In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
January, 2012
Regional Report

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How could not fall in love with these beautiful sempervivums in their hypertufa pot?

Succulents Will Win You Over

If you've never been a fan of succulents, I'm going to try to change your mind. They are certainly in a class of their own, with their fleshy leaves, easy care regime and tidy appearance. One group, the cacti, often have thorns, but if that bothers you, there is a wide array of succulents that don't prick.

Perfect for a Hot, Dry Spot
I had a tufa pot of hen-and-chick type of plants on patio table this summer. It was a hot spot and often neglected in the watering regime. These plants continued to be absolutely beautiful for the entire summer. Their waxy, pristine, lime green leaves lined with maroon never whimpered, never shriveled, and received compliments all summer long. It changed my mind.

Every Shape, Color and Size
If you take a walk through images of succulents on the Internet, you'll find so many beautiful types, that you may just be tempted. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, and some of the leaves rival the most beautiful blossoms in the perennial garden. All succulents bloom, although you may not see it happen without perfect conditions. There is nothing quite as beautiful as a jade in bloom, but you won't see it often. Sedums, however, bloom every year in beautiful shades of red, yellow, coral and maroon.

Succulent Culture
Succulents are so easy to care for that they should always have a spot in both indoor and outdoor gardens. All they need is well-drained soil and full sun. In the outdoor garden, succulents are perfect for cracks in walls, between pavers (as long as they won't be stepped on), and in small clay pots tucked into the garden. I mentioned mine on the patio table -- a perfect plant for a container that dries out.

Indoor Growing
Indoors, because of their low water needs, they do best in containers made of terra cotta, stone, cement, or hypertufa simply because these materials dry out the soil. They will be happiest in a potting mix of half organic potting soil and half sandy, gritty mix. Potting soil alone can get too soggy. Be sure to find a sunny windowsill.

Propagating Succulents
Succulents are especially easy to propagate, making them great giveaways to friends. Simply pinch off a piece, let it dry for a day or two, and stick it in potting soil. I routinely pinch out pieces of sedum in my outdoor garden and toss them into other spots where they take root on their own.

There is a wide array of succulents available in garden centers and through mail order. Some of the most common ones include sempervivum (hen-and-chicks), aloe, agave, jade and sedum. But this only scratches the surface. Before long, you, too will catch the bug. In fact, if you have trouble growing other plants, give succulents a try. They are forever forgiving.

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