Category Archives: succulents

Tough Succulents & other Plants for Containers

I have hundreds of plants in containers (295 at last count). You’d be amazed how many pots you can squeeze on a wrap-around deck, including the railings! Some of my favorites are those that house my succulent collection. I’ve come to think of them as pets as they grow over the years. They are tough, resilient and beautiful.

All my plants must be able to survive our winters without intervention on my part. I remember one cold snap about 10 years ago when the surface of my deck was frozen by early evening. I decided to move some cymbidium orchids onto the covered porch, slipped and almost broke my leg. Never again, I vowed. I may move a few succulents out of the pouring rain for the winter season but that’s the extent of my coddling.

The simplest and most sophisticated of all hardy container designs is to plant a skim of sedum across the surface of a shallow container. There are so many to choose from Then leave it alone to grow and drip down the sides.

Another plant combination that works well is to anchor a large pot with a slow growing shrub or dwarf tree that lends height as well as carries your display through the season.Plant a few hens and chickens (echeveria or sempervivum)  at the base and maybe a couple of blue fescue grasses for contrast.

Fast growing succulents, like trailing Sedum acre Lemon Ball or Golden Girl are fun and easy to grow and propagate. I’ve had my original for years although I thought I’d lost it last winter. Sixty inches of rain washed out all the soil in the pot and floated away most of the plant. From one small piece it has recovered beautifully.The chartreuse foliage would blend nicely with chocolate foliage like Carex Red Rooster or even chocolate cosmos.

Libertia, an iris relative with golden-orange swordlike leaves, looks great underplants with any of the succulents. This beautiful grass-like plant grows 2 ft high and 1 ft wide forming a colony by rhizomes. They are especially attractive when backlit. Clusters of inch wide, white flowers bloom from late spring to midsummer. Grow them in sun or light shade along with your succulents, phormiums and grasses.

Be sure to use a quality potting mix in your containers. There are special succulent and cactus mixes available but succulents are forgiving as long as the soil drains freely. of the pot as this impedes drainage. It work best to fill the entire pot with soil, top to bottom.

There are lots of succulents to plant up in interesting containers or simple clay pots. Some take full sun, while others like a bit of shade. Some handle frost easily while others need some protection. Let your imagination go wild.
 

Succulents for the Santa Cruz Mtns

Earlier this year I had so many deer browsing in my garden, I thought the term "deer resistant" was a cruel joke. Don’t they read those lists anymore? My succulents, however, were never victims. If you haven’t paid much attention to these old standbys for a while, it’s time for another look.

There are succulents that thrive i shade as well as sun. That’s because they originate from many different environments. Many come from the deserts of the world while others developed in the cold, windy alpine regions of Europe in poor, rocky soil. A surprising number os succulent plants are native to the Rocky Mountains and Peruvian Andes. Still others evolved on the shores of salt water lakes and oceans where they adapted to high salt concentrations. Almost any environment is suitable for growing some kind of succulent, it merely depends on choosing the right one.

Many of the gardens in this area are frosty in the winter. The common winter hardy succulent varieties most resistant to cold are sedum, sempervivum, echeveria, crassula, agave, dudleya and yucca.

To ensure success when growing succulents, make sure your soil is fast draining. Our winter rains can rot even the toughest plants when their feet sit in soggy soil. Add sand and gravel to your soil or plant on mounds to increase drainage.

Sempervivum and echeveria, both low growing ground covers, are also known as hens-and-chicks. They spread by producing identical offsets that surround the mother plant like chicks. Due to extensive breeding you can choose from more than 4,000 named varieties. Some are tightly clustered, others more open with smooth or velvety leaves in shades ranging from near black to pinks, purples, lavender, apricot and every shade of green. A metallic sheen glints off the leaves of some types, while others like Silver King and Red Ruben have leaves outlined in fuzzy, white hairs. The colors change through the seasons and in summer, starlike flowers bloom atop fat, tall stems.

While the distinct rosette forms of hens & chicks are easily recognizable, in their shape and colors. Low growing varieties include sedum makinoi Ogon, on my my favorites, for their tiny carpet-like golden foliage. Coppertone grows 12" tall with thick coppery colored leaves. Sedum tricolor makes a nice ground cover in sunny areas. Sedum Autumn Joy’s rosy pink flower clusters look beautiful in large swaths combined with pheasant tail grass and Santa Barbara daisy.

There are many other sedums to choose from that do well in our area. All are reliable perennials in our climate. They will not take foot traffic but are otherwise tough, low maintenance plants.

Succulents can be used in so many ways in the garden. Use them in pots or in the front of the border where they provide texture. They can be used to fill in between shrubs or clumps of perennials.

Every garden has a problem spot- one that is too hot, too dry, awkward or shallow for other plants. That’s where succulents come to the rescue.