Succulents are plants that store water. They grow in arid climates or arid soil conditions in areas that have little or no rainfall. They conserve water in their thick fleshy leaves or stems.
This is an introduction on a diverse and very interesting group of plants. How to grow succulents will guide you through what may become a lifelong addiction to this superb and highly adaptable species.
They will survive on low water levels by taking moisture from dew and mist.
Some varieties will store moisture in their roots which mean in extreme circumstances they die right back below the soil surface but will still survive. They wait for more favourable conditions for them to grow again.
They can endure extended drought periods which in these worrying times of climate change and drier seasons in some parts of the world means they are an important plant to have.
Their ability to survive in these water limited ecosystems make them an unusual and very interesting plant to grow.
These highly decorative plants are widely popular with enthusiasts for their strikingly diverse shapes and colours, some of the larger varieties such as Aloes, Agave or Yucca are a great focal point of interest and ideal for Mediterranean or desert style gardens.
Garden and interior designers love using them as they add a bold, architectural statement to modern and contemporary schemes.
Many succulents have medicinal properties, probably one of the most well-known examples is Aloe vera, used in skin care creams, cleansing lotions and supplements.
Growing Succulents in your Garden
I recently wrote a blog on low maintenance gardens… well, Succulents are another great plant for busy people who want to enjoy their beautiful outdoor spaces but don’t always have much time for doing any maintenance. Easy Low Maintenance Garden Ideas
As well as being low maintenance with few demands succulents are pretty and unusual. They’re one of the oddballs of the horticultural world thereby providing more wow factor to your garden.
A cold and wet winter can be particularly destructive for succulents therefore, container planting is one of the easiest ways to grow them as you can provide the exact conditions required in terms of soil, nutrients, water, drainage and place them in the sunniest part of your garden. ideas-for-spring-containers
There is a huge array of shapes, colours, sizes and textures available for you to play around with whilst still ensuring their survival.
When the weather becomes too unkind for them, the containers can be brought indoors.
To start with something easy and reliable I recommend you plant Sedums and Sempervivums. These are amongst the hardiest of succulents and can survive a winter outdoors if they are protected from the frost and wet. They are lovely for enthusing children with a plant of their own to care for. gardening-ideas-for-children
The above photo is used with the kind permission of Andy @APezza8
Sempervivums are commonly known as hen-and-chicks. This cute name comes from the way the parent plant grows a huddle of smaller baby plants around it.
These are easily propagated –
Gently remove them from the parent plant.
Pot them up in a low nutrient soil with added grit and water well.
Pop them somewhere with plenty of light and sunshine.
Once you become sure of being able to look after these you could then try your hand at the more unusual succulents like Pachyphytm, Aeonium or Echeveria. These plants thrive outside during the summer but require some winter protection.
If you don’t have a frost-free greenhouse then simply bring them inside and treat them as a houseplant during the colder months.
Growing Succulents Indoors
Succulents are a wonderful choice of interior plant.
Easy to grow? Well, yes they are if you can provide desert conditions.
As with any plant they require the correct growing conditions.
Providing the correct light levels for any plant can be a challenge, this is tenfold for succulents as they are used to desert conditions with unrelenting hot sun for about 12 hours a day. Emulating that is not an easy task.
All you can do is place your succulents in the sunniest south facing window.
Soil needs to be low in nutrients with grit or perlite added to it.
John Innes 2 is the recommended growing medium to use.
As with any plant, give them space…
Succulents tend to come packed into small pots or bowls, crammed together. There aren’t many plants that will survive such cavalier treatment, succulents included.
This overcrowding of plants can cause disease, mould and infestations of mites/insects all of which are detrimental to a succulents health.
Separate the plants and give them more space, preferably in their own containers so that they can obtain all the nutrients and water that they need without having to compete with others for it.
Even though they are desert plants, they still require a good dousing with water.
When the soil is dry, give them a good amount of water, until it is running out of the drainage holes, then do not water until the soil is dry again. If you imagine being in the desert, a downpour of rain occasionally is what these plants thrive on.
The gasteria photo below is used with the kind permission of Andy @APezza8
A green roof or a living roof is a building roof that is planted with greenery over a waterproof membrane.
Systems complete with drainage, root barriers and irrigation can be bought and installed but it is also quite straightforward to make your own system if you’re handy with DIY. Be sure to install a waterproof membrane to protect the roof and add really good drainage.
Sempervivum and Sedum are ideal plants for a green roof as they need very little care and attention. easy-low-maintenance-garden-ideas
The benefits of a green roof are numerous
- Absorb rainwater
- Provide Insulation
- Wildlife Habitat
- Decreases Stress levels of people around it
- Lowers air temperature
- Low maintenance
- Aesthetically pleasing
Make a Succulent Tower
A plant tower offers a perfect solution to using old terracotta pots. It doesn’t matter if they are chipped or otherwise slightly damaged.
It is an attractive and unusual way of displaying garden succulents such as Sempervivums, Sedums and Echeveria. You can make it as small or as tall as you wish.
Making a succulent tower is also a fun project to encourage children to take an interest in gardening.
You will need
- At least 3 terracotta pots of decreasing size
- A cane
- Fine grit or perlite
- Decorative grit
- A selection of succulents as mentioned above
Fill each pot half-way with fine grit or gravel then stack the pots in order of size, starting with the largest.
Push the cane through the drainage hole in each pot to stabilise the tower.
Top up the pots with a mix of compost and grit, then plant your selection of succulents, back fill gaps with the compost mix and firm in the plants.
Any gaps that are still left, fill with decorative grit.
Other plants that are ideal for a pot tower are Alpines, kitchen herbs or strawberries. gardening-ideas-for-children
So in conclusion if you want something quirky and eye-catching, that is a bit different from the norm then start growing these wonderfully eccentric plants. Shop this lovely selection of succulents
Be warned they are quite addictive but I have to say where I live they are hard to come by. There are 3 large garden centres within a few miles of me, none of which stock them. I can however order them online and/or propagate my own. Find a good choice of succulent plants here