GARDENING WITH THE MASTERS: Succulent gardening for the house | Life-style


Succulent gardening seems to be growing in popularity with home gardeners. Succulents are a diverse collection of plants that come in a variety of sizes, colors, growing habits, textures, and environmental impacts. Most are disease and pest resistant. They are useful for container arrangements, rock gardens, or sprinkled in ornamental gardens.

Succulents are sometimes classified according to the environmental conditions in which they thrive: xerophytes (drought-loving) or halophytes (salt-loving). This classification method is difficult to apply because many succulents are adapted to both environmental conditions. In addition, both Xerophytes and Halophytes can be found within the same family.

It’s also important to note that not all xerophytes or halophytes are succulents. This makes it easier to classify according to botanical families. Although there are over 60 families that contain succulents, the most popular succulents in zone 7 home gardens belong to one of the following:

Agavaceae – agaves and yuccas

These larger succulents have elongated leaves with a spiky tip. The flowers grow from a long stem in the middle of a central rosette. Easy to find agaves in zone 7 include Agave univittata ‘Quadricolor’ and A. victoriae-reginae ‘Queen Victoria’. Yucca gloriosa var. Recurvifolia ‘Walbristar’ (Yucca ‘Bright Star’) and Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Perpa’ (Y. ‘Brakelights’) are harder to find in the southeast, but both will add to your landscape noticeably if you find them. Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ is readily available.

This is a large family of plants, and many generally do not thrive in Zone 7. However, Aizoaceae species known as ice plants do reasonably well. They are hardy and tolerate a range of environmental conditions. One of my favorites is Trailing Mezoo ™ Red (Aptenia cordifolia). Ice plants are drought tolerant and productive fillers and trailers that bloom all summer.

Most species of aloe have fleshy leaves that are arranged in rosettes. Some species appear as branching stems with fleshy leaves. Still others are missing stems, with the rosette growing on the ground. Flower clusters come in a number of colors and shapes. The most common heirloom variety is Aloe ‘Barbadensis Miller’ or real Aloe Vera. The leaves can be green, gray, striped, or mottled. This family also includes glowing poker or torch lilies (Kniphofia spp.), Which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Apocynaceae – dog spell and oleander

This diverse family includes tropical and subtropical ornamental trees, shrubs, and grapevines. Many members of this family have poisonous leaves – hence the name dog escape or dog poison. Leaves are missing in many species. Some of the most beautiful flowers in Zone 7 claim to be part of this family, including Nerium Oleander and species of Mandevilla, Hoya and Vinca.

Bromeliaceae – bromeliads and air plants

This is a large family of exotic plants, many of which have long, colorful leaves and an array of spectacular bracts (flowers). Some are epiphytic – that is, they grow on trees -, anchor themselves to the bark, and draw nutrients from the atmosphere. An epiphyte native to Georgia is the Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). Bromeliads grown outdoors are annual in Zone 7. They are generally disease and pest resistant and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Since members of this family are adapted to arid climates, they are extremely drought tolerant. They have sharp spines or needles instead of leaves, and they store water in fleshy stems and twigs. Cacti have showy flowers in myriad colors. If the soil is properly conditioned, several species of hardy cacti will thrive in zone 7, barrel cacti (Echinocereus and Ferocactus spp.).

Crassulaceae – Sedum, hens and chicks, and sedum plant

Most sedums (Sedum spp.) Are easy to care for in zone 7 and are hardy. They come in a variety of colors, textures, and growing habits, and there are many named varieties available. Chickens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.) Are easy-to-grow perennials that are both fertile and hardy. They grow rosette-shaped near the ground. The sedum plant (Escheveria spp. And Kalanchoe spp.) Are also popular as annual or houseplant. The leaves of the sedum plant are fleshy and arranged in rosettes. The leaf varies in shape, color and size. They do not tolerate high heat and are not winter hardy. Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi ‘Variegata’ is a particularly beautiful variety.

Euphorbiaceae – milkweed

Some succulents belong to the genus Euphorbia. The common name for this diverse group of plants is milkweed. Because of their appearance and common adaptations, some are often confused with cacti. Others can be deciduous or evergreen, herbaceous or woody, annual or perennial. Flowers are simple but breathtakingly beautiful.

Succulent garden design can accommodate a variety of preferences. You are sure to find succulents that suit your needs. Have fun gardening!