I was never a fan of grandma’s old “hen and chicken” plants. But like hosta and heuchera, new hybrids have come out in many exciting colors, color combinations, textures and forms which have really captured my attention. Different types of succulents with similar cultivation requirements are being combined to create interesting and colorful gardens that thrive in containers and areas that few other plants can. I like it when the leaves take center stage and the flowers seem to be an after-thought. Sedum, Sempervivum and the like are generically being called succulents. Before I started collecting succulents I was inspired and learned a lot about them from the Pinterest board I made. It allowed me to become exposed to a lot of different varieties, taught me about them and helped me find out where to get them. Although not as drought tolerant as cacti, they can survive under an extreme range of conditions and are well suited to be grown in decorative pots or containers that many other plants quickly grow out of or won’t tolerate, as long as good drainage is provided. If they are subject to too much water or poor drainage, they will rot. I have several decorative pots that I have not had luck growing much else in, so I decided to create several succulent gardens and finally put them to good use. This is the first year that I have gotten into succulent gardening and I have had mostly good luck, and have been propagating them as well, but I would not consider myself an expert. Some tips that have served me well are: good drainage, as I mentioned, cactus potting medium, don’t overcrowd (they will do that on their own) and provide as much sun as possible. Most all of my “gardens” contain tropical and hardy species combined, so they will have to be overwintered either in the house or greenhouse. I don’t know how the hardy species will take to being overwintered indoors, but I guess I will find out. An odd tip to propagation is that cuttings should be left out of the soil a few days to the point they are just about to wither before placing them in moist soil mix. If you put them directly into the soil they tend to rot. Really good drainage, like that provided by clay pots, coconut fiber pots, or Spanish, sphagnum moss over chicken wire allows you to put your succulents on the same watering schedule as the rest of your plants without having to worry about rotting. I’ve been drilling holes in decorative containers I have around the house. Their ease of propagation, hardiness, and inexpensive cost (not to mention how great they look) has caused a succulent explosion at Andrew’s Legacy.
One of my first attempts at creating a succulent garden was the living wreath. It was fool hardy for my first try as it is considered advanced, and it became one of my only failed attempts to date. Most instructions recommended using recently started cuttings, so the undeveloped root system can more easily pass through the wire that holds the wreath in place. I used mature plants and did significant damage to the root system. The wall I wanted to hang it on was in full shade. I thought I could bring it in and out of the shade and allow it to sun for a few days a week. This constant changing from sun to shade seemed to be the final factor of what did it in and the wreath only looked good for about a month, after which I disassembled it and saved what I could.
This is one of my first succulent gardens, now about 16 weeks old. I could never get anything to grow in this container, but the succulents seem to be happy there and include (l to r) Two-row Stonecrop ‘Tricolor’ (Sedum spurium), Kilimanjaro Senecio, Purple Crest Aeonium , Sedum nussbaumerianum, Sedum hispanicum - Tiny Buttons Sedum, Echeveria shaviana Pink frills and Sedum sieboldii variegated. I like the color and texture combination.
This is a succulent “living candelabra” I created from an old cast iron candelablra that I rarely used. I created the center form using chicken wire, secured it to the base using wire and lined it with Spanish moss. The soil drains and dries out very quickly, but the plants seem to be very happy. Varieties include; Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’, Echeveria shaviana Pink frills, Sedum nussbaumerianum, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Kalanchoe tomentosa, among others.
A close-up shot of the succulents in the candelabra in the daylight show the broad range of colors and textures that are availableand ccan be combined for an interesting effect.
There are many places you can order succulents on line, but I got mine locally. Pictured here are the succulents in the late spring at Sang Lee in Cutchogue. Peconic River Herb Farm in Riverhead also has a wide variety including tropical and hardy. Trimbles in Cutchogue has many hardy varieties. All these places offer the succulents alone in pots, or planted in many creative ways in interesting containers.
Here are some sedum that were propagated and are growing in coco fiber pots. The quick drainage these provide make the plants very happy. Succulents, including sedum are very easy to propagate. They do best when the cuttings are left on a table for a few days and allowed to wilt, then planted in a moist cactus potting medium and placed in full sun. If this process is not followed and you put them directly in moist soil as you would do with most other types of plants, they more than likely will rot.
This beautiful hand-thrown terra cotta pot includes an unusual Jade plant called “Hobbit.” The branches remind me of the ears on Shrek’s head.
Flowers on succulents are generally considered insignificant, many flower in unusual ways with unattractive or small flowers, but some are beautiful.
As far as I am concerned, the more colors in the variegation , the more interesting the plant. The focal point of this small garden is Kalanchoes fedtchenkoi, surrounded by sedums and common hen and chicken.
Bryphyllum diagremontianum, Kalanchoe, mother of thousands. Yes those are actually “babies” that grow on the edge of the leaves of the parent plant. They can be removed and planted into the soil to grow another plant. If left alone the babies will continue to grow and form roots until their weight will cause them to fall off.
A large blue-green succulent tops of a strawberry pot filled with Hen and chickens (sempervivum.)
A rare example of Agave Parryi, “Cream Spike” in a decorative terra cotta planter
I made so many planters filled with succulents I threw together a low table to keep some of them organized on the patio.