Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Succulents don't suck - Part 1 Succulents in containers

Sorry folks, I've been working on this piece in my head for days now and every time I tried to think of a title "Succulents don't suck" just popped into my head. Here on Long Island the succulents I grow are Sedum and Sempervivum (Hens and chicks).

For many years I grew succulents without really giving them much thought. When it came to Sedum, 'Autumn Joy' was probably my first. It was nice but I can't say it really wowed me. Then I noticed other types and varieties of Sedum. Not all of them stood up like 'Autumn Joy', no, there were varieties that spilled, creeped, cascaded and more. Foliage came in all different colors, grays, blues, greens, deep reds, purples and many variegations.

As for the Hens and Chicks, my first variety was a green with a brown tip, given to me by an elderly German gardener at least 20 years ago.

After my first few years of trying to grow a massive perennial border along my gravel driveway, I noticed that the Sedum were the best at taking the heat and dry conditions right along the edge. That's what started me on the hunt for more succulents.

Last year my garden club went on a tour of Chanticleer Gardens. There I saw succulents used in ways I had never imagined, I had an epiphany, came came home and totally changed the way I grew my succulents. Not only were they tucked into my rock walls, along my driveway and in containers but I designed one area for them alone so they could shine.

Over the next week I'd like to visit the various plantings and plants and show you the magic I see in my succulents. To begin with, I'm going to show you how I chose to plant up the iron container that I featured in an earlier piece.

The first step was to find a medium to hold the soil in the container. I can't say I love the look of this coir (coconut fiber) but from past experience, I like the way it holds up over time.

Next I simply filled the container with a mix of potting soil and compost. A container like this dries out almost instantly and while the succulents can handle dry conditions, I don't think they'd like the hard, baked dry lump of just potting soil. When I add some compost to the mix, it seems to keep just enough moisture in so that it doesn't turn into a brick.

Now comes the fun part. What should I choose to put in this planter? Since I've been on the hunt for new succulents, I had many new babies to choose from. Plus, I also had oldies and favorites that I had potted up last year.

My first choice was this wonderfully textured Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce' that I picked up yesterday at Paul's Nursery in East Northport.

I simply took it out of it's container, removed some of the extra potting soil and stuck it in my new iron planter.

The next choice of plant material was easy. This Sempervivum 'Red Rum' was also at Paul's. I passed it three times but finally had to give in and buy it. It's by far the largest Sempervivum in my garden. Another tip to any of you who live in this area, the label on this pot says "Glover Perennials". I've been lucky enough to visit Jim Glover's nursery out on eastern Long Island and I find his plants to be some of the best available around here.

Again, I removed a good few inches of the potting soil and in this case I also removed one of the "chicks" growing with this plant. The offset was quite large already and I potted it up in a separate little pot. It didn't have to be removed but I thought the balance would be better with just the one huge Sempervivum.

Now you can see how the 'Blue Spruce' and 'Red Rum' look together. I love it already!

The final choice was the hardest and I held several different pots up to see what I liked. I was looking for something that would add another texture and also compliment the color scheme. My final choice was this pot of Sedum cauticolum that I made with cuttings last year. (Stay tuned, one of the next posts will show you how to propagate your Sedums.)

Once I had all three plants in the pot I added more soil and tamped it down well so there wouldn't be sudden cavities after a good watering. I also moved a few stems from the two Sedum so they already began to intertwine.

Last but not least you can see my container here, on my succulent filled step, just waiting to be worked in to the ultimate arrangement of beauty.

See you soon with lots more of my favorite succulents,


3 comments: said...

Loved the information, love hens and chickens but so do the squirrels that live in my walnut tree. So far the only way to keep the squirrels from dining on the hens and chickens is to grow them under old bottomless bird cages. Any other suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Love your photos and ideas. I just startesd a sempervivum blog at

Come to visit on a rainy day.

Rafael Araujo said...


Here in Brazil I can't find some of these species. They are beautiful! Congratulations on your collection.