How to Save Time, Money & Water with Succulent Gardening

Succulent gardening is a trend with staying power. With thick, water-resistant skin, massive water-holding cells and expansive root systems succulents are a low-maintenance choice. Since they thrive with little attention, especially new gardeners can enjoy success with succulent gardening.

succulent gardening

Here paddle plant is combined with smaller-leaved jade plants.

Why Succulents are So Hardy

Most succulents have protective surface hairs and waxy cuticles to retain water and ease sun stress. Cold-tolerant species can survive through low temperatures so check plant tags when you buy them to know the correct temperature range. And evergreen varieties put on a nice winter display.

With their ability to thrive in challenging locations, succulents grow from the desert to alpine steppes. For example, they grow from Mediterranean scrublands and the coastal plains to the tundra.

Therefore, you can bring unique textures and character into your garden with succulents. Try the spiky habit of the agave or the ground-hugging rosettes of sempervivum. Or try the mat-forming ice plant and the mounding shapes of hardy prickly pear. Some succulents offer vibrant flower color—a trademark of many fast-blooming desert plants.

succulent gardening

You can easily see the protective prickly points on this aloe. Aloe is an easy succulent to grow. GettyImages

3 Tips for Successful Succulent Gardening

Most succulents are long-lived, so plant wisely and you’ll save yourself money having to buy replacement plants.

1 Full sun is a must. Site your plants where they’ll receive at least six hours or more of unobstructed sun each day.

2 Sharply draining soil is vital to your plants’ ability to thrive. This type of soil does not hold water well. In nature it’s often partially sandy or pebbly. You can create a homemade mix consisting of one part fine potting soil to two parts pumice or chicken grit.

3 Leave them alone or in reality, remember that succulents survive with limited water and little to no supplemental food in nature. New plantings require moderate moisture when becoming established (for a couple of weeks), but established plants require spare water during the growing months and no water during dormant months. Monthly feeding with diluted all-purpose liquid feed is more than enough for most succulents.

Succulents You Can Grow

• For something low-growing and rock-garden perfect, try the diminutive Rosularia, which looks like a miniature Sempervivum with tiny mat-forming rosettes.

• The tightly bunched Rosularia platyphylla (Zones 5-10) is vibrant green and pairs well with Rosularia serpentinica (Zones 5-9), a Turkish native with deep green rosettes tipped with dark red.

• Fringed, reddish-green ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’, soft silvery pink ‘Hullabaloo’, or Sempervivum calcareum (Zones 5-10)—a native of the French Alps with extra-large, blue-green rosettes with burgundy tips.

• Hardy Delosperma Red Mountain® Flame (Zones 6-9) and prickly-but-pretty Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa, Zones 4-9).

• Mexican hairgrass (Nassella tenuissima, Zones 6-9) or urchin-esque Fescue ‘Siskiyou Blue’ (Zones 5-9)

Save Time, Money & Water

Succulents are low-care and naturally thrive when left alone. You get more time to enjoy your garden with less work.

Some succulents are perennial, and if planted in the right location you won’t be buying new plants for that spot year after year. That’s money saved!

And all succulents are drought-tolerant which means little watering is necessary. So you won’t spend extra water dollars or worry if the rain holds off.

Jessie Keith is a horticulturist, writer and garden photographer based in Wilmington, Delaware. This post is excerpted from a feature in the September/October 2015 issue of Horticulture which you can download here.

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