Sunday, December 4, 2022
Dec. 4, 2022

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Gardening with Allen: Succulents easy to grow, maintain

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I have a friend with a lovely collection of succulents. Could you give me suggestions for making a successful collection of my own that I could enjoy inside and move outside on my patio when the weather warms?

Succulents make very attractive indoor plants that will also grow outside in many situations. They are low maintenance and relatively easy to grow. They are even a good choice for children to learn to enjoy plants and learn responsibility at the same time.

Succulents are plants with leaves that are thickened, fleshy and engorged. They require a more limited supply of water, similar to cactus. They are primarily grown for their colorful leaves, but some do also have attractive flowers.

If I were starting a new collection of succulents I would choose a large container 12 to 18 inches in diameter. I would make sure it has good-size drain holes, preferably with an attached saucer for catching drain water. Fill with soil prepared for cactus. If that is not available, add sand or vermiculite to ordinary potting soil to increase drainage. Succulents will grow in regular potting soil as long as you are careful to not overwater. I would recommend using timed-release fertilizer such as Osmocote.

Plant taller plants toward the center with shorter ones around the outside. You may want to create a pattern by placing two plants of one variety across from each other or at equal intervals around the outside. Leave space because plants will multiply and grow larger.

For children, a smaller 4- to 5-inch container with a single plant would be more appropriate. They can watch as the plant multiplies with daughter plants.

One very good place to plant succulents outside is in rock gardens and in stone walls. They grow very well when tucked into spaces between rocks. Some sedums or stonecrops make good ground covers.

Echeveria is the most popular variety of succulents. Plants grow in rosette form. They are often referred to as “hen and chicks” because they develop smaller side shoots. Colors range from blue to pink, red and purple. Morning Beauty is light blue with pink tips. Chroma is rosy red. Lipstick has pointed green leaves with red edges. Black knight has deep purple leaves.

Sempervivum has a similar rosette form. Kalanchoe, crassula, aevium and sedum have attractive flowers. Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) is actually a succulent that blooms heavily.

You can usually find a selection of varieties of succulents at full-service nurseries and garden stores year-round. I recently noticed a nice selection of succulents at Hi-School Hardware in Minnehaha. Extensive selection can be found online.

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