Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Succulents – the new “in plants” for drought regions

Succulents, even those that won’t grow in colder climates, make great candidates for a greenhouse, sunroom, or even a sunny windowsill. My collection doesn’t seem to mind the dry indoor air or erratic watering. And my admiration for these low-water high-drama plants is shared by a lot of people—especially in coastal areas of California, where many succulents grow outside in the ground. They are fast replacing thirsty lawns in this drought-prone region.

So this year at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, I wasn’t surprised that the People’s Choice Award was given to a major succulent garden. Designed by Iftikhar Ahmed of Treelinez 360° Design Company in collaboration with Succulent Gardens, the display featured a massive spread of raised beds overflowing with a fine array of large succulents in all colors and shapes.

Here’s a sampler of the gorgeous plants in that show garden. These aren’t hardy below 30 degrees. In colder regions of the country, you can grow them in containers in a greenhouse or other protected area and gradually expose them to more sun outdoors in the summer. Some are just coming into the trade. Passionate collectors will want to go on the hunt for them.

Aloe conifera ‘Twirl’ – This foot-tall aloe lives up to its name. The blue-green leaves twist as they grow. And the tall reddish flowers make a great architectural focal point.

Echeveria Bittersweet
Echeveria Bittersweet

Crassula swaziensis ‘Money Maker’ – Here’s a low-growing multi-branching succulent, with lush green foliage and plenty of reddish color. Terrific plant for softening between more upright succulents.

Echeveria ‘Bittersweet’ – The open spreading foliage shows off dusky pink and gray rosettes that make you want to reach out and touch them. It grows about a foot wide and tall.

Euphorbia milii x variegated – This crown of thorns grows two feet tall. The red flowers with the cream-green foliage are a showstopper. Excellent houseplant. Like all euphorbias, handle with gloves—the white sap causes an allergic reaction.

Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ – I like ‘Sticks’ for its bright reddish-orange stems. Indoors, the color of this two-foot tall red pencil plant fades but returns when under full summer sun.

Bonus – If you’d like to grow succulents outdoors in colder zones, try the following – Sedum spurium ‘Blaze of Fulda’; S. telephinium ‘Marina’; S. Touchdown™ Flame; S. ‘Moonlight Serenade’; S x ‘Autumn Fire’; and Sempervivum tectorum ‘Sunset’