Healthy & Beautiful Gardens
Succulents – part three
Friday, December 13th, 2013
Issue 50, Volume 17.
I left off with Euphorbias, a very interesting group, next is "Faucaria" a very low growing succulent from South Africa. F. tuberculosa is one that I grow, also known by its common name of "Tiger Jaws" – bright yellow flowers in fall, approximately 1" across, very easy to grow.
Fenestraria – this group includes the interesting specimen known by the name of "Babies Toes" or F. aurantiaca – low grower also bright yellow flowers in fall, very drought tolerant and also from South Africa.
Gasteria –lots of different varieties to choose from and even cross hybrids with "Haworthias" called "Gasworthias" – typically spotted and/or striped, Gasteria’s leaves are "stacked" while Haworthia’s are whorled and both species have nubby spots or striped on the leaves. These plants are typically less than a foot high and wide, pups on the side, but much variety available so, I know I’m repeating myself, but always check to see what variety you are buying, size, and zone it’s recommended for.
Graptopetalum – looks similar to Echiveria’s, some beautiful colors available, in the frosted greyish pink color spectrum, from Mexico, can grow well in partial shade also.
Kalanchoes are another outstanding group of succulents – lots of variety here. I grow one known as the ‘Panda Plant’ – k. tomentosa, very grey fuzzy thick leaves with brown edged "teeth" – very drought tolerant up to 3’ high eventually, but not cold hardy. You will find a variety of kalanchoe in most home improvement garden sections, usually in full bloom; keep this one indoors for the winter, sunny window, outside when warm.
Lots more great succulents to choose from out there, sedums – great for ground covers and some large varieties such as Sedum spectibillis ‘Autumn Joy’, portulaca, pachyverias, sempervivums, etc. and I could go on much longer, but rather than write a book here, I’d like to recommend a couple for further reading.
First, I’d highly recommend "Succulents for the Contemporary Garden" by Yvonne Cave, available at the library, also any of the books on succulents by Debra Baldwin, she’s written three now. Also, "The Garden Succulents Primer" by Gideon Smith & Ben Van Wyk – all go far deeper into succulents than I have room to do here.
I’d like to go into the care of succulents a little more here, and although they are all unique, I highly recommend checking on each plant that you buy to find out more about its cold hardiness, etc. For example some echeverias can take down to the upper 20s, others will die back (leaves turn brown or black) at 36, so it very important to do your homework. I’ve tried as I’ve gone along here to let you know whether a genera is frost tolerant or not, for example, aloes are "hardy" and can taketemps down into the teens, as can agaves, and most crassulas, kalanchoes cant take the cold. Do some research on each plant you buy and make sure you’re planting it under the right conditions.
Some "general" information on succulents – they hold water in their leaves – they do this for a reason – they are storing water (similar to a camel) so that when there is none, they can survive. Succulents come from areas in the world such as South Africa, Australia, Madagascar, Mexico, and other warm dry areas, so what you must to in order to have them thrive in your garden is duplicate those growing conditions that they originated from. They can’t take heavy clay soil that holds water – that’s one of the quickest ways to kill off a succulent. Make sure they have good drainage – porous soil – amend if necessary, and around here it’s necessary. Compost even helps aerate clay soil, but you can also add vermiculite or perlite, especially good in containers.
Succulents do not require much fertilizing, maybe once a year and while young many do better in partial shade. I find many of my echeverias and kalanchoes and even aloes look much "bluer" in a semi shady spot rather than full sun. Another issue I’ve encountered in our area is the hard water. It will "spot" the leaves of many of your succulents, so I advise drip irrigation or hand watering carefully. Many succulents survive on rainfall alone once established, however, they usually need some supplementation to look their best through my experience.
Another important reason to make sure which plant you are buying and its care – some succulents are dormant in the summer, some are winter dormant – if you overwater during their dormancy you may kill them. I bring quite a few of mine in pots indoors for the winter, place in a sunny window, and water every other week, or when I can tell the pot is completely dry.
One of the most wonderful things about succulents is how easily they are propagated. Most of them, you can just cut off a piece, stick it in a porous potting mix, moisten it, and it will start rooting. Some, you can even root from one leaf! This enables them to be shared with all your friends, you can mix them up in beautiful "potting bowls" to give as gifts, or keep for yourself. I love coming up with new succulent combinations, seeing which ones look the best together. My friends all know what to expect for Christmas from me!
With the amazing variety of sizes, shapes, and colors that succulents come in, and with learning just a few simple rules on their care, you can start collecting, displaying, and sharing these addictive plants as I do.
As always, if you have any questions, or would like a professional consultation or design, call or email me.
Country Gardens Landscape Design
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