Succulent plants have always fascinated me no end.
My love for these fun little plants began when I was 4 or 5 years old. My "old" aunt loved them and had lots of different kinds that she shared with me. They were planted in cans, coffee pots and anything she could get her hands on that would hold dirt.
I loved all the fat little leaves and pretty colors, and still do. Only now with all the plant breeding that has been done, we have hundreds from which to choose, and the infinite colors in which they come are truly amazing. I wish she could see them. I often think, wouldn't we have fun!
Succulents are really coming into garden fashion, and this year it seems that every magazine you open has articles about them, along with beautiful pictures. I have been roaming all the garden centers and nurseries and have been blown away by all the varieties, colors and shapes. What fun! I have about broke the bank buying them and am having a ball planting all sorts of containers with them.
Everything you see says how easy they are, and in one sense they are, but there are some major drawbacks if you aren't aware of all their needs. I will share with you some of the things I have learned through the years concerning succulents.
Drainage is of prime importance. Make sure there are holes in the pots in which they grow.
Soil: Mix one-third to one half-perlite into your potting mix. Mulch with gravel.
Sun: Do not put them in full sun all day. In most cases, they do much better with morning sun and afternoon shade. Our sun with our humid climate burns them and discolors the foliage.
Shelter: They need a roof in winter (and summer, too, if it rains a lot). Many can take fairly cold temperatures, but ice will do them in. They should be brought into a warm greenhouse or into a house and kept warm. Lights are a must if you want them to stay well-shaped. A sunny window will work if we have plenty of sun. Otherwise, they will become misshapen and stringy.
Watering: Do not water when they are dormant (winter for most). I only water occasionally during winter, but no water would work for most. I say most because there are always exceptions. When you see the start of new growth, begin to water, but always let them dry out before watering again. Use a little bone meal or low-nitrogen fertilizer once a month or so in summer. They like fairly lean-growing circumstances.
Dangers: Birds love eating them. I have caught wrens and cardinals chowing down on mine, ruining them for ages. I have to protect them with chicken wire.
The very best situation for succulents would be under a covered porch or patio that gets morning sun — east or south exposure. They can also be placed under trees. Maybe your birds are better behaved than mine.
I have found that sedums are the easiest of the succulents to grow in our area and there are several that do well in the ground. Take a stroll through the IDEA Garden and look at some we have had growing there for years.
I suggest you grab up a few of these colorful pudgy little plants and enjoy the world of succulents.
Dee Bishop is a Smith County Master Gardener. She writes about plants growing within the Tyler Rose Garden.