• Succulents in the Sierra foothill garden

    by  • September 11, 2016 • Drought tolerant plants, Plant Profiles

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    9 Reasons we love succulents here!

    Why do we love these fun and fleshy little rosettes called succulents? Is it because they magically multiply? Or that they are fascinatingly cute?

    Dragon's Blood sedum, Ghost Plant, Finger Aloe, closeup

    Dragon’s Blood sedum, Ghost Plant, Finger Aloe, closeup

    As gem-like accents to the landscaping in your garden, succulents add a beautiful contrast to rustic and rusty or galvanized containers. Hens and chicks, or Echeverias and sedums do just as well planted in the ground and they fill a space between rocks and edgings charmingly.

    1. They’re low-maintenance. I mean REALLY low.

    Succulents like well drained soil to the extreme. They will grow very well on a half soil, half gravel mix. This give them the drainage they need.

    White sedum Sedum album

    White sedum Sedum album

    Succulents come from desert and semi-desert areas and so need very little water. If you live where there is summer rain, do not water them yourself at all.  Once planted, no care!  Even in the western US, succulents can survive in containers when no other type of plant will.

     

    Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Coral' succulent

    Sedum rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’ succulent

    This sedum, above, started out in the container and made itself at home in the surrounding soil.  Now it fills the bed with ‘evergreen green.’

     

    This 'Lemon Coral' succulent began in the container,...but wanted to 'travel'

    This ‘Lemon Coral’ succulent began in the container,…but wanted to ‘travel’

    Watering

    • Do not over water. Barely splash them with water in the summer. A succulent should never be allowed to sit in water, even in winter.
      •  Signs of watering problems:
        • Overwatering
          • Yellow leaves
          • rotted stem
        • Underwatering
          • brown spots on the leaves
          • leaf drop

    Under watered:

    This Ghost plant now needs a drink,...the leaves close up in a 'drought'

    This Ghost plant now needs a drink,…the leaves close up in a ‘drought’

     

    Over watered:

    Overwatered succulents look they want to sunbathe, lying flat out to release moisture

    Over watered succulents look they want to sunbathe, lying flat out to release moisture

    The Succulent Garden says, ” If you are unsure as to how often to water your new plant, leave it until the plant starts to shrivel slightly or go limp, then water well. Repeat this process. You will soon learn the pattern.”

    Succulents always perform well with the ‘less is more’ philosophy.

    More Growing Tips:

    • Succulents love sun and heat.
    • Make sure there is good drainage. Drill holes in the container you use and add sand or gravel half and half.
    • Trim off leggy stems for a bushy plant. Some tall forms of sedum like ‘Autumn Joy, can be cut to the ground in fall.

    2. They come in all kinds of colors.

    Your garden won’t lack for color when planted with a bed of succulents,…They come in green, pink, red and even black!

    Dragon's Blood sedum, Ghost Plant, Finger Aloe

    Dragon’s Blood sedum, Ghost Plant, Finger Aloe

     

    3. They’re U-Neek.

    We adore the exotic shapes, sizes and colors you can find in succulents and they are perfect for filling in the corners of “juntique” and recycled containers. Any kind of unique container shines when it comes to succulents.

    Three California Dudleya live in a brick

    Three California Dudleya live in a brick

     

    Stunning Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in September

    Stunning Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in September

    After the larger succulents stem dry at the end of the year, you can trim them down to the ground if you wish or they seem to just fall off and get raked away during Winter. .

    See below to see how Sedum grows each Spring

    Sedum sprouts in early Spring

    Sedum sprouts in early Spring look like miniature cabbages

     

    Sedums are wonderful spillers

    Sedums are wonderful spillers

     

    If you’re lucky and the conditions are right, your succulents will bloom with the most exotic flowers!  Cobweb houseleeks are a favorite, shown below.

    Cobweb Houseleks, Sempervivum arachnoideum, in an old mop bucket

    Cobweb Houseleks, Sempervivum arachnoideum, in an old mop bucket

     

    4. They’re reasonably priced.

    You can find succulents in teeny tiny pots and six paks.  Sometimes they are sold in flats that contain hundreds!  Make sure your succulents are rated for your outside zone. Tropical succulents will not live outside during winter.

    Succulents in six pakss

    Succulents in six paks

    Succulents are even thriftier when you share with friends.  This is also a great way to see which varieties are hardy in your area. Grow what your neighbors grow, then snip some and pass them along to your friends, like this one below, from a cutting.

     

    Sedum kamtschaticum 'Golden Carpet' from a neighbor

    Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Golden Carpet’ from a neighbor

     

    5. You can collect a bunch and still be considered normal

    Are you easily addicted to plants?  It will be difficult, once you begin, to stop planting these lovable low—growers.

    Each hypertufa trough has a different succulent!

    Each hypertufa trough has a different succulent!

    Ever since I began making hypertufa ‘concrete’ pots, I’ve become devoted to succulents since they pair so well with these rustic containers. I have one on each step leading down to my patio!

     

    Cup in sedum wheelbarrow

    Cup in sedum wheelbarrow

    I have a rock wall and wherever there is a crevice I plant my hens and chicks there. I keep on moving the “babies” to bare spots. Some of them grow where there is hardly any soil. They get plenty of sun and warmth from the rocks. They have multiplied over the years and I can’t find any more places to put them.  So now they will start going in fun containers.

    Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’

    Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’

     

    Ghost plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense, grows in a handmade hypertufa trough

    Ghost plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense, grows in a handmade hypertufa trough

     

    Succulents in a huge old chicken feeder

    Succulents in a huge old chicken feeder

    6. They can live in pumpkins!

    In Autumn, when pumpkins and squash abound in the grocery store,…hollow one out for a Fall centerpiece. Fill the center with soil and plant a variety of succulents. A centerpiece like this will last a week or so on your dining room table….then just take the whole thing outdoors until the pumpkin turns soft.  At that point, simply ‘plant’ the entire thing in loose soil and pack around the plant…  The succulents will continue to grow..

    Pumpkin succulents

    Pumpkin succulents

     

    7. You can use them as house plants

    Succulents grow in low light and don’t need much soil to grow. Stick a cutting in a pot with no drain hole.  Even in a room with little natural light, your new succulent pot will grow and thrive for several months indoors!  You’ll notice that it may shoot up quickly and form a flower, but when it does, just plant it outdoors and start again with a new rosette.

    Tiny Johnny Jump-ups sprinkled amongst the succulents

    Tiny Johnny Jump-ups sprinkled amongst the succulents

     

    8. Succulents are survivors!

    You can rarely kill them unless you try hard!  Because of this, they are perfect for containers on hot summer patios.  They are excellent for those who travel.

    Pink and pearly Ghost Plant grows in the rock garden

    Pink and pearly Ghost Plant grows in the rock garden

    When we began to travel for our careers, I switched from annuals in patio pots to hardier perennials.  Even these would easily die, without the regular water needed when you’re home to watch.  I succeeded magnificently when I switched again to succulents and that’s when I fell in love with these fat and sassy friends.

    Cobweb houseleeks are cold hardy as you can see

    Cobweb houseleeks are cold hardy as you can see

    The most cold hardy succulents for our area are Echeverias, called Hens & Chicks, and Sedums, Graptosedums like pale grey Ghost plant and Sempervivums, also called Hens & Chicks and /or Liveforevers.  I like that name!

     

    Dragon's Blood sedum in the snow

    Dragon’s Blood sedum in the snow

    Delosperma (Ice Plant), a ground cover, and agave, a large, very sculptural and spiky plant are also very cold hardy.

    9.  And best of all:
    You can use their cuttings to grow more succulents.

    How?  Easy! Just snip off succulent rosettes leaving a 1 or 2 inch stem.   Set them in the shade for a day or two so the cut end can ‘callous over.’  Then simply poke them into gravelly soil up to their ‘necks’ and water.

    For small sedums, dig or pull some up from where they grow outdoors and replant in another area.  Water infrequently,…they don’t need much.

    Three succulents in three different shapes, white sedum, ghost plant and echeveria, all planted with cuttings

    Three succulents in three different shapes, white sedum, ghost plant and echeveria, all planted with cuttings

    When first purchased, Echeverias, the pinwheel or rosette shaped succulents, can be divided and planted in groups or even individually.

    In the case of Hens and chicks, the name for some Echeverias, the mother ‘Hen’ will sometimes die out and can be removed; the chicks that multiply around the ‘mom’ will continue to fill in.

    All the succulents, shown, grow in my Zone 7 garden in the foothills and are very cold and drought hardy.

    • Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Golden Carpet’
    • Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’
    • Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’
    • Sedum rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’
    • Cobweb houseleeks, Sempervivum arachnoideum
    • Finger Aloe, Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga ‘Flavida’
    • Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’
    • Ghost plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense
    • Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Joy’
    • California Dudleya, Dudleya pulverulenta
    • White sedum, Sedum album

    I hope you’ll try more succulents in your garden, both in containers and in the ground.  They are truly “Sierra survivors!”

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.