MEET: The Seaside Succulent
As plants go, succulents are not flashy, but they sure are endearing.
These undemanding denizens of the plant kingdom captured the heart of Leslie Thomas to such a degree that she left a career in teaching to become a succulent guru. The Grant resident craved a green thumb, but, alas, she was more of the brown thumb variety.
“I had always wanted to be a gardener, but I would always end up killing things,” she said.
The former Satellite High School science teacher eventually discovered that succulents were more forgiving of her gardening skills.
Not only was she not killing off the plants, but they actually thrived under her care. So Thomas felt she was definitely onto something and wanted to share her ardor for succulents with the rest of the world.
“I thought that since I was already a teacher, I could teach classes on succulents,” she said.
She began teaching about succulent care and feeding at Rockledge Gardens, soon drawing crowds of gardeners eager to unleash their inner succulent fanatic.
In May of 2019, two years after her fascination with succulents began, she quit her teaching job and started selling succulent kits online. Plants, pots and accessories followed, as well as custom arrangements. Thomas recruited her husband, Tanner, to help.
The classes and online shop segued into the bricks-and-mortar temple to succulents known as The Seaside Succulent in Cocoa Village, where succulents common and rare are available for sale. And of course there are classes.
Although Thomas grows some varieties at her store, the majority of her stock hails from Apopka and South Florida.
Succulents are easy to keep, but they do have their quirks.
“They prefer to be outside and may start to decline if you keep them inside,” explained Thomas. “They like very bright, but indirect sunlight. Never overwater and… let the soil dry out in between waterings.”
Because they grow so slowly that they must spend considerable time at the nursery before appearing at a retail store, succulents are not the most inexpensive of plants.
“A succulent can take two or three years to grow 2 inches,” Thomas said.
At her store, Thomas stocks varieties that stir the heart of true fanciers, as well as more common — and affordable — varieties such as burro’s tail, bear paws and echeveria.
“Leslie is incredible at finding you just the right plant if you don’t know where to start and is incredibly knowledgeable if you have trouble down the road,” noted customer Nikki Blakenship.
Thomas gently directed Jessie Silhan into the world of succulents.
“She never made me feel like a noob and has given me confidence in my amateur green thumb,” Silhan said.
Thomas still occasionally teaches at Rockledge Gardens, but the bulk of her classes are held at her store, where gardeners can gain the knowledge to practice responsible succulent succulent plant parenthood.
105 B Brevard Ave., Cocoa Village
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.