GARDENING: SUCCULENTS FOR EVERY TASTE

Published September 19, 2021
Echeveria
Echeveria

Succulents are amongst the easiest of plants to grow both indoors and out. Needing little care besides a drink of water once a week from spring to the onset of autumn, and once every 3-4 weeks in winter, these fascinating, largely South African plants are perfectly at home either in full sun or dappled shade.

When grown indoors, plenty of natural light, with the bonus of being placed in a sunny spot for a few hours now and then, is enough to keep them happy. Succulents don’t even ask for an expensive growing medium, being completely satisfied in a well-draining mix of ordinary garden soil and river sand, with a bit of gravel thrown in to maintain maximum drainage at all times.

The one thing that is guaranteed to kill them off, and very rapidly too, is overwatering, which rots both roots and leaves at the speed of light.

Aeonium | Photos by the writer
Aeonium | Photos by the writer

There are succulents to satisfy everyone’s taste and more and more varieties are appearing in the market on a regular basis. Just a few succulents can turn in to a huge collection in no time at all as these are simple to propagate from seed, from stem-cuttings or by potting up the baby plants some of them birth around the edges of their leaves. This takes very little effort and, aside from the cost of pots/ containers, little or no expense.

These happy and healthy plants are beautiful and easy to care for, both indoors and out, as long as you follow a few simple rules

The majority of these perennial plants live for many years and differ from equally interesting cacti as they have thick, fleshy leaves instead of prickly spines. But some of the leaf forms are so incredibly distorted that they don’t resemble leaves at all.

Some succulents bear gloriously eye-catching flowers, others small and rather insignificant ones, and the colour range of their stems and leaves is of a surprisingly varied palette.

Some species trail, others climb, some are low and sprawling, whilst yet others reach for the sky, so you are spoilt for choice when trying to select that extra special succulent for a specific spot.

Orbea varigata
Orbea varigata

To help you make up your mind, the following are just a few examples of succulents proven to thrive in our increasingly fickle climate.

Sanseveria — Mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant: These air-purifying plants have tall, pointed, fleshy leaves which may be plain green, variegated green and white or green and yellow, and may even exhibit a bluish tint. They can reach a height of 4-5 feet and regularly send up new shoots from their rhizomatous roots.

Crassula ovata — Jade tree: Can reach a height of 10-12 feet so, obviously, is best grown directly in the garden. It has shiny, oval-shaped, green leaves and dresses itself up in sprays of white flowers during autumn and winter. There are many other varieties of crassula available, some suitable for cultivation in plant pots, so do browse your local nurseries until you find the one that meets your needs.

Orbea varigata — Star flower: Its clump-forming, four-angled, indented stems may not be much to write home about but it’s weird, artificial-looking flowers certainly are. This low-growing succulent reaches a height of about 4-5 inches at most and is fairly innocuous until, in summer or autumn, it suddenly decides to burst into bloom. The flower buds, resembling tightly wrapped parcels, seem to appear overnight and take a day or two to open into star-shaped, blotched and streaked blooms, which may be a blend of yellow and purple or brown and red. They really are strange-looking and it can be surprisingly difficult to convince visitors that they really are real.

Graptopetalum paraguayense — Mother-of-pearl plant: another good option. Clump-forming with basal rosettes up to 6 inches across, the grey-green, sometimes-tinged-with-pink, leaves turn silvery in the sunshine. Very fast growing once established, easily multiplied by stem cuttings, it sends up star-shaped, yellow and red flowers during the summer months.

Aeoniums: With individual rosettes in green, tinted with red and purple or in purple shades, these are wonderfully showy, medium-tall succulents which never fail to make a statement. The huge Echeveria family is literally bursting with easy-to-multiply plants to suit all locations.

Amongst countless other lovely succulents that should be easy to get hold of are the trailing senecio rowleyanua — String-of-beads and ceropegia linearis — heart vine or rosary vine.

The kalanchoe family, with their vivid flowers, the well-known aloes and lampranthus spectablis, which smothers itself in masses of luminous, deep pink, daisy-like flowers throughout spring and well into summer, make wonderful, long-lasting, extremely colourful displays in plant pots and in borders.

All in all, succulents are too simple to say ‘No’ to and the more you have the merrier they, and you, will be.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 19th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Corruption index
27 Jan, 2022

Corruption index

The Transparency report punches a hole in the self-righteous façade of a party that has long beaten the drum of accountability.
27 Jan, 2022

Oslo meeting

A DILEMMA continues to confront the international community where Afghanistan is concerned: whether or not to...
27 Jan, 2022

Sanitary workers’ rights

RELIGIOUS discrimination in Pakistan has many faces and one of its most troubling manifestations is the virtual...
Failure of accountability
Updated 26 Jan, 2022

Failure of accountability

THE resignation of PTI government’s accountability czar Barrister Shahzad Akbar is a blow to the party’s central...
26 Jan, 2022

New freight service

THE launch of a new railway freight service connecting the Karachi port with the industrial and commercial centres ...
26 Jan, 2022

Flying curbs

THE unexpected decision of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to continue its ban on PIA operations to EU...