There’s a lot to love about gardening with succulents. These attractive plants are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, making succulents ideal for busy gardeners of all ages. Under the right growing conditions, these carefree plants rarely suffer from diseases or pests. To get you started, here are several helpful tips for growing succulents.
Mixed succulents photo via Teresa O’Connor
What’s a succulent?
Succulents are basically plants that store water in their thick, fleshy stems and leaves. Included in this group of plants are cacti, aloe and many other species. Succulents come in a wide array of colors, shapes and textures, as you can see above.
Many succulents flower in different colors, but the plants are often valued most for their foliage. The leaves can be variegated and come in colors ranging from blue-gray and green to yellow, red and pink.
Raised bed photo via Teresa O’Connor
Raised beds or gardens
Succulents require excellent drainage. If you have a heavy clay soil, consider gardening with succulents in raised beds, which have plenty of coarse sand or pea gravel mixed with organic matter. Don’t mulch heavily with wood chips, as this could retain too much moisture in rainy areas.
The different Crassula ovata plants (shown above) are grown in a raised bed with Furcraea, an agave-like succulent shrub with long, swordlike variegated leaves. Furcraea is a native to the Caribbean and drought-tolerant once established. It’s hardy in Zones 10 to 11.
Crassula ovata is also called jade plant or money plant. Most Crassulas are only hardy in Zones 9 to 10, but they make good winter houseplants in colder climates.
For hardier succulents that survive outdoors in Zones 4 to 5, consider hens and chicks (Sepervivum spp.), sedum (such as ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Ruby Glow’) and prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.)
Container succulent photo via Teresa O’Connor
Gardening with succulents in containers
Succulents grow well in containers, which makes it convenient for bringing the plants indoors during colder weather. Above are pots of different Aeoniums and Crassula growing cheerfully alongside lavender and thyme on a metal plant stand. Terracotta containers are excellent for gardening with succulents, because they provide good drainage.
When growing succulents in containers, use a fast-draining planting mix designed for cacti and succulents. Or, consider adding perlite to increase drainage in your potting soil.
Contemporary design photo via Teresa O’Connor
Many succulents tend to be shallow rooted, so they grow well in shallow containers with drainage. Cover drain holes with fine screens so the soil doesn’t wash out.
Experiment with mixing succulents like in the photo shown above, with agaves, echeverias, sedums and other drought-tolerant plants for a dramatic effect. Or, plant a single species in a pot to showcase its beauty.
Photo via FarOutFlora/Flickr Creative Commons
Think outside of the pot with succulents. These shallow-rooted plants can be used on wreaths, vertical walls and even outdoor tables, as you can see above.
Whether you enjoy succulents in containers or in the ground, these carefree plants offer outstanding color, texture and form to your garden.
More resources for gardening with succulents
- A look at an amazing vertical garden with 500 succulent plants, showing 150 species, in Ventura, California.
- Helpful tips for succulent garden design.