Garden Clippings: The Mighty Bold Succulent

It's hot, it's dry can we embrace these water-wise plants?

It’s July. Water is evaporating from shallow birdbaths. The hills have turned brown. There’s an empty pot where a once healthy plant flourished.

What’s a gardener to do other than curse the wilting?

You could try planting succulents...the fatties of the garden that require—in fact insist upon—very little water.

Those who’ve eschewed echeveria or not felt euphoria over euphorbia, can start small, such as three pretty pots of haworthia zebra or red kalanchoe. 

If you have already cozied-up to succulents, expand from the ground up. Install a vertical wall either in your yard or front porch. Or place tall zinc planters on either side of a walkway or front door with an agave on top or donkey tails trailing down.

Many front yards or parkways have been dug up and turned into succulent displays. For example, a homeowner on Mound View transformed a parkway overnight with succulents arranged in gravel. A new home build on Dona Pegita went full throttle and created a multi-colored showpiece front yard with huge boulders and orange Fire Stick Euphorbia Tirucalli, huge rosettes of gray-green Agave attenuata, deep bronze/black Aeonium arboreum “Zwartkop” and Aloe striata (coral aloe) with its tapered pale green leaves bordered in red.

So whether you stick them on windowsills, transform a hot spot in the yard, or create a bold landscape, try out a carefree succulent. And just for good measure, remember they are a great fire-retardant hillside dweller. “Succulents may broil or bake, but they don't burst into flames or spread them," says Don Newcomer, owner of Serra Gardens.

The Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society, an affiliate of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America, sponsors various events throughout the summer and even offers mentors to beginners. They are located at Sepulveda Garden Center, 16633 Magnolia Blvd. in Encino, and for more info you can contact them at: lacss.contact@gmail.com.

To see some of the coolest specimens, check out The Los Angeles County Arboretum which mounts its 27th annual Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show in Arcadia August 11 and 12.


Plant kalanchoe quicksilver, sedum pink jellybean, and the trailing pink Ceropegia Chain of Hearts in a pot or shallow birdbath with well-drained soil and decorate the edges with colored marbles or river rock.

Try guerilla gardening. Find a hideous, abandoned patch of weeds or dirt and plant a few succulents such as the hardy Aloe Plicatis which displays large scarlet flowers from August to October. You’ll only need to go back and water every couple of weeks.

To root a succulent, break a piece of it off at the joint and place on a paper towel in a dry spot like a windowsill for 3-5 days (avoiding direct sunlight) until the cutting heals. Once dry, plant in layer a half an inch of charcoal at the bottom. Then, add an inch of the rocks and finally cover with soil.

Got a wedding, quinceanera, outdoor celebration coming up? More and more brides' bouquets mix succulents in with traditional flowers such as peonies or roses. And for any party, potted succulents make a unique centerpiece.

Emily March 21, 2013 at 07:44 AM
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