The Allure of Succulents

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Plants

Succulents are a favorite at Bucks Country Gardens. I often see families as they enter our greenhouse walk directly over to our succulent display before heading over to greet our birds: Blue, the Macaw and Freddie, the Parrot. Succulents are easy to care for plants that store water in juicy tissues. But perhaps what grabs our attention are the interesting shapes of the succulents, more structural and solid; or maybe it’s their colors–from darkest green to soft grays often lined in contrasting colors or just simply it’s those prickly needles. Their boldness lends itself easily to beautiful container gardens, with little fuss or care.

When putting together a container, I recommend using a shallow container (succulents’ root systems are usually quite small) with drainage if possible. If the perfect container you find doesn’t have a drainage hole you can always line the bottom with pebbles. I always use cactus soil in our containers. The cactus soil is more porous than most and allows for better drainage.

I generally start with the container and than choose my plants to complement or contrast with the container–paying attention to the shape, color and texture of the container. For example, if you have chosen a rounded container you might want to choose rounded plants, such as the Echeveria subsessilis to create a softer look. Pair that shape with some clumping moss to create a tumbleweed look. You can add several different plants that complement each other or a few of the same. Vary the size or keep them uniform. Another idea is to use a few plants or even just one and add gravel or pebbles to fill to the edges of the container.

Or…try starting with the plant. Because of the geometric shape of succulents, the plants can often suggest a feeling or place. You can use that suggestion to tell a story. One of our new selections is Elk Antlers, a Kalanchoe hybrid. For me, this plant for some reason suggests medieval times with castles and knights (Game of Thrones anyone?). If I was working with the Elk Antlers, I might use a shiny black container with ridges and add to the Elk Antlers a Mammillaria (prickly barrel) or two with some interesting stones or bark standing upright and perhaps a pathway or moat made of twigs or pebbles. When handling the prickly plants, I find a little bubble wrap or thick paper and roll it around the base of the plant to prevent stickers from becoming lodged in your fingers or hand, OUCH! Many cacti (a sub-group of succulents) do bloom, about half of the variety. However, they usually wait until they are 3–4 years old inside to show flowers. If you would like to add vibrant colors to your garden immediately, use flowering Kalanchoe or colorful, flowering sedum.

Once you have completed your unique container, caring for it is really easy, I mean really easy. Think of the desert, where you find such plants naturally. If you have a bright spot, inside or out (in the summer), you are good to go. Your container will require very little watering. It is a great choice for the neglectful gardener, the vacationer or just someone who needs a little less on their to-do list. Happy gardening!

Marilyn Fanning | Greenhouse Sales & Design