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