- Succulents can be grown in all regions and are ideal for growing in pots.
- They require little moisture, so any watering restrictions are no problem.
- Plant them, in well-drained soil, during autumn and spring but not winter, as it’s too cold and wet.
- Very few pests and diseases bother succulents.
- Click here for a Tiaralestari Hacks video on how to grow succulents.
Succulent plants grow anywhere. They thrive with minimal fuss, flourish with little care and grow in small amounts of soil with the maximum amount of sunshine. Better still, they require little moisture, making them a stylish solution to Australia’s water crisis.
Succulents have bold foliage forms and bright colours, and the fact they’re so easy to grow has ensured their continuing popularity. Use them to make a statement in all corners of the garden or plant them in pots and arrange on a balcony, in a courtyard or on windowsills. They are one of nature’s most versatile beauties and some varieties even thrive indoors.
With so many different varieties available, in a range of sizes, there really is something for everyone. Your local nursery is a good place to start. Select the colours, forms and sizes that suit your outdoor space and ask how they grow: do they spread along the ground, and do they get much taller? Avoid the really prickly ones, as they will be difficult to control.
In the garden
Planting can be done during autumn and spring, but avoid winter as it’s usually too cold and wet. As a general rule, plant succulents in well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun. However, many of the Echeveria, Cotyledon and Sempervivum species will grow happily in partly shaded conditions as well.
If you have a space to fill, use a number of smooth-leafed succulents to create an artistic design. Opt for varieties such as Echeveria, Aeonium, Crassula, Sempervivum, Sedum, Agave and Cotyledon — planting many of the same variety will create a sweep of colour like a painting and will be more visually effective. Focus on harmonising colours, not clashing ones, and you will create a tranquil collection that’s pleasing to the eye.
Another idea is to use succulents to create a low border for a garden bed. Some succulents are particularly suited to this job, including Echeveria and Sedum, as they clump and spread better than others.
Larger succulents, such as Agave, Aloe and Yucca, attract the eye with their striking proportions and wild, striped colours. These focal plants should be positioned where they won’t be a problem in later years — planting them at the back of the garden will often result in dramatic forms and shapes. Planting flexible foliage plants nearby — such as flax, daisies and lavender — will help soften the look.
Pots and containers
Perfect for the gardener without a garden, succulents love growing in pots. Choosing the right succulent and the right pot can pretty-up a balcony, deck, porch, pool area, terrace or even a windowsill. Those of you who rent will be able to take your beloved collection from house to house.
Although they’re hardy plants, succulents in containers require protection from extreme heat and cold. They must be planted in a lightweight potting mix that has a good component of sand, and should be positioned in a spot that gets plenty of sun. Any container will do: pots, urns, troughs, custom-made planters, window boxes or even your old gardening boots. You are only limited by your imagination. Mulch the top of the pots with small pebbles to finish them off. Little pots of succulents make great gifts, too!
Planting succulents from seed
If you’ve got seeds, rather than a cutting, ensure they are kept in a completely dry spot that doesn’t get too hot.
Sow seeds in a pot that can hold at least 4cm of soil in mid-spring and keep it indoors. When watering, use a soft spray that won’t dislodge your seeds. Never allow the seeds or soil to dry out. After two to three months, you can move the plant outside to a sunny spot.
Feeding and watering
Succulents benefit from a controlled-release fertiliser in a granule form — apply it during spring and summer when the plants are actively growing.
These plants are water-storage vessels, like a living sponge — they take what they need from rainfall and the excess must be able to drain away quickly. Continuously wet soil will quickly spell death for succulents, as their stems will rot away at the base. Avoid this by planting in well-drained soil, crevices, pots and mounded garden beds, and completely avoid watering in winter.
Very few pests and diseases bother succulents. They do not like being mulched with moist leaf litter, which can cause the stem to rot, preferring stones or pebbles. Succulents dislike prolonged cold and wet conditions, although they will take a little frost if kept completely dry. Control any aphids or mealy bugs with an insecticide quickly before they become a problem. Wet winters may cause black spots on the leaves, in which case you can just remove the offending leaves.
Related: Sculptural, drought-resistant garden with cacti and succulents