Adding Character with Succulents



We do succulents at The Gardens.  Lots of succulents.  From adorable mini 2” containers, to five gallon specimen varieties.  Making beautiful potted arrangements for our customers comes along with the territory.  Our talented staff spends hours every day creating everything from stately entry way potted arrangements, to sweet little table top gifts.  It has become a niche item for us that have had the opportunity to experiment with and adapt.  Since we are well versed in the succulent world there are a few tidbits you may find useful. 



Not all succulents are equal.  People think dry, arid, desert sun growing conditions.  There are varieties that do better in coastal climates free from frost, such as Aeoniums.  High desert varieties do best in our valley where the sun is hot in the summer, and frost becomes a danger in the winter.  Select species of Semperviviums, Sedums and some Echeverias if you do not want to shade your plants in the summer months or cover them when it freezes.  If you have your potted arrangements under the cover of a patio you can choose a broader selection without worrying about special conditions. 



How to plant:

Succulents by definition store extra water in their leaves, stems and roots.  They are the camels of the plant world.  For this reason they absolutely do not need or want extra water.  You can let the soil stay completely dry for a couple of days before you need to water again.  To avoid supplying too much water to your plants there are several steps to follow to ensure success.  If using a shallow dish or non-draining container create a base layer of rocks.  This layer will keep the roots from sitting in water if you accidentally overwater.  Above the rocks apply a thin layer of horticulture charcoal.  This will help absorb excess moisture and prevents bacterial growth.  Then add your planting medium.  Avoid using standard potting soil.  Regular potting soil is designed to have a high water holding capacity.  We have a cactus/succulent blend comprised of potting soil, sand and pumice.  These three products combined creates an ideal environment to provide nutrients to the succulents, supply adequate drainage, and absorb excess moisture. 

Create unique plant compositions:

You do not have to create a potted arrangement only using succulents.  Mix and match different varieties of plant material with succulents to add textural depth.  The trick to creating a unique mixed planting is selecting items that can handle low water conditions. 


Here are a few of my favorites.

Anigozanthos – affectionately called “Kangaroo Paws,” these whimsical plants create an eye catching pop of color that resonates with eclectic succulent combinations.  Native to Australia these require little water, but do best in the valley if given some afternoon shade in the summer.  The foliage on most varieties reach 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide, but the flower spikes can come in multiple heights.  Their thick grass-like leaves allow you to plant succulents up to the base of the plant so you do not need to leave a two foot bare spot around the plant.    

Tall varieties – dramatic flower spikes on these varieties can reach 4’ to 6’ tall.  The narrow green stem ends with a cluster of fuzzy “paw” like flowers.  ‘Big Red’ and ‘Red Cross’ produce rich red hues, while ‘Harmony’ creates a golden yellow flower.

Short varieties – most of the “bush” species will have a more compact flowering habit, only reaching 2’ tall.  Coming is red, yellow, pink, and orange shades, there are many dwarf varieties to choose from. 



Grasses – many ornamental grasses can easily be paired with succulents to produce a dramatic textural contrast.  ‘Hamlen’ fountain grass has a rich green color with a tidy dense habit.  Small oat like spikes emerge in the fall.  Blue Oat Grass offers a silvery blue tone that can play well with gray hues of many succulents. 


Phormiums – these upright evergreen perennials have sword-like leaves that contrast with the mounding habit of most succulents.  Dwarf bronze varieties like ‘Jack Spratt’ does well in containers.  A new favorite called ‘Black Rage’ offers a bold color scheme in potted arrangements or in the landscape. 

Succulents offer a lot of character and interest to your patio and landscape.  Start making your own succulent garden to create with. 




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