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Sensational succulents

Sensational succulents
Cheryl Maddocks

Succulents have long been recognised as pot-plant superstars. They look good throughout the year, feature an enormous variety of leaf shapes and sizes and are low maintenance. Some even have beautiful flowers.

Perfect for time-poor gardeners, they won’t die if you are occasionally too busy to water them. And when released from the confines of containers, succulents can be used to create fantastic contemporary garden beds.

Succulents live naturally in dry and arid parts of the world so they are very waterwise and perfect for those hot, dry sunny areas in gardens where little else will grow. Known as xerophytes, they have developed storage structures in their leaves, stems or roots that hoard enough water to survive periods of drought.

Grow in pots

Grow in pots
Cheryl Maddocks

Succulents are very hard to kill but give them some TLC and you will be rewarded.

Position your succulent in a sunny spot. Lack of light will cause it to become elongated and turn the leaves pale, and eventually it will collapse.

Plant in a potting mix especially formulated for cacti and succulents.

Feed in spring with a six-month slow-release fertiliser such as Osmocote. Or use a soluble fertiliser in early spring, summer and autumn.

Water when the potting mix is nearly dry and do not overwater, as succulents dislike wet feet. Once established, a weekly watering is sufficient for most potted succulents.

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Grow in garden beds

Grow in garden beds
Cheryl Maddocks

Create a stunning contemporary garden bed with a mix of succulents.

Use different heights and shapes to create interesting foliage forms and combine them with waterwise perennials and shrubs for a low-maintenance bed.

Mulch around the succulents with black, greyor white pebbles for a stylish look and to prevent weeds from growing.

Prepare well-draining soil – a sloping bank is ideal. If drainage is a problem, use a raised bed. Do not overwater, as most succulents can survive on rainwater only.

Feed in spring and summer with an all-purpose plant food.

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Design ideas

Design ideas
Cheryl Maddocks

Group various types together with different leaf shapes and colours to create interesting displays in pots and garden beds.

Use any container that has drainage holes. It doesn’t have to be a garden pot – old shoes, baskets, teapots, tins, even old benches can all make interesting receptacles for succulents.

Plant flat, rosette-shaped succulents such as echeveria and sempervivums in low bowls.

Grow tall sculptural plants such as agave in large pots to make a statement.

Position low-growing succulents such as sedums, echeveria, Cotyledon orbiculata, sempervivum and Senecio serpens as groundcovers.

Establish succulents in hot, dry, sunny areas where it is difficult to get other plants to grow.

Arrange large succulents in a minimalist style with just a few sculptural plants set in areas of gravel or stone.

Display trailing succulents like rhipsalis, jelly bean plant and burro’s tail in tall urns or hanging baskets.

Grow succulents under eaves on hot, west-facing sunny walls.

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Increase supply

Increase supply
Cheryl Maddocks

Succulents are easy to propagate in spring and summer. Pot some for Christmas presents and swap extra cuttings with gardening friends. We show you how to increase your supply.

Offsets and suckers

Offsets are small plantlets that develop from the parent plant and are simply detached and replanted.

Suitable succulents: Some echeveria, aloes, agaves and sempervivums.

How to: Remove the parent plant and offsets from the pot or ground. Gently pull the offsets from the parent plant or cut them off with secateurs. Remove any old leaves around the bases and replant into new potting mix.

Stem cuttings

Succulents are one of the easiest plants to grow from stem cuttings.

Suitable succulents: Aeoniums, cotyledons and kalanchoes.

How to: Cleanly cut the stem from the parent plant to the length you want and place it in a dry, shady spot for about one week to callus. Then plant the cutting directly where you want it to grow.

Read on for 8 of the best succulents to grow.

Agaves

Agaves
Cheryl Maddocks

Agaves, especially the popular greyish green-leaved Agave attenuata, have a great architectural shape. Most have spines on their leaves so take care where they are placed.

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Echeverias

Echeverias
Cheryl Maddocks

Echeverias are great for pots or rock beds. There is a good choice of leaf colours, sizes and their bell-shaped flowers look good in a vase. They can withstand the cold if the soil is dry and they’re not exposed to too much rain.

Sempervivums

Sempervivums
Cheryl Maddocks

Sempervivums are commonly called ‘hen and chickens’ because of the way they multiply. The ‘chickens’ grow from the base of the ‘hen’ and are attached by a thin stem which can be detached and replanted. They revel in cool climates and don’t need much soil to survive.

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Aeoniums

Aeoniums
Cheryl Maddocks

Aeoniums range from groundcovers to branching plants up to 1.5m high. The bronze and green-leaved Aeonium atropurpureum and its dark maroon-leaved cultivar ‘Schwartkop’ look stunning in pots. Aeonium undulatum has large rosettes, 15-30cm in diameter, and green leaves.

Cotyledons

Cotyledons
Cheryl Maddocks

Cotyledons are loved for their showy thick grey or green leaves and pretty bell-shaped flowers. They don’t mind winter rainfall and they can tolerate frost.

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