WHEN people think of succulents, they often think of the compact, rose-shaped varieties but these are just the tip of the water-storing plant, according to the experts at Redcliffe Garden Centre.
The centre’s Sondra Grainer and Tylor Elmsly said there were thousands of varieties, including many you would not thing were succulents such as frangipani, euphorbia, snake plants, jade and cacti.
“You can do full hanging baskets briming with flowers, with succulents,” Ms Grainger said.
“They flower for six months of the year, so you have good, vibrant colour.”
The plants are also an easy and reliable option for low-maintenance gardens or for gardeners whose thumbs are not so green.
“They’re quite forgiving, so if you forget to water then, they’re OK,” Mr Elmsly said.
“They are good to fill up problem areas, where nothing else will work.”
Some of the varieties good for filling a gap include pig’s face, portulaca and Aptenia.
When succulents are planted in garden beds, they don’t require much TLC but those in small pots do. The best way to determine if they need a drink, is to “do the finger test” to see how damp the soil is. If it feels dry, it is time to water.
Succulents need good drainage, so a coarse potting mix is recommended. You can buy succulent and cacti potting mix to be safe.
If you want to fertilise, there are products specifically for succulents and cacti in liquid and granular form.
“This is only necessary, if you want them to flower more. The potting mix should have everything the plant needs,” Ms Grainger said.
Succulents are perfect for youngsters keen to experiment in the garden.
“They don’t have to be gentle with them, if they break they can propagate more plants with that piece,” Ms Grainger said.
“And if they forget to water them, they won’t die overnight.”
They can also plant them in cute little pots and get creative with succulent art.
You can make a succulent ball using two wire hanging baskets joined together at the top and planted out with the plants so they grow on the outside.
They fill out, spread quickly and provide great coverage and colour.
So, what are their favourites?
For Ms Grainger, it is variegated portulaca because it has interesting foliage, can be grown in hanging baskets and its flowers are spectacular.
For Mr Elmsly, it is the desert rose because you get pretty flowers without a lot of effort.
“You can get every colour under the sun, even doubles,” he said.
For more gardening inspiration, visit redcliffegardencentre.com.au
Potting: Use a coarse, free-draining potting mix.
Position: Most varieties need 6-8 hours of full sun, particularly to encourage flowering and reduce pests and disease
Pests: Keeping succulents in full sun will reduce pests and disease such as aphids and mealybugs. They can also fall victim to red spider mite, scale, whitefly, snails, slugs, mice and caterpillars.
Watering: Many cacti and some succulents will thrive on minimal moisture because they are very good at storing water. But, if you want more flowers, regular watering will help things along.
Pruning: Those spreading too far or growing too high can be pruned. The best time is later winter and early spring. Do this using clean secateurs or a knife. Unwanted sections can be used as cuttings to strike new plants.
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