Succulent success

by Adam Pasco

I can't be the only one looking for foolproof plants to brighten the patio during summer, but it's always nice to try something a little different too.

AgaveI can't be the only one looking for foolproof plants to brighten the patio during summer, but it's always nice to try something a little different too.Traditional summer bedding has its place, but it does demand regular attention.

Daily watering, weekly feeding and frequent deadheading do create more work at a time when, to be honest, there are other things I'd rather be doing in the garden. Riding to the rescue have come a growing assortment of succulents - more unusual plants with very few demands.

It all started a few years back when my jade plant (Crassula argentea) was put outside so that a summer shower could wash dust from its thick fleshy foliage (tap water just isn't the same, as it leaves a white deposit of limescale when it dries). There it stayed, long after the shower had gone, and my search began for more succulents to join it. Every year my collection has grown...a nice compact haworthia, some lovely aeoniums, sedums, echevaria, more crassulas, and this year joined by several agave.

Aeoniums are wonderfully generous succulents, as they can be propagated so readily from their rosettes by cutting them from a parent plant and pushing into pots of gritty compost to root.

Many succulents are hardier than often recognised, though you need some nerve to risk leaving them out all winter as an experiment. Some will simply turn to mush when touched by frost, so I find them a home on a bright bedroom windowsill that remains frost free. One of my neighbours has several succulents planted out permanently in a bed, and provided the drainage is sharp so that they don't get waterlogged, they do not appear to mind the cold.

I prefer growing mine in pots, moving them around every few weeks to create a fresh display. Come autumn these will be carried into my unheated greenhouse (probably before the end of October), and only need an occasional and very sparing watering during winter to keep them going. Next May they'll move back outside - a little bit bigger and bolder - to be joined by more succulent acquisitions. Now, which varieties should I try next?

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Gardeners' World Web User 24/09/2007 at 14:15

I don't know this particular aeonium, and can't find a reference for umbellata either. However, if this is similar in nature to other aeoniums then it is quite normal for the lower leaves of every rosette to fade, turn brown and fall. This leaves a bare length of stem below it, and gradually the rosettes of leaves sit at the end of ever lengthening stems. This does add to the character of the plant, but if they grow too long then these can be cut off and used as cuttings. Just cut off a rosette with about 7.5cm of bare stem below it, and push this into a pot of gritty compost to root. Aeoniums can survive with very little water, so do take care not to overwater!

Gardeners' World Web User 25/09/2007 at 20:04

I'm a great fan of succulents too, and have quite a few different ones now,I keep them in my sunny conservatory and outside in the summer. All of them at some point have had a tern outside and all seem to do well. They are so easy to propergate that you can keep rejuvanating your displays. I have a few different Aloes which are fantastic when they flower, I even got an Aloe Vera to flower, really tall it was!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/09/2007 at 17:55

I have a beautiful echeveria Duchess of Nuremberg with wonderful pink foliage. It has one large rosette and I would like to propagate it as it does not make babies. Any advice please?

Gardeners' World Web User 01/10/2007 at 16:22

In answer to Paula's question about propagating a particular echeveria, I would think that new plants will grow from just a leaf inserted into gritty compost, but check right underneath the rosette on the stem as there may be some babies forming.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/10/2007 at 14:31

Pretty well everything you ever wanted to know about Salvias, Linda, can be found at Robin's Salvias. He mentions Mystic Spires and many, many others.

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