Have you tried growing succulents? You don’t have to live in an arid desert or prefer southwestern décor to appreciate and grow beautiful, potted succulents. Although cactus and other prickly botanicals may be the first plants that come to mind, there are a variety of versatile, succulent plants, in an array of shapes, sizes and colors that lend well to a variety of decorating styles, indoors and out. As can see in these photographs succulents are indeed beautiful and colorful.
Succulents have plump leaves that can be clustered together like cabbages or rosettes, spiked or broad-leaved and be found in colors ranging from silver gray, to orange, pink, blue-green and even brown. Currently there are 7,474 named species in the Encyclopedia of Succulents.
Succulents have thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves, stems or roots. They are drought resistant and easy to grow in containers. The most widely known succulents are jade, agave, aloe vera, cactus, kalanchoe, sedum, hen and chicks, yucca, and Christmas cactus. Once you explore all the other beautiful species on the market today, you’ll want to create a fresh new twist on your Grandmother’s potted succulents.
The smaller varieties are ideal for creating an attractive centerpiece for your patio table. Since these plants require little watering, you can get creative in your choice of planter, as holes in the bottom are not required. Plant one in a conch shell, china tea cup, or a combination of succulents in vintage milk glass containers, or a narrow, rustic, dough bowl. Fill a terracotta strawberry pot or a concrete planter with mini succulents and display on your terrace.
Planting a Succulents Container Garden
You’ll need: a wide bowl or container, succulent plants, potting mix, sand, gravel, aquarium gravel
1. Fill your container three-quarters full with a fast-draining, special soil mix for succulents, or prepare your own by mixing a ratio of 75% potting soil with 25% builders’ sand or perlite. Cover with a layer of gravel. Using both hands mix all together and moisten with water.
2. If the container is large enough for multiple plants, remove the largest plant from its nursery pot first. To do so, turn it upside down in your hand, and give the bottom of the pot a pat to release the plant. Place it in the soil, off center. Repeat the planting process with other succulents, clustering similar colors or shapes together. Fill gaps with smaller plants to add interest to your dish garden.
3. Cover the soil mix with a layer of aquarium gravel.
4. Place container garden where it will receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.
Succulent Plant Care
Water lightly. Succulents should never be standing in water or the roots will be prone to rot. Allow soil mixture to dry between waterings. Like the native desert where succulents originated, they are able to handle cool night temperatures, ideally between 50° to 55°F, although they may thrive in low nighttime temperatures of 40°F. Optimal daytime temperatures for succulents to thrive are between 70°F and 85°F.
Tips for Growing (or Wintering) Succulents Indoors
The best varieties for growing indoors are those with green leaves, such as the jade or aloe plants. For best results, place potted succulents near a sunny window, preferably south-facing, or beneath a skylight. Do not over water. Do allow the soil to dry between waterings.
A special word of thanks to Linda Estrin Design, sustainable landscape design professional in Los Angeles, CA for allowing us to use her beautiful succulent design photographs in this article. For more information visit http://legardendesign.com
Deborah Tukua is the editor of Journey to Natural Living and the author of the healthy fresh from the blender recipe book, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She is a freelance writer for the Farmers' Almanac and Chiropractic Economics magazine and author of the book, Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Check out Lowell and Deborah's super sturdy and handsome DIY Gardening Potting Bench Plans.