Succulents do so much to add interesting shapes, colors and textures to your garden. Rainbows of rosettes like Echeverias and Aeoniums. The striped, sword-like leaves of Sansevierias and Agaves. Other-worldly flowers, like the fiery spikes of Aloes. At Evergreen Nursery you’ll find a huge selection to accent your landscape, from tiny 2-inch pots to 24-inch boxes, and everything in between.
Succulents are touted as being very easy-care plants. But can you stick them in the ground and forget about ‘em? Not quite. We think of succulents as sun and heat loving plants that grow wild in the desert with abandon, but they do have conditions that need to be met, and not all succulents are created equal. Some grow better in shade and are even susceptible to sunburn. Some require more frequent watering than others. Here are a few basic rules to keep in mind:
Avoid overwatering. Succulents soak up water and store it in their leaves. Too much water can lead to rot. Well-drained soil is an absolute must to prevent roots from getting soggy. A good soil mix for succulents is 3-parts potting soil, 2-parts coarse sand, and 1-part perlite. If you’re planning a container garden, make sure pots have adequate holes for drainage and a layer of gravel at the bottom of the container. Always water at the base of the plants, to avoid an accumulation of water on leaves.
Do water deeply – but not too frequently. The frequency will vary depending on conditions like temperature and humidity, so keep an eye on the soil and allow the top few inches to dry out between waterings, but always err on the dryer side when watering. It is easier to bring a plant back from drought stress than it is from rot.
Give them space. Leave space between plantings to allow air to circulate. Overcrowding increases humidity and prohibits leaves from drying after watering. As plants grow and become crowded, thin beds by pruning branches or relocating plants. Weeding between plants will also be easier if they aren’t too close together.
Give them the right amount of sun. When planning your succulent garden, find out how much sunlight your plants require. Group plants with similar sun/shade requirements. Although most require at least 6-8 hours of sun per day, some require more protection from the hotter part the day.
As a general rule, red, blue, and gray colored plants are more sun tolerant. Large agaves like Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (Blue Glow Agave) and Agave geminiflora (Twin-Flowered Agave), and aloes such as Aloe striata (Coral Aloe) and Aloe ‘Grassy Lassie’ (Grassy Lassie Aloe) tolerate full sun. Euphorbia Tiruacalli (Sticks on Fire) and Senecio Mandraliscae (Blue Chalk Sticks) also do well in full sun.
Succulents that do best in partial shade tend to be either variegated or lighter in color. A few that like shade are Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (Elephant Food), Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ (Sunburst Aeonium), Sempervivum arachnoideum (Hens and Chicks), and Euphorbia milli (Crown of Thorns). If you see brown to black spots on leaf tips, your succulent may be sunburned!
Don’t overfeed. Fertilize succulents at the beginning of their growing season, usually in the spring, with Gro-Power - an organic based fertilizer that is milder than regular fertilizers and will last longer in the soil.
Avoid freezing temperatures. The majority of succulents don’t like freezing temperatures, so be sure to know your plants and what temperatures they can tolerate. Protection in colder climates is always best.
For more information on choosing and caring for succulents, come visit us at Evergreen Nursery in Carmel Valley, Blossom Valley or Oceanside. If you'd like to find some great companion plants to add to your succulent garden, check out our flip book, Companion Plants for Succulents.