Succulent plants

Succulent plants: A Desert Escape

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Succulent plants have been the darling of drought-plagued gardeners for many, many years. With their fleshy, water-holding foliage, succulents require very little maintenance and are perfect for xeriscaping (landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental irrigation.) Ten to fifteen years ago, the only succulents available to an East Coast gardener like myself were hens-and-chicks, sedums, and the occasional jade plant. Succulents weren’t in our gardening repertoire simply because they didn’t need to be. Most years, we have plenty of water, so in our minds, succulents were only meant for places like Albuquerque, Tucson, and San Diego. But, boy, have times changed!

Lucky for us, these fascinating and beautiful plants have recently become available to a wider audience of gardeners. I’m not sure when the “succulent train” left the station and started heading east, but it’s been chugging along for a couple of years now, picking up lots of fans along the way. My guess is that Debra Lee Baldwin‘s terrific book, Designing with Succulents (Timber Press, 2007), played a big role in helping spread the word about these spectacular plants and encouraging people to experiment with them. Succulent fever has since swept the continent, and gardeners everywhere are discovering the joys of growing these uber-cool plants.

Related post: Fancy plants: Our current obsessions

Plant breeders and garden designers have also played a big role in promoting the use of water-wise succulents in the landscape. So, too, have growers and retail nurseries. One of those growers, Costa Farms, recently asked Savvy Gardening to participate in a container gardening challenge to share with our readers just how beautiful container-grown succulents can be. Their Desert Escape Collection is one of several plant collections the company offers, and it is chock full of amazing succulents and cacti.

Related post: A container growing cheat sheet

In our container design, pictured below, you’ll find African milk tree, zebra haworthia, variegated jade, Echiverias, flapjacks, and many more. We loved putting these plants together, using antique French dough bowls and rusted rebar for our containers. If you’d like to experiment with succulents in your own landscape, you can likely find many different varieties at your local nursery – all thanks to that “succulent train” and growers like Costa Farms!

Container of succulents

Succulent plants make great container gardens. Their beautiful foliage requires little maintenance and only occasional watering.

Do you grow succulents in your garden? Which varieties are your favorite? 

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4 Responses to Succulent plants: A Desert Escape

  1. Em says:

    Beautiful blog! I live in Boston and I just hopped aboard the succulent train a few years ago after seeing them all over pinterest! I keep mine indoors in a south facing window but the plants seem to stretch out due to a lack of sunlight. Do they also behave this way outdoors in other less sunny locations, or do they have an easier time getting their sun needs met? Also, how do you move yours indoor for the winter? Repot into smaller temporary “winter homes” or do you just roll the wheel barrow straight into your living room? 😉 just kidding, but I’d love to know what to do with my succulents in the winter. I’ve never tried knitting a sweater for a cactus, but I fear it may use it’s own needles to knit my fingers. (Ouch!) Would love some advice. Thanks for all the info and inspiration!

    • Hi EM –
      Yes, some succulents will stretch for light in low light conditions. Outdoors during the summer is typically the best place for them. I move my pots of succulents into the garage for the winter here in Pennsylvania. We have three small windows in the garage so there is a little light that comes in, but it’s very cool in there (it stays above freezing during even the coldest outdoor temps). Because of the cool temperatures, the plants pretty much it dormant all winter long. Then, I take them outdoors during the day when the weather warms in April. Once the danger of frost has passed in May, they stay outdoors day and night.

  2. Em says:

    Silly me, now I see those beautiful succulent arrangements you have pictured are planted in some sort of vintage wooden troughs and not a wheelbarrow as I’d originally thought. Part of my previous comment might not have made sense without some clarification on my part. Whoops, sorry! Lovely arrangement though, the planters are very unique. I’ve never seen anything like them. What line of work were they in before they became flower pots?

    • Thank you. The wooden planters are antique French dough bowls. These two had already cracked so I didn’t mind using them as planters, but I would never have used them, if they were in better shape!

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