Landscaping with succulents

Landscaping with succulents

Lots of people keep their succulents in pots so they can control their environment.  If you live anywhere in Australia you can grow almost any succulent in your garden.  Landscaping with succulents is a great idea as once they have established they do not need a lot of attention.  There are many more reasons to landscape with succulents ………

Succulents for all areas of the garden
There are hundreds of different succulent species and varieties available.  There are succulents that grow and cope with full sun (see post : Which succulents survive in full sun? ). Succulents that grow in full shade. (see post: Which succulents grow in full shade? ) Succulents that cope with humidity.  Succulents that can survive frost.  (see post : Which succulents can survive frost? )  I think you get the idea.  So wherever you live and whether you have a sunny or shady garden you can landscape with succulents.

succulents in the garden

Heights and Sizes
Succulents come in all shapes,sizes and colours. So if you require low growing ground cover or bushy succulents there should be one that suits your situation for full sun, full shade or part shade/part sun position.  Remember to find out how large a succulent grows.  Plant the larger growing succulents at the back of the garden bed so they do not shade the lower growing succulents in the front.

Succulent Garden

My front succulent garden with larger succulents at the back such as agave and a larger aloe. Smaller succulents at the front.

Mass Planting
Mass plantings of any plant look great.  However, mass planting of succulents looks amazing.  Unless you buy succulents in bulk, which of course can be expensive you can start your mass planting with one plant and then use cuttings and offset plants to add to your mass planting. The photos below are from Pinterest of some examples of mass plantings of succulents.

Oh my I need this it looks like the ocean. How awesome would that be in a garden. Succulent border - Massed Echeveria elegans with pots of what looks like Echeveria ' Perle von Nurnberg' by Missdove If you think you are the busiest person in your home or officeThere are several cleaning companies out there that are available anytime for the benefit of your good health and refreshing environment. http://glenburniecarpetcleaning.net/ Landscaping is one of the easiest ways to liven up your outdoor area. A little life and color goes a long way and if you're setting up for home like me, the work you do will have the added benefit of making your yard look better than blowing cash on flowers for one day.
Echeveria 'Gilva Spreader' in the foreground; to its left is Iris foetidissima 'Variegata;' in front of terracota pot is Calamintha nepeta. For the rest click through. Morning in the garden . . . by hortulus Spiral aloes (Aloe polyphylla) at Succulent Gardens nursery, Castroville, CA mass planting of aeoniums

Firewise Succulents
Succulents are known as water wise plants but they also have fire retardant properties, so they are also fire-wise. Due to their ability to store water in the their leaves and stems succulents do not really burn – they cook, bake or boil but they do not burst into flames or spread flames. While succulents cannot stop a fire, they can help protect your property from embers and slow the passage of flames.  This is a great reason to landscape with succulents.  (see post: Fire-wise succulents – surviving a bush fire with a succulent garden! )

Gabion Wall
I built the Gabion wall below myself (ok with a little help from my husband-he cut the wire to size).  The rest was all me. It took about 4 weekends. Along with my love for succulents I also admire gabion walls.  The two look great together.  I must admit the position of this gabion is not the best for succulents.  The succulents only receive afternoon sun for a short while in the winter which is not really ideal.  However, they have still increased in size and grown really well.  A gabion has great drainage which succulents love.

January 2017

Finished

July 2017

Succulents love growing in walls
Below is another part of my garden that I used succulents.  Many succulents grow in rock crevices in the wild.  A wall is an ideal place to grow succulents due to the excellent drainage. The wall receives full afternoon sun so it will be interesting to see how they cope in the height of summer. I have used Echeveria as they have coped with full sun in my front garden.

living succulent wall

 

Succulent wall. Awe-inspiring.

This succulent wall is amazing but would take a lot of time and dedication. Pinterest photo.

Established Succulent Gardens
I found the following photos on Pinterest of established succulent gardens.  They look amazing and its great to see that people do landscape with succulents.  Succulents grow well with other succulents and also look great in mass plantings.

California drought tolerant succulent garden tapestry with Golden barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii, Aloe elgonica, A. cameronii, Senecio; design Jeff Moore Agave 'Blue Flame'
Echeveria elegans (blue), Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Flapjacks) Succulent ideas for weddings and gardens | Buy direct from Grower – Succulent… Succulent garden | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Tips for planting in the garden
When planting succulents in the ground make sure you plant them on a mound rather than in a depression as you would with a non succulent plant.  This will ensure that rain will run off the mound rather than pool in the depression around the plant. Succulents can survive with a fair bit of rainfall as long as the water does not pool around the roots. (see post:  Should I grow succulents in a pot or the ground? )

 

 

How long do succulents live?

How long do succulents live?

I often wonder how long a succulent will live for when I buy it. I also have this thought when I have nurtured a succulent for a long period of time and then it dies. Do the different species and varieties live for different periods of time?  I think this is quite a hard question to answer for any particular succulent.  How long do succulents live, do they have a specific lifespan?

Nature versus Nuture
Firstly, a plant’s lifespan in nature will be different from a cultivated plant. Secondly, a plant’s lifespan will vary depending on the conditions it lives through/in ie in the ground or in a pot, the right amount of water, sun, temperature, soil conditions etc.

What is the definition of a lifespan?
Some succulents flower and then die but then then produce offsets/pups … are the offsets considered the same life span, or a new one? Some succulents die back and then re grow, with a ‘new’ plant growing from the old one… is this part of the same life span? I suppose that is something you can decide for yourself. I personally believe that if the succulent dies, even if it has produced a baby, that would be the end of its lifespan.  Of course it is easier to cope with the death of your succulent if you have a few babies to be going on with.

Echeveria Agavoides pups

Echeveria Agavoides Molded Wax offsets

There is very little information on the internet about the lifespans of succulents in general. One way of finding out how long a particular succulent may live is to ask the question about the succulent you are interested in on social media groups such as Facebook and/or Reddit or on Quora. It is not very scientific but will give you some idea.  The more specialised a succulent is, the less likely it is to live a long life.  I have found that the hardier and more common succulent plants do have some information and are the ones with notable lifespans.

Agave/Century Plant
The agave or century plant has a lifespan around 25 years, sometimes up to 30.  It is a Monocarpic succulent. This means that when it produces its flower stalk  the main plant will then die after producing many baby offsets.

Century Plant Agave Attenuata Succulent and Cacti


Crassula Ovata – Jade Plant 
The Crassula Ovata succulent often has a starring role in my blog posts and this post is one of them.  I have a Jade Plant which has been growing in my garden for over 22 years and is still growing strong.  I have also found an article on the internet that stated a jade plant had survived 30 years.

crassula aborescens succulent

This Crassula is over 20 years old

Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

This Jade Plants is currently 22 years old.

Echeveria
It is hard to find any information regarding the lifespan of the Echeveria Genus. As mentioned previously it depends on how a lifespan is determined. Many of the Echeveria species produce offsets/babies/pups continuously throughout their growing season – each year. So if you buy an Echeveria that does produce offsets (most – ‘not all’ produce offsets) unless something goes horribly wrong, you will always have that plant in some form.  Even if an Echeveria gets root rot and the parent plant dies, most offsets usually survive. The Echeveria Elegans below is approximately 3 years old and keeps producing offsets which then become part of the plant. The plant is strong and healthy and has coped in all weather, a cold wet winter and a very hot summer.  I am assuming it will live on for a few years to come.

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans

Sempervivum
Likewise with the Sempervivum genus it is also hard to find any information with regard to the lifespan.  As with the Echeveria, Sempervivums produce offsets but more prolifically.  So once purchased your supply of this succulent would also live on for years to come.  Not all Semperivum produce offsets either.  So keep this in mind when you are purchasing the succulent if you have longevity in mind.

Sempervivum

Aloe
The aloe vera succulent must be about 3-4 years old before the inner gel of the leaves can be used for skin treatments.  The gel can then be used until the plant is 12 years old.  So this gives us an indication of how long the Aloe Vera succulent lives for. Aloe succulents also produces offsets, so as per the Echeveria and Sempervivum genus you should always have an Aloe producing offsets once purchased.

Using propagation and offsets for longevity
As well as using succulent offsets to continue your love of that particular succulent you can also propagate your succulents very easily by growing a new plant from a leaf or beheading a plant or cutting off a stem and propagating a new plant.  That is one of the wondrous facts about succulents, they are so easily propagated.  No matter the lifespan the majority of succulents are easily propagated so that, should you wish to, you can always have more succulents living and giving you pleasure in your garden. (see post: How to Propagate Succulents.)

Last year I visited a nursery that had been growing succulents for 20 years.  The gardens surrounding the nursery had been growing for about the same time.  Surviving on natural rainfall.

Prickly Pear Cacti

Century Plant

20 year old cacti

Cracker Barrell Cactus

 

large Succulent plant crassula aborescens succulent
Where do succulents originate and why it is good to know?

Where do succulents originate and why it is good to know?

People often use ‘native’ plants in their garden as they are native to their Country and grow in the conditions typical of their area.  So it makes sense to know the conditions that succulents grow in, in their native countries as this can help understand the needs of that particular succulent. Succulents have adapted and survived in many other countries but they will grow better if they are grown in conditions similar to the ones of their country of origin. Knowing where a particular succulent plant originates provides two significant insights into its needs: its growing season and its range of acceptable temperatures.

Succulents, Nature, Flora, Alpines

Most of the commonly grown succulents originate from areas that receive very sporadic rainfall. Contrary to popular belief, succulents do not only originate from deserts. Few plants actually survive in a true desert (with less than 25cm of annual rain). Most grow in semi-deserts which have poor soil (not just pure sand), sparse vegetation and rocky outcrops. Succulents can survive in varying conditions from humid dark jungles to the desert with scorching days and freezing nights.

Succulents are found primarily in Mexico, South America, Central America, East Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, South Africa and parts of Europe.

Here are a few examples:

Echeveria / Graptopetulum / Sedum  / Agave
Of the 154 species of Echeveria around 130 of them originate from Mexico. Agave is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico as are Sedum and Graptopetulum.

Most Mexican succulents that grow at altitudes of 1200 m (4000 feet) will survive some sub freezing weather, however the succulents that originate from coastal Mexico can rarely tolerate frost.  So make sure that you know which part of Mexico they originate from.

These are just a few of of the astonishingly beautiful plants I saw this weekend while attending the 4th annual Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville. With many reservoirs in C…

Mexican winters are mild, temperatures average around the 20 -24 Celcius (high 68 to 74° Fahrenheit) and in summer the average temperature is around 28 degrees Celsius (83° Fahrenheit).

This does not mean if your succulent comes from Mexico you have to re-create the exact conditions so that the succulent survives.  Succulents are very adaptable and will adapt to the climate they are living in. It just means their natural habitat will give you an idea of the conditions that they will do well in.

Image result for agave in native habitat

If your succulent hails from Mexico then it will like lots of sunshine,will probably be quite hardy, not require a lot of water and can grow in a rockery.

On the other side of the coin…..

Sempervivum / Sedums
Sempervivum – also known as house leeks and hen and chicks, survive from  Morocco to Iran, through the mountains of Iberia, the Alps, Carpathians, Balkan mountains, Turkey and the Armenian mountains. Their ability to store water in their thick leaves allows them to live on sunny rocks and stony places in the mountain, sub- alpine and alpine belts.

Their natural habitats are typically 3000 – 8000 ft above sea level in mountainous regions of central and southern Europe and the Mediterranean islands.  They would be used to summer rain and humidity and not cope so well in dry heat with intense sun, they are more used to hazy sun.

Sempervivum growing in their natural habitat in Italian Alps

Image result for kalanchoe in natural habitat Image result for kalanchoe in natural habitat

Kalanchoe growing in their natural habitat

How can I find out where my succulent originates?
There are 1000’s of succulents species/varieties, sometimes its hard enough to identify the plant. There are ways that you can find out the identification of your succulent first. (see post: Where can I identify my Succulents?)  or (An easy way to identify your succulent variety!)

Then to find out where the succulent originates I use a great website called http://www.worldofsucculents.com 

It has a tab called ‘Succulentopedia’.  You can then browse by Succulent Scientific Name /Common Name /Genus/ Family or Origin.  You can then search by the succulent Genus – ie Echeveria and it will tell you the origins or that Genus or you can search by the particular scientific name of the succulent.

You can find a lot more than just the origin of succulents on this site.  There are also ‘how to care guides’ and some amazing photos too.

If you find a particular succulent that survives and thrives in your garden, find out the origin of the species and see what other succulents are from that area and they should also do well.

 

 

How fast do succulents grow?

How fast do succulents grow?

The human race is a very impatient species. Even more so nowadays with Gen Z wanting everything yesterday.  I can understand that when it comes to succulents, I cannot wait till my baby succulents grow and thrive, in the back of my mind though I hear a voice saying ‘succulents are slow growers’……. but are they?

As always, with succulents – due to the vast quantity of species and varieties – the answer is yes and no.

What is the definition of a fast growing plant?
It  depends on your individual interpretation of what is slow or fast!  To me growing overnight is fast growing! The only plants that literally grow overnight, that I remember from science class, are water cress and mung beans. Some varieties within a species will grow faster than other varieties within the same species. To me a fast growing plant is one that you can see a difference in size within a few months.

Each species will have some varieties that are faster growers than other varieties in the same species.  In general though I believe that most species are either fast, moderate or slow growing.

Which conditions increase the growth rate?
There are a two conditions that will effect the growth rate of a succulent.

Growing Season A succulent will grow faster during its growing season than it will in its dormant season.  Some succulents do not grow at all in their dormant season and some will grow; but a lot slower. (see post: When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons? )  So if you purchase/receive a succulent in its dormant season do not be worried if it sits there doing (almost) nothing.

Environment How fast a succulent grows will also depend on environmental conditions. Sunlight, temperature, soil and moisture can all affect the growth rate of a succulent. If the plant has its ideal amount of light, temperature and moisture and grown in the right soil medium it will grow at is optimum rate.

Which succulents are fast growing?
Firstly let me say what I consider to be fast growing. If I can see a succulent has increased in its overall size by about 25% within a 4-6 month period I would consider it to be fast growing.  I take a photo of a succulent the first day it arrives, including its name. If you are like me and check your succulents every day you would not notice their growth. Looking back at the original photo can show you how much they have grown in that period.

The following succulents are species that I grow in my garden and have witnessed their growth first hand.

Aeonium Aboreum
The Aeonium Aboreum below was planted in the middle of its growing season and had formed a thick mass after only 4 months. It would have been a totally different story if I had planted them in the summer when this species of succulent is dormant.  (see post: Indestructable…..Aeonium Aboreum ) Don’t forget succulents have a dormant season as well – so make sure you know when this is.

Aeonium Aboreum-July16

November 2016

November 2016

Echeveria
Most Echeveria are fast growing.  As long as you can see new leaves forming in the centre of the Echeveria then they are liking their environment and growing as fast as they can.  Most of my Echeveria varieties grow for about 9 months of the year due to our short winters.

sunburnt echeveria agavoides

December 2016

Echeveria Agavoides

April 2017 – 4 months later

Flowering Echeveria

June 2017

Echeveria Agavoides

Echeveria Elegans Succulent

June 2016

Echeveria Elegans

May 2017

June 2017

Echeveria Elegans

Graptoveria
Graptoveria are a very close relative to the Echeveria species as they are a hybrid of an Echeveria and Graptopetulum (see post: What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?)  Therefore they also are generally a fast growing species.

Graptoveria Fred Ives

September 2016

Graptoveria Fred Ives

May 2017

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Crassula
The Crassula species is also a fast growing plant.  Especially Crassula Ovata which is also a very hard variety.

Crassula Ovata Ribbon Plant Crassula Ovata grown in shade Crassula Ovata Jade Plant Succulent

Crassula Ovata

Research on the world wide web indicates that the following succulents are of the fast growing variety.

Coppertone sedum
Graptopetalum paraguayense
Haworthis obtusa
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi – Lavender Sallops
Sedum rubrotinctum – Jelly Bean Plant
Sempervivum Guiseppe
Crassula perforata – String of Buttons
Agave desmettiana

Which succulents are slow growing?
There are a few slow growing succulents.

Euphorbia Millie – Crown of Thorns
Euphorbia Milli is quite a slow growing succulent.  The one below suddenly lost all its leaves and flowers so I moved it to a different position and it grew again – but very slowly.  It took 8 months just to grow its leaves back but still is not any taller.

Euphorbia

November 2016

Euphorbia Millie Succuelnt

July 2017

Giant Barrell Cactus
There are some succulents that literally grow so slowly you wonder if they are growing at all.  The Giant Cactus Barrell (below) is one of these.  However, they can live for approximately 100 years.

20 year old cacti

Lithops
Lithops are very slow growing but like the Giant Barrell Cactus they live a long time.

Lithops the living rocks Lithops are awesome #leafandclay #succulents cc: @ishiiplantnursery www.leafandclay.co

How long does it take to grow succulents from a leaf?
Once again depending on conditions a leaf can sprout roots within a week and start to sprout within a 3 week period.  To grow to a new plant – depending on the species and variety you can have a new succulent baby within a 3 -4 month period. This is a huge generalisation but has been my experience with a lot of leaf propagation I have tried.

How to Root a Succulent Leaf - Collect a succulent leaf cutting in the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. Choose a healthy plant with no signs of damage or disease...

In summary, I would say, most of the popular and more common succulents that are available in Australia are moderate to fast growing.  Taking into consideration the general growing conditions of succulents;  the weather in most parts of Australia are ideal and even with their dormant season thrown into the mix you will still see a huge difference after one year of growth. Below is a photo of my front succulent garden bed with just a 9 month growing period.

Succulent Garden - Australia

October 2016

Australian Succulent Garden

July 2017

 

 

 

When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons?

When do succulents have their growing and dormant seasons?

Most plants have a growing season which is generally spring and summer and are then dormant during winter. The dormant months give the plant time to rest and gather strength for the growing season.  

Why do I need to know when a succulents growing season is?
It is handy to know when a growing season is so that if your succulent is ‘not’ growing and looking a bit different then you know it is in its dormant season. (I am mainly referring to Aeoniums here! – see below) The growing season can give you an idea of when you should expect your succulent to produce new growth. If you like to fertilise your succulents, the beginning of the growing season is the time to do so. If you are transplanting it is best to do so at the right time of year.  Also, watering requirements may be different during the growing season compared to the dormant season.

However, saying that, some succulents actually seem to grow all year round!

What if my succulent grows during the expected dormant season?
Plants do not have an ‘internal clock’ but rather grow due to their environment. They determine when the appropriate time to grow or be dormant is. A vast majority of succulents are ‘opportunistic growers’, even if they are classified as “winter or summer growers” it really depends on the local climate and growing conditions. Opportunistic growers will grow any time of the year that the conditions are right. Mostly this depends on temperature. If the succulent has a summer growing season and temperatures stay elevated through autumn then the succulent will continue to grow.  It will only slow its growth when the temperatures start to drop.  Even when a succulent is in its dormant season it may still grow; just at a slower rate.

It is impossible to list when all succulents have their growing or dormant season.  A rule of thumb is to determine where their origins are.

Autumn-Winter Growing/Summer Dormant
Succulents from a Mediterranean climate ie The Canary Islands receive the majority or all of their water during the winter. Therefore most of these plants are dormant in the summer. Some autumn/winter growers are: most Aeoniums, a few Euphorbias, Haworthia and Kalanchoe.

Summer Growing/Winter Dormant
Succulents from the central American region, South Africa and Madagascar are summer growers and dormant in winter.  Such as Echeveria, Crassula, some Euphorbia. Graptoveria, Graptopetulam, Pachyveria and Sempervivum to name a few.

What are watering requirements during the dormant season?
Generally when a succulent is in its dormant season it is best to water sparingly.  However, if you are like me, and have your succulents growing in the ground make sure that they are planted in a rockery, on a slope or if on flat ground; grow them in a mound so that rain will drain away quickly.

Aeonium
The Aeonium species is one particular succulent that has its growing season in the winter and is dormant in the summer. When dormant the rosettes close up very tightly so it looks different in the summer compared to winter. (see below).  Most Aeonium also flower during the winter months as well.​

Dormant Aeonium Aboreum

dormant Aeonium rosette

Aeonium Aboreum

growing season – winter

Aeonium Aboreum Succulent Cacti

the rosette is large and open-winter

Agave
Agave’s have their main growing season during the summer months.  It is reported that they do require some moisture during the summer months, however, I do not water any of my Agave Attenuata during the summer, they survive on summer rainfall only. Agave do have a dormant season in the winter if you live in the colder parts of the world.  In Australia, however, they may still grow at a reduced rate depending on how cold the winter is.

Agave Attenuata Fire Wise Succulent

Echeveria
Most echeveria have their growing season during summer but for some varieties it is during spring. However, if winter and autumn months are fairly mild they will continue to grow slowly during their dormant period.

Echeveria pups Flowering Echeveria

This echeveria agavoides has been merrily growing (and flowering) through autumn to the beginning of winter.

Aloes
Some Aloes have their growing season in the winter and some are in the summer. It is on a species by species basis. Most, however, have their growing season in summer and flower in the winter.

An easy way to identify your succulent variety!

An easy way to identify your succulent variety!

So you have an addiction or just a mild love of succulents.  When you see a new succulent that you do not have; you purchase it straight away.  Disappointingly though it has no identification tag!  You know which species it is but not which variety. Sound familiar? So what is the quickest and easiest way to find out which variety of your beloved succulent you have?

There are of course some identification sites on the internet.  However, recently I found a quick and easy way to identify succulents that I had purchased.  Have you heard of Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social network that allows users to visually share images or videos by posting (known as ‘pinning’ on Pinterest) to their own or others’ boards.

Pinterest is a quick and easy way to identify your variety of succulent once you know its species.  All you need to do is type in the species in the ‘Search’ function.  ie : Echeveria, Crassula, Sedum, Graptoveria.

This will produce every photo on Pinterest that has Echeveria in the name.  Underneath each photo the variety name is displayed.  All you need to do is scroll through the photos until you see the Echeveria that looks like yours.  There is usually more than one photo of each particular variety as succulents can look different when they are grown in full sun/part shade have regular water/rainfall only etc etc.

Sub headings will appear under the search function which also may help with your search.You do not have to be a registered user to use Pinterest if you use the following link  http://pinterest.com/all . 

Some photos are links to websites where you can find out more about that particular photo.  Some photos are just that – photos of the succulent variety taken by a Pinterest user from their garden.  If you hover your mouse over a photo; white writing will appear at the bottom of the photo which will either give you a link to a website or say ‘photo uploaded by user’.

The photo quality is amazing.  The amount of photos that are available to view seem infinite.  One word of warning.  The accuracy of the names is not guaranteed.  However, if you scroll through the myriad of photos and you find numerous photos of the variety with the same name it should be safe to say that this name is correct. You can also check the origin of the photo to verify who is naming the variety.

Alternatively, if you have a favourite succulent and want to compare it to others of the same variety you can type in the variety ie  Graptoveria Fred Ives and there will be 100s of photos you can view of that variety.

Related posts: Where can I identify my Succulents?

 

Fire-wise succulents – surviving a bush fire with a succulent garden!

Fire-wise succulents – surviving a bush fire with a succulent garden!

If you are reading this blog you probably know that succulents are a water-wise plant but did you know that they are also ‘fire-wise’?? They have fire retardant properties, so they may get a little charred but will stay largely intact.

Due to their ability to store water in the their leaves and stems succulents do not really burn – they cook, bake or boil but they do not burst into flames or spread flames. While succulents cannot stop a fire, they can help protect your property from embers and slow the passage of flames.

Nothing can guarantee your home will be safe in a bush fire but you can make the area around it less flammable. If you grow succulents around your home you can create a fire shield around your house.

Succulents and cactus store water in their leaves, stems and roots making them a juicy, fire retardant barrier in the garden. If used on perimeters, as well as being integrated into your garden they become a “living safety shield” as an added protection against fire. Not only are they fire safe, drought tolerant and great to look at they can be planted to create a unique, lush, and picturesque landscape addition.

Which succulents are the most fire retardant?
Naturally the succulents with the best water storing leaves would be the best fire-wise succulents. They have a higher moisture content than hard, thin and needle-like leaves, making them less flammable. So with this in mind the succulents that would be the most fire-retardant are species such as:  Crassula, Aloe, Agave, Cotelydon and Sedums. Echeveria, Graptoveria, Pachyphytum and Graptopetalum plus any other succulents with water storing soft, thick, succulent or fleshy leaves are also flame resistant.

Agave Attenuata Fire Wise Succulent

Agave Attenuata

Succulent Garden not Pots

Cotelyldon

Aloe Succulent

Aloe

Do I need to use large succulents?
As long as the succulents have low flammability and are set well below the house windows and planted near the house any of the above succulents will provide a protective barrier.  Make sure you prune old or dead growth and remove any build up of dead leaves.  You can make a carpet of succulents (as per the photo) below to create a barrier.

Crassula Ovata Fire Wise Succulent

Crassula Ovata – Jade Plant

Aeonium Aboreum Fire Wise Succulent

Aeonium Aboreum

Aeonium Aboreum Fire Wise Succulent

Aeonium Aboreum

Article on succulents saving a house in a bush fire
I read an article on a house in Sante Fe, California that was one of only a few houses that survived a bush fire due to their succulent garden. See link below.

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/nov/08/home/hm-succulent8   

Which succulents can survive frost?

Which succulents can survive frost?

Succulents are known for their ability to survive without water and thrive in the heat of summer.  There are some succulents that will survive extreme heat ‘and’ cold temperatures.  There are some succulents that can survive snow and therefore there are some succulents that also can survive frost!

This is not surprising as many succulents originate from the mountainous areas of Europe.  So which succulents can survive frost?

In the Garden
For those of you who are growing succulents in the garden – there are a lot of succulents that survive frost. They will get frost damage and look unsightly for quite a few months but will eventually grow new leaves and the old frost damaged leaves will die back.  The succulents below were victims of a hailstorm (see post: Succulents DO NOT like hail!! ) Hail is like frost so far as freezing water is deposited on the leaves of the plant.

Hail damaged echeveria succulent

Echeveria

Echeveria Succulent hail damage

Echeveria

Succulent dying

Graptoveria

The same succulents below 8 months later looking healthy with no signs of the hail.  (This would be the same for frost.)

Echeveria Succulent, Colour Change Graptoveria

In pots
For those of you who are growing succulents in pots.  If you are worried about your succulents getting frost damage the best course of action is as follows:

  1. Do not water
  2. Move your pots under the eaves of your house

There are some general points to observe when it comes to frost and how to avoid damage to any succulent.

  • Do not water
  • Keep the soil as dry as possible (they are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry)
  • Ensure adequate ventilation
  • Make sure your soil has good drainage

Aloe
It always surprises me how hardy the Aloe species of succulent is. Aloe is a very frost hardy succulent. However,  there are some Aloe species that survive frost but if they are flowing when they are hit with frost their flowers will not survive.  Cut the flowers off as soon as you have noticed they have been effected.

Aloe succulent Aloe Succulent

Sempervivum
Sempervivums are hardy succulents once grown on roofs to protect against storms. They are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and therefore are used to cold temperatures, snow and frosts. These are one succulent species that should survive frost without incurring any damage.  They can withstand extremely cold temperatures. Most will be fine even in temperatures that plummet down to -30. This is for Sempervivum growing in the ground or rock crevices – ie in the garden.  If you are growing your sempervivum in pots you should still move pots under the eaves of the house. The temperature of soil in a pot can drop very quickly AND be a lot colder than soil in the ground.

Sempervivum in Snow

Sempervivum covered by snow

Sempervivum

Sempervivum

Other succulents that are frost hardy are Sedums, Lewisia and Delosperma

What to do if a frost is forecast
When a frost is forecast, do not water succulents. They are more likely to survive freezing temperatures if the soil is dry. If you  have time to plan ahead, keep the plants on the dry side well before the weather cools. If it is a succulent that stores water in their leaves they are plump with water, their cells are more likely to burst when the temperature drops.

Point to note:  succulents that do survive frost and cold temperature tend to struggle with very hot summers.

What can I do if my succulent has been damaged by frost?
If your succulents are damaged by frost, the affected leaves will probably turn white or a very light colour within a day or so. The damaged leaves then turn black and mushy as they rot.  If only part of a plant is damaged, then the rest of the plant should survive.  Usually it is only the top leaves that will be layered with frost and therefore the under leaves should not be affected.

When my succulents were affected I left the leaves on the plant rather than prune them so if another frost/hail incident happened the leaves that had already been damaged protected the leaves below. They do look unsightly but this is better than more leaves being affected and rotting the plant.

Once the risk of frost or hail has passed and warmer weather has arrived you can prune the affected leaves.

 

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Mathew.

Can succulents really survive in glass jars or terrariums?

Can succulents really survive in glass jars or terrariums?

Last year I wrote a post about growing succulents in glass jars. (See Post : Succulent Jars ) The majority of succulents should be grown outside (for most of the year) and receive some sunshine for part of the day. However, there are some succulents that will survive inside.  They do look great but you need to consider the following if do not want the succulent to die.

Water
This is the number 1 killer of succulents in terrariums or glass jars.  They are either over watered or under watered. My first succulent terrarium plants died within a couple months – I rarely watered it and it did not receive enough light.  I have learnt a lot since then. Here are a few tips:

  1. Do ‘not’ keep the soil damp/moist.  The soil needs to be wet but then needs to dry out before watering again.
  2. Do ‘not’ spray succulents with a water bottle.  The roots of the succulent need to receive water.  Spraying does not give the succulent enough water.
  3. Do ‘not’ let water pool in the bottom of the jar/bowl.  The roots of the plant will rot and the succulent will die if they sit in water. If you have put too much water in you can turn the jar/terrarium on the side and slowly tip out the excess.

Some succulents will let you know if they are not receiving enough water.  Their roots will grow above the soil.  So if you see a succulent with roots above the soil (as below) it means you need to ensure the roots below the soil are getting enough moisture.

Echeveria Elegans Succulent Jars

Tiny white roots above the soil indicate the succulent is not receiving enough water.

Lighting
Choose a well lit room that receives sun/bright light for most of the day.  A sunny window sill is ideal.  Ensure that as the sun gets lower in the sky in the winter that the window sill/room still gets the same amount of light.  If the succulent does not get enough light it will start to stretch (etiolate) and will look elongated and lanky.  If you have a heat wave and your succulents are receiving sun through a window then this could burn your succulent as the glass will intensify the sun and increase the amount of heat the succulent is receiving.

Humidity
If you have your succulent in the bathroom be aware that some succulents do not like the humidity created by the shower and it will die.  This happened to me with the succulent below.

succulent died from humidity

Which succulents are the easiest to grow in glass jars/terrariums?
So which succulents are the easiest/hardiest to grow in jars….. and look good!  My favourite is Echeveria Elegans. I have had a lot of success with these on a sunny window sill.  Aloe succulents are also great indoors, they are shade lovers so being inside in a bright room is ideal for them.  The one below has also coped with the humidity in my bathroom – so far. Jade is also a great succulent to grow in a jar.  The ones below have even flowered.  The only small problem would be that they would do so well that you will probably have to prune them fairly often.

Jade plant in succulent jar

Crassula Ovata Jade plant

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans

Jade plant grown in jar

Crassula Ovata (Jade)

Aloe Succulent in jarAloe

Aloe Vera

Aloe Succulent

Aloe

I water my jars once a week in the summer and once a fortnight in the winter.  I use a tablespoon measure and put one tablespoon on the small jars and two tablespoons on the larger ones..  The good thing about glass is that you can see the water wetting the soil and therefore see when it has dried out also you can see the roots in the soil.

So, yes you can grow succulents in jars but you need to be vigilant with regards to the water.  Also be aware that the succulents will grow and could possibly outgrow the jar.

 

What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?

What is the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria succulent?

The name Graptoveria is a combination of Echeveria and Graptopetalum. It is a hybrid between the two plants. Like most people I thought these plants were another Echeveria variety rather than a hybrid between two genera.  So how do you tell the difference between an Echeveria and a Graptoveria and is there a difference in their growing conditions and care?

Growing Conditions
Most Graptoveria are low growing and normally grow with a clump-forming habit.  Their growing period is in the Summer, they are drought tolerant, can withstand a full sun position and can grow in part shade.  They also tolerate wet winters. For those of you who live in colder climates they have a good cold tolerance too. So, does that sound familiar,?  Basically, they have the same growing habit as an Echeveria.

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Both Graptopetalum and Echeveria come from the same Crassulacae family. As with Echeveria there are many different varieties of Graptoveria. Like Echeveria there are some varieties with very plump/thick leaves and there are also  some with very thin flat leaves.

Graptoveria Succulent Graptoveria Succulent Graptoveria succulent

Problems
I thought one of my Graptoveria was dying when the stem shrivelled up and died. (see below)  I waited to see what happened – as many other succulents have revived and survived after looking dead.  Not too surprisingly the plants rosettes put down new roots and continued to grow as separate plants.  Why did the stem shrivel up? – I’m not 100% sure, research suggests it was probably due to high summer temperatures and not enough water.

Graptoveria dying shrivelled stem on Graptoveria Succulent

Sometimes the leaves on a Graptoveria may look blotchy.  This is normal when they are changing colour from summer to winter.

How do you tell the difference between a Graptoveria and Echeveria?
Apparently the only way you can tell the difference between an Echeveria and Graptoveria is by the flower. The flower is neither an Echeveria or a Graptopetalum flower. The two photos on the left are a Graptoveria flower: the petals open out wider, they have spots on them and the stamen reaches outside the petal. On the right are the Echeveria flower.

Conclusion
Other than the flower there really is not much difference between an Echeveria or a Graptoveria.   The only other very small difference that I have noticed (in my experience) is that the Echeveria may cope with higher temperatures in a full sun position than a Graptoveria would.  Hence, the shrivelling stem situation that I had occur last year.  So if you buy a succulent from a hardware store that just says ‘ succulent’ on the name tag -or you are given a nameless Echeveria or Graptoveria succulent and you are unsure of what it is, do not worry!, treat it the same and it will survive.  Alternatively, you could try and identify the plant online (see post: Where can I identify my Succulents? ).  Make sure you look under the Echeveria and Graptoveria category though!