Gardening: Get creative with succulents' huge range
SUCCULENTS are the darling of the plant world just now, and with good reason. They are really easy to grow, and the incredible array of form and colour means that you can have great fun creating beautiful arrangements.
Succulents have the ability to store water in their leaves, stems and roots. So they can cope with extended dry periods by drawing on the water resources that they have stashed away in the good times. Another really good thing about succulents is that they are (mostly) really easy to propagate.
Succulents can be grown either inside or outside but they do need plenty of light. Most require either filtered sun most of the day or at least a few hours of direct sun each day. Many will survive quite well in full sun, but in summer most appreciate some protection from the hot afternoon sun.
The best choices for indoor positions are those species that just require good light. Some of the aloes, scilla, gasteria, haworthia, rhipsalis and zygocactus will work well, as do most of the jade plants. Lots of the hanging types of succulents, like string of pearls and chain of hearts, prefer a brightly lit spot with little or no direct sun at all. Two really popular ones at the moment are both forms of euphorbia. The Ghost Cactus (euphorbia lacteal) has extraordinary pale green and white upright stems. The Milk Cactus (euphorbia trigona) is also upright but its stems are green or red with small leaves on the sides.
Those lovely succulents that look a bit like fleshy rose blooms are often types of echeverias. They usually do not thrive indoors for extended periods.
Usually, we recommend planting succulents in a container that has drainage holes because if they stay too wet, they will rot and die. But it is possible to grow them in terrariums, bottles and all sorts of other containers without drainage holes. Ideally, put a layer of charcoal or gravel in the bottom of the container before adding a potting mix suitable for succulents. You will need to carefully control the amount of water that enters the container because there is no way for excess to escape. So position it out of the rain, and water very sparingly.
Try planting a variety of different leaf shapes, textures and colours together, and fill the spaces in between with coloured pebbles. Or group a collection of small pots each containing a single specimen. Succulents lend themselves to really creative plantings, so have fun.
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