them?

Following is a list of good reasons why you shouldn’t touch your succulents:

  1. Touching your succulents will rub off farina.
  2. A scratch on fleshy leave will be permanent.
  3. Any fingerprints smudges will be permanent.
  4. Succulents will lose their original bright color.
  5. Thorny succulents like cacti are painful to touch.
  6. Some Succulents are Poisonous, so avoid touching them.
  7. Touching your succulents after frost might break them.

So now you have 7 good reasons why you should keep your hands off of your cute succulents. But some of the points above don’t apply to all the succulents and there are some succulents which you can caress as much as you want and the below table might help you to understand it more clearly.

CharacteristicsWhy you should Avoid TouchingExamples
FarinaIt comes off quite easily and doesn’t grow back. Echeveria, Pachyphytum, Sedeveria, Kalanchoe, Graptoveria etc.
SpinesIt can be painful if you get poked and might result in infection.Cacti (Oprunticea family), Agave,Euphorbia, Octotillo
PoisonousThe sap of some succulents can be poisonous for both humans and animals alike.Euphorbia, Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata), Kalanchoe and many more.

Succulents that don’t fall in the above categories are quite safe to touch but still do your own research before being sure.

Let’s see in-depth how the reasons mentioned above affect your succulents.

Touching your succulents will rub off farina.

Well, you might be wondering what exactly is farina? Farina or Epicuticular wax is a white powdery coating of wax found on the stems, and leaves of succulents. Farina plays an important role for succulents in maintaining their health, as it is water repellent and thus avoids extensive absorption of water which may result in rot.

Few examples of succulents having farina are Echeveria, Pachyphytum, Sedeveria, Kalanchoe, and Graptoveria, to name a few. But not all of them in these species have farina.

Even if you just gently touch your succulents it will brush off the farina and the damage is irreversible as farina can’t grow back, so please take extreme care while handling your succulents.

So, how exactly rubbing off farina affects your succulents? Farina provides a natural protective covering for your succulents from extreme conditions. Removal of this layer will expose your succulents and thus make it vulnerable to sunburn, fungal infections.

A scratch on fleshy leave will be permanent.

Nobody scratches their succulents on purpose but “to err is human”. If you accidentally scratch your succulents while trying to show some love to them, then you will immensely regret it as this damage is irreversible and it will leave these marks on them permanently.

These scratches will ruin their beautiful look and moreover, it might result in fungal infections or pest infestations in some severe cases.

Permanent Fingerprints Smudges

The Farina on your succulents comes off really easily and thus it will reveal the underlying texture of your succulents which looks quite oily or glossy, as you can notice your fingerprints smudge all over the plants wherever you have touched them.

Well if you have already faced this problem with your plant, you might be wondering if there’s any possible way to revert this. Sadly, once this farina has been flaked off it’s quite unlikely that it will return to its original state. But to minimize the damage use a small paintbrush to blend it in so it doesn’t look like a fingerprint, you can gently brush it to avoid it looking ugly, or else you can just wait until the other leaves outgrow the one that you have fingerprints and thus cover it.

Although, you shouldn’t worry much about the health of your plant as it will still thrive. But still, avoid leaving it in direct sunlight for too long which may lead to sunburn.

Succulents will lose their original bright color

This is one of the most common mistakes that the new succulent owner makes. While receiving the delivery of a new succulent, you might notice some powdery stuff on leaves, stems, and other parts of the plant and think of it as dust or dirt from the travel and try to brush it off with your hands and that’s when you will realize that your succulent has changed its color from bright pastel and colors to more waxy and glossy look.

You might have guessed it already, yes it has happened due to the removal of farina. Farina makes these plants look majestic like they are from some fantasy world, so minimize the touching to make your plant look as fresh as beautiful as possible.

Thorny succulents like cactus are painful to touch.

Cactus have specially structured leaves called spines that look like thorns. These spines act as their safety mechanism and is a sign enough that you shouldn’t touch them. These spines are not poisonous though as some might fear. However, the effect of spine stabs might vary depending on what type of cactus you came in contact with, the effects may range from a small wound that can heal naturally with time, to serious infections in some cases.

Is there any safe way to handle this cactus without getting poked by their spines? You can use gloves, tongs, twitches, or chopsticks to protect your hands while handling cactus whether it may be for repotting, pruning, or any other purpose. But don’t hold it too firmly as it might damage the plant.

Some Succulents are Poisonous

While not all succulents are poisonous, there are few dangerous succulents that you must take care of while handling. Some of the most commonly known poisonous succulents are Euphorbias, Kalanchoes, Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata), and few others.

Few of the above-mentioned plants have white sap in their stems or leaves which may cause irritation and itching when coming in contact. Consumption of these plants may cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting in both humans and pets.

You must wear gloves and other protection while handling such plants and avoid contact at all costs. Also, it is a good idea to keep it in places that are out of reach for children and pets.

It is also advised to put on eye-wear while replanting or pruning such plants to avoid the contact of poisonous sap from the eyes.

Frosty succulents are easily breakable

Succulents despise cold weather, succulents are summer-loving plants and some of them really suffer in winter. This often results in frost damage, it happens when ice crystal starts forming within the tissues of succulents.

After the Frost damage, your succulents leaves become wilted, crisp, and fragile which can be easily get broken even with the slightest touches. There’s a chance your succulent might thrive again after the frost if there are new leaves growing, after that you can carefully prune the damaged leaves with sterilized tools rather than just breaking them by touching with bare hands.

When you touch these damaged leaves with your bare hands it might worsen the situation for your succulents even more. Using sterilized scissors will prevent the bacteria from further harming your plant.

Tips to Minimize Touching your succulents

  • Use Tools like Tongs, Twitches, and Chopsticks – to minimize the need to touch them with your bare hands while replanting or pruning.
  • Use Nitrile dipped Gloves whiles handling succulents – to avoid the dangers of spines and poisonous saps.  These gloves are fabric ones that are easy on the skin, with a nitrile(a synthetic material) coating around the fingers that will save you from sharp spines and minimize the contact.
  • Use thin and soft brushes to clean the difficult part of your succulents, like areas between the spines of a cactus which are often tricky to clean.
  • You can also use a Towel or damp piece of cloth to handle and clean your succulents. This is really an effective method while handling sharp succulents that are otherwise tough to deal with.
  • If you need to touch your succulents at all cost, just hold in such a way that your palm is below the rosette structure of leaves in order to avoid rubbing off the farina. This will maintain the color and texture of your succulents.
  • If you ever come in contact with the milky sap of any poisonous succulents, wash the area of contact thoroughly.
  • Keep your succulents in such places in your home that is out of reach for your children and pets like a hanging terrarium or an old birdcage(you can decorate it as well).

Conclusion

Succulents have so many diversified species and not all of them are similar in every aspect. Some are fuzzy like Kalanchoe, some are covered in Farina like echeveria, and some have spines like cactus, so there can’t be a general answer for why you shouldn’t touch your succulents that stands correct for all of them.

You need to understand the needs and characteristics of your own succulents so that you can take better care of your plants, and understand how to handle them better.

There is no harm in touching some of the succulents that don’t have farina, are not poisonous, and don’t possess spines, but you should always avoid touching them unnecessarily for the good of both of you.

Learn even more about succulents!

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