Succulents: the new ‘it’ plant

USF alumna Sarah Sanford teaches multiple workshops at the USF Botanical 
Gardens, including one on succulent wreath making. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ.

When it comes to interests and hobbies, the millennial generation is notorious for adopting passions that their parents and grandparents held and bringing them back to the forefront of contemporary culture, such as Polaroid cameras and vinyl.

However, there is one current obsession that’s unlike these others.

Enter the succulent.

Known simply as a plant that stores water, the succulent has quickly gained popularity among young adults. Last year, pictures and videos of succulent-themed cakes, bouquets, accessories and events flooded the internet.

Sarah Sanford, a high school science teacher at Thomas Richard Robinson High School in South Tampa, worked at the USF Botanical Gardens from 2008 to 2011, when she was a masters student majoring in biology. 

She comes back occasionally to teach workshops, including two succulent wreath-making ones this past Saturday, and has noted a definite increase in interest toward these plants.

“Our classes prior to this year were typically 15-20 people, and we would run a single class,” Sanford said. “This year we booked two full classes of 30 people each and had to turn people away.”

The USF College of Arts and Sciences made a Facebook event for the first session of the class at the beginning of January and announced that session was full by the 18th. They opened the second session that day, but that one was filled 24 hours later. The original Facebook event showed that 700 people were interested in attending.

Laurie Walker, the director of the Botanical Gardens, said this was unexpected and attributes the enthusiasm to the College of Arts and Sciences’ social media promotion. However, Sanford also has another theory.

“Pinterest has really brought stuff like this to a wider demographic,” she said. “Where this kind of used to be an old biddy thing to do, an old lady craft. Now that we have things like Facebook and Pinterest that are really broadening exposure, more people are interested.”

She associated the changing demographic of the succulent’s fascinated fans to this as well.

“I’ve had more young people in today’s two classes than I’ve probably had over the past eight years combined, and I think it really just is because people are more aware of what’s going on,” she said.

Jamie O’Berry, who has co-owned O’Berry’s Succulents with her father Dan since 2012, has been teaching succulent workshops for the past three years.

“I had so many people ask me to teach them how to do it correctly, because there is a science to it,” O’Berry said. “It started from there. I did one and then people asked me when I was going to do another. Now I do them once a month and they almost always sell out.”

O’Berry has done other succulent workshops as well, including a wine bottle centerpiece, a succulent tiara, a vintage planter and even a kokedama.

“It’s moss that you wrap around succulents,” she said. “It’s inspired from an old Japanese tradition of them not having enough money to have planters for their bonsai, so they’d wrap it with moss and string.”

While Sanford has only done wreath-making workshops for succulents at the Botanical Gardens, she has plans for other workshops in the future.

“I’d like to do a living wall. The issue with that is the materials can be kind of big,” Sanford said. “We’re talking about pallets, so people have to have a way to get it home. We tend to stick with projects that are portable.”

Both Walker and Sanford said that because of the large interest shown in these workshops, the Botanical Gardens will be offering more. They don’t have an exact date; however, they suggest students keep a watch on their Facebook page.

The general public fee for the workshop was $30, while garden members paid $25. 

A workshop taught by O’Berry’s Succulents averages $60, and students can find them at St. Pete Indie Market, held on the first Saturday of every month, and Indie Flea, held on the last Sunday of every month. Students who are interested can find out more at