Succulents are some of the easiest plants to grow. And don’t let those high prices fool you - all you need to do is start trading leaves with friends and neighbors!
Succulents come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, some of which are really amazing. They make great ornamental additions to the garden because they take very little care and they help prevent erosion. Also, most of them have a spreading growth habit that makes it easy to turn them into living gifts for family, friends, and neighbors.
What are succulents?
Succulents have evolved to store large amounts of water in fleshy leaves, stems, or roots, depending on the variety. This makes them an excellent choice for drought-prone areas. As temperatures rise, the plants absorb this stored water, shrinking the storage area for later use, rather than dropping leaves and making a mess. All plants that can survive in dry environments are called xerophytes. Common characteristics of succulents include:
There is some debate about the difference between succulents and cacti. Basically, not all succulents are cacti, but most cacti are succulents. There is also debate over whether or not the mucilaginous sap of aloe actually does anything, but, hey, if it makes us feel better, that’s good enough for me. Most of these plants are not edible, but some are. Be sure to identify a plant beyond any doubt before trying it for a snack. Some mistakes can be deadly.
Here is a list of the more popular succulents (and where they originated):
If you know of someone who already has succulents, they will probably be more than happy to give you cuttings, baby plants, or leaves, depending on the species. Jade plants, in particular, can be started from a single leaf. Simply place the stub of the leaf on moist, rich potting soil and mist it regularly. Within a week or two, new roots should be visible. Cuttings and baby plants can be propagated in the same way.
Caring for succulents
Succulents can be used as permanent ground cover, in containers, and they make lovely windowsill gardens, as long as they get enough bright sunlight. Succulents prefer well-drained soil, making them an excellent choice for slopes, raised beds, and containers. These tips will help you get the most out of your succulents:
• Avoid planting succulents in low areas where water may collect and cause crown rot.
• Do not place succulents near other plants that require a lot of water.
• Remove any dead leaves to prevent bacterial or fungal disease.
• Adding rocks to the soil can improve drainage and they look nice.
• Stop watering if leaves start to look mushy.
• In winter, cover frost sensitive varieties with lightweight, breathable fabric (not plastic).
• Monitor for slug and snail damage.
Succulent container gardens look lovely year round, and they are surprisingly easy to make. You can see several inspiring ideas (complete with instructions) at the Instructables page on Succulents.
I’d love to see what you do with succulents in your landscape!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!