Plant­ing suc­cu­lents for suc­cess

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - By Jodi Tor­pey

Suc­cu­lents are big this sea­son, and they’re also small. Whether worn as jew­elry, planted in a pic­ture frame, stuffed into an old boot or care­fully placed in the rock gar­den, th­ese adapt­able plants can thrive just about any­where.

Suc­cu­lents are the plants known for stor­ing wa­ter in their leaves, stems and roots. Agave, aloe and ice plants are suc­cu­lents. So are cacti, se­dums and jade plants.

Their dif­fer­ent forms, tex­tures, col­ors and leaf shapes make suc­cu­lents seem more like liv­ing sculp­tures in­stead of plants. The nat­u­ral ar­chi­tec­tural qual­i­ties make it easy for any gar­dener to cre­ate at­trac­tive suc­cu­lent com­bi­na­tions.

Two keys to suc­cu­lent suc­cess have to do with sun and wa­ter.

Avoid plac­ing or plant­ing suc­cu­lents in full sun. Ten­der leaves can burn in in­tense sun­light, so grow them where they can get morn­ing sun and par­tial shade in the af­ter­noons.

Al­low the soil to dry slightly be­tween wa­ter­ings. Th­ese plants pre­fer life on the dry side and can sur­vive for short pe­ri­ods of time with the mois­ture stored in their juicy leaves.

Plant in places where other plants won’t grow, like be­tween large rocks, in crevices or at the top of slopes. Mound the soil be­fore plant­ing to help wa­ter drain away and keep plants healthy. Hardy suc­cu­lents will over­win­ter in the land­scape with some pro­tec­tion from freez­ing tem­per­a­tures.

In­stead of plant­ing one of ev­ery kind, se­lect a few fa­vorite suc­cu­lents by color and form and plant in a re­peat­ing pat­tern. Add a fin­ish­ing touch by top dress­ing with a layer of at­trac­tive rocks.

If you’re un­sure about plant­ing suc­cu­lents in the gar­den, con­tain­ers of plants pro­vide the per­fect, mo­bile al­ter­na­tive. Plant and place con­tain­ers among flow­ers in the peren­nial bed, along path­ways, as a fo­cal point in front of a wall or as a matched set on the pa­tio or porch.

Cre­ative gar­den­ers have learned they can turn prac­ti­cally any con­tainer into a suc­cu­lent gar­den. They’ve used old hang­ing bird cages, art pots, ter­rar­i­ums, tiny tins, terra cotta dishes, straw­berry pots and win­dow boxes. Small con­tain­ers, like teacups, make sin­gle serv­ings of suc­cu­lents look like lit­tle works of art.

For the best re­sults, add a thin layer of gravel and fill the con­tainer with a welldrain­ing pot­ting mix or a cac­tus mix. Be sure to size suc­cu­lents in pro­por­tion to the con­tainer and the other plants. Fin­ish with nat­u­ral em­bel­lish­ments, like rocks, shells and fairies.

You can try your hand with an es­pe­cially easy plant­ing for be­gin­ners. Se­lect hardy sem­per­vivum (hens and chicks) and plant with echev­e­ria rosettes and creep­ing se­dums for a dif­fer­ent kind of thriller, filler and spiller con­tainer com­bi­na­tion.

For more de­sign in­spi­ra­tion than you can han­dle, look for De­bra Lee Bald­win’s books: “De­sign­ing with Suc­cu­lents,” “Suc­cu­lents Sim­pli­fied” or “Suc­cu­lent Con­tainer Gar­dens.”

Kathryn Scott, The Den­ver Post

Den­ver Botanic Gar­dens of­ten has con­tain­ers pre­pared — like th­ese suc­cu­lents in col­or­ful pots — for their plant sales. Suc­cu­lents can thrive just about any­where.

Pho­tos by Kathryn Scott, The Den­ver Post

Den­ver Botanic Gar­dens has many con­tainer gar­dens through­out the land­scape, such as th­ese, with suc­cu­lents. Cre­ative gar­den­ers will find it easy to use nearly any con­tainer for suc­cu­lents.

Plant suc­cu­lents us­ing a thin layer of gravel, then fill the con­tainer with a welldrain­ing pot­ting mix or a cac­tus mix.

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