what to do IN THE GARDEN this month; Super-hardy, attractive and easy to grow. You can’t go far wrong with succulents. Here’s the lowdown
SUMMER may have seen the death of many of your pot plants around your house or your office, so now is a good time to think about replacing them with something hardier like succulents.
Succulents are renowned for their tolerance to heat and drought – thanks to water-storing leaves and stems – and, in many cases, their ability to cope with wind, cold and seaspray.
Although difficult to kill, most succulents do need a well-lit position to thrive, and many will cope with full sun. They also need good drainage – if the soil is too wet, root problems can develop. Autumn is a good time to plant succulents – avoid winter as it’s usually too cold and wet.
All cacti are classified as succulents, but only succulents with thorns are classified as cacti. The zygocactus (Schlumbergera), also known as Christmas cactus, is a popular flowering type, and falls into the group known as epiphytic succulents.
In this group there are also some rarer species, such as the orchid cactus (Epiphyllum), and the exquisitely beautiful night flowering cactus, which opens its white, scented flowers as the sun sets. These types thrive well on a shaded verandah or balcony.
Of the foliage types, some of the most interesting include the Rhipsalis, which is suited to some shade protection; the thicker Donkey’s Tail or Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum and Sedum ‘Burrito’); and Crassula ‘Baby’s Necklace’, which all cope with sun or shade. The commonly called String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is a succulent that has masses of leaves resembling little beads strung along wonderful cascading stems.
Many of the smaller growing succulents with rosette forms can look superb in a basket. Graptoveria, Sedeveria and Echeveria have flowers that look like leaves, and many have delicate colours of pink, terracotta and blue. Sedum sieboldii is another ideal candidate for a basket – the stems grow to 30cm, and come summertime it’s covered with soft pink blooms. Don’t make the mistake of throwing it out when it drops all its leaves – it’s deciduous, not dead.