HOW TO GROW SUCCULENTS

Succulents are plants that have adapted to dry growing conditions.  This includes reduced leaf size with fleshy water-storing tissues in leaves and stems.  They are widespread through a range of different climatic conditions in many parts of the globe.  Some can endure extreme cold, whilst others require warm, tropical climates to survive.  They always gain popularity during times of drought and lower rainfall.  Their ability to grow with little or no extra watering makes them both practical and desirable.  

There is such a wide range of different succulents to select from.  It’s no wonder that they have become such prized collectibles in recent times. 

South Africa boasts a wide range of indigenous succulents to add to the mix.  Some produce spectacular flowers, whilst others are grown more for their ornamental leaves or growth shapes and forms.

PLANTING PROCEDURE

  • Good drainage is paramount for most succulent plants.
  • Create a sub-base of rubble, rocks and boulders and build a raised bed or rock garden over this, using a mixture of topsoil with sand or grit added.
  • Prepare the soil before planting by removing clods and larger rocks.
  • Add superphosphate or bone meal at the recommended rates and dig in.
  • For planting in pots and containers, use a mixture of commercial potting medium (3 parts) and river sand (1 part).
  • Adequate drainage holes covered with a layer of crushed stone or broken bricks (crocks) is very important.
  • Do not bury succulents too deeply.
  • Plant in the desired manner before watering well to settle the soil in place.
  • Once established, succulents require very little supplementary watering.
  • Some succulents grow easily from cuttings planted directly into the garden, offering an easy means of establishing groundcovers.

FERTILISING AND CARE

  • In many instances, a layer or covering of grit, sand or ornamental pebbles placed on the soil around the succulents shows them off well.
  • For plants in gardens, feed every 8 to 10 weeks with a balanced garden fertiliser – a 3:1:5 formula works well.
  • Smaller plants in pots and containers are best fertilised with a water soluble plant food every 4 to 5 weeks.  A 3:1:6 formula is recommended.
  • During periods of high rainfall, some succulents may require shelter to prevent “drowning”.
  • Small or low growing succulents need to be weeded regularly to prevent competition from unwanted weeds.
  • Vigorous plants in mixed succulent groupings need to be pruned to prevent them from overwhelming neighbours.

 

PESTS AND DISEASES

  • Fungal diseases can be a problem, especially during extended periods of wet weather.  Spray with a suitable fungicide when problems are detected.
  • Root rot can cause plants to die off if drainage is poor.
  • Collar rot caused the stem to die off where it enters the ground.  A top dressing of gravel or stones helps to prevent this.
  • Caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers chew the fleshy leaves and in some instances, stems.  Treat with a systemic insecticide (only suitable for use on non-edibles).

 

GARDEN USES

  • Excellent pot and container plants, either as individual specimens or miniature gardens.
  • Perfect for rock gardens.
  • Ideal for dry flower beds under roof overhangs.
  • Good for hot, dry banks.
  • Many types are at home in indigenous gardens.
  • Some make good groundcovers when planted en-masse.

 

SUMMARY

  1. Careful selection is important, due to the large diversity and range.
  2. Well-drained soil or growing medium is essential.
  3. Most succulent plants need full day sunshine.
  4. Shelter or protection from excessive rainfall is necessary for some succulents.
  5. Using succulents wisely saves plenty of water.

SHOPPING LIST

  • Tools for digging and preparing soil for planting.
  • Rocks, rubble and sand for drainage.
  • Compost and bone meal for enriching the soil.
  • Pots and containers where necessary.
  • Potting soil for pots.
  • Healthy, succulent plants.
  • Pebbles for surface mulching.
  • Watering can or hosepipe.