Succulent plants have become popular for good reasons: they are beautiful, drought tolerant and low maintenance.
These characteristics make them an optimal winter plant since they can be planted outdoors and used indoors as well.
Many succulents are available to choose from, but common characteristics include thick leaves to store moisture, interesting leaf forms and textures that add visual interest to a landscape or indoor garden container. Some types are spiny, while others droop or trail. Still others may have a bushy plant shape.
A succulent garden design can be appropriate for warm, temperate and cold season locations. When choosing one, consider location, drainage, soil type, moisture levels and growth habits. Succulents in cool season areas will do best in containers brought inside for the winter.
Some great outdoor succulent plants for beginners are sedums. These plants are easy to grow and adaptable to sunny and part shade locations. Sedums can be planted in cracks, crevasses and rock gardens. Sedums do not need to be brought indoors as they can usually withstand our cold winters.
When you plant succulents, choose a sunny location. Check the soil conditions to make sure it drains and is sufficiently porous. If not, mix in some sand to increase texture and drainage.
Use taller specimens at the center and plant the spreading species at the edges as groundcovers. Top the areas with a layer of pebbles or small rocks to act as mulch for weed prevention and moisture conservation.
One of the most popular sedums (also called stonecrops) is the “Autumn Joy” sedum. This tall sedum starts blooming in early fall with light pink blooms and gradually the colors deepen into an attractive red brown by seasons end. The ‘Autumn Joy’ is great for fall interest when other plants have peaked in the summer.
“October Daphne” and “Hens and Chickens” are other members of the sedum family that are beautiful in the garden in fall. The “Daphne” boasts fleshy blue leaves with hot pink flowers. The “Hens and Chickens” have tall and short rosettes of fleshy leaves. These are planted in containers or rock garden features.
Some sedum groundcovers ideal for outdoor use are gold moss and orange stonecrop. Both are low-growing covers, making them ideal for small spaces. “Gold Moss” has tiny yellow flowers and a creeping pattern to its growth. The orange-yellowing flowering stonecrops can be used as a groundcover or border plant.
Outdoor succulents usually prefer dry, rocky soil. They should receive regular watering with soil drying between regular watering.
The most common problem with succulents is rot, so keep the stems out of the soil and the leaves dry.
If you want to start succulents indoors, many varieties are available to choose from.
Agave and aloe plants are some popular indoor succulents and they have healing properties. They make excellent display plants in dish gardens and containers.
Many of the indoor succulents prefer a south-facing window and they can be brought outdoors during the summer. “Burros Tail,” “Christmas Cactus,” “Crown of Thorns,” “Jade Plant,” “Panda Plant” and “Snake Plant” are a few considered top-quality indoor plants.
Indoor succulents also need water. Although they can tolerate some neglect, they prefer water through their growing seasons during the spring and summer and they need to be planted in fast draining soil. Fertilize once a year during the warm season.
Gardeners prize succulents for their easy maintenance and water conservation. Plant some in your fall garden outside for winter interest and striking foliage and plant a few inside for an attractive houseplant design.
Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or email@example.com. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.