April 9, 2013

Recycling Succulents

Many species and selections of succulents are available from most any nursery. Don't worry about
the Latin names, just buy ones that you like. Later, if you become more interested, you can buy named
forms ( I like to order from Highland Succulents) who will ship un-rooted cuttings.

Contrary to what you may think, I don't like succulents and cacti.


I just grow them because they are easy, and no matter what anyone tells you, just because they are beautiful and carefree has nothing to do with why I grow so many. It may not look like it, but I am a lazy gardener. It's true, ask anyone who really knows me. I actually have very little free time to garden and fuss with things, and although many of you ask me "Matt, I don't know how you do all that you do!", the truth is, that if you ever visit me, you will see the truth. There is my 'prop' portion of the garden, and then there is the rest. And God forbid if you ever drop in unannounced and see the inside of the house! Hey, I have to spend some time on this blog!

Sure, Succulents are easy, colorful and fun to grow, and that's why I grow them. I will admit that I have been propagating most of my own succulents ( a loosely used term that bundles together many genus' of plants which have thick, water-filled leaves), and a good number of them I simply take cuttings from randomly each fall and spring, which has grown my collection exponentially. I will admit that I grow some serious succulents and cacti - meaning that there are some which I bother to label, breed and organize by genus (such as Rebutia and Haworthia), but there are many which I simply grow for their appearance.

Last year on the lower deck, I used many succulent plants in decorative containers ( wait until what you see
what I am going to plant in this giant strawberry planter this year!).

Succulents are addictive, and relatively easy-to-grow, as long as you don't allow them to stay too wet while in pots. Each year I add more and more to my collection of decorative forms, often even forgetting their names, as I really dont' care since remember, I really don't like them.

Sedum nussbaumerianum (the golden green form) can turn brilliant yellow gold in the hot sun of summer. Along with other
Sedums and Graptoveria, these will grow on for much of the winter until March, when I again take cuttings for
decorative containers that will spend the summer outdoors.
 I recycle most of my succulents each spring and autumn with cuttings, at least with my sedum and graptoveria species, as they root easily. These are succulents that can take much abuse, and when I take cuttings, I place them close together in pots, almost touching. This allows me to make geometric patterns or decorative displays. Last year I planted my most colorful succulents in concentric rings in one of our tall urns. This year, I am using some trendy green wall planters that Joe bought last year on sale. These will allow be to plant colorful blocks of color with various species and selections.

Sedums, including three cultivars of Sedum rubrotinctum (often called the jelly bean plant) root easily from cuttings. I
take a set of cuttings every autumn from my planters, and then grow them on in the greenhouse all winter long. By spring,
the plants are long in the tooth, so I take another set of cuttings which I use for spring containers.

A cleaned cutting of Sedum rubrotinctum 'aurora' ready for placing into another container. No need for
rooting hormone, these are cuttings anyone can root.
In October, newly potted cuttings from summer containers are placed on a high bench in the greenhouse where
they will spend the winter in full sun.

These wall planters are like giant tiles with angles compartments, that will keep the soil from falling out.
I am planting many succulents close together, by color and species. These unrooted cuttings will root in a few weeks, just about the time when I will be taking these containers outside to hang on a wall.

Sedum rubrotinctum, the Jelly Bean plant also drops it's fragile "jelly beans", each can root in the stem end is placed in damp sand or vermiculite.

I really have no idea what these will look like once they start growing, but for now, they remain flat and horizontal
in the greenhouse. I am trying some more interesting succulents in these containers, including Aloes.

Other ideas I might try this year include this one which I saw on a garden tour in Rhode Island. It's an upside-down hanging
basket form on a stone wall column. Lined with sphagnum and filled with soil, it was planted with hens and chicks.

In my more decorative plantings, last year I tried using more unusual colors of succulents. Red, gold and yellow, for
example, or, if you can remember, my collection of those that are grey or galvanized metal in color.
Concrete, galvanized metal and steel became a color theme in my outdoor gym.

I also like to display many species on the steps of the deck, in Guy Wolff pots. These include gasteria species,
haworthia ( like these) and other collectible species where I can grow many within a single genus.


  1. You have a beautiful collection! I'm with you though, I don't really care to know the names, just keep the ones I like.

  2. yes so rewarding these succulents and lovely textures and shades.

    thanks for keeping it real about untidy houses! you speak for all of us who have "much better things to do"!

  3. Yes Mlle Paradis! Housekeeping us usually last on my list of things to do!

  4. Your succulent collection is awesome!. In my garden only sedum, sempervivum and opuntia are hardy, the rest I have to grow as houseplants although my house is too small, dusty and untidy ...... :)

  5. Succulents have started to grow on me. Seeing your collection makes me want to start growing some now.

    P.S. I'm a fairly new visitor to your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. I'm also enjoying the blogs by the others from the Saturday 6.

  6. Hi Melanie! Most of these succulents I have are not hardy for me either, I really can't grow Opuntia well in my New England garden ( aside from the super hardy icky one).

  7. What a lovely collection of yours! I must say that you're a great gardener! You were able to recycle these plants and yet you still managed to keep it from growing beautifully. May you continue what you've started. :)

  8. Hi, Matt -- You show some lovely combinations. I especially like the first photo of rosette succulents wreathing an agave, and the photo of purple leaves juxtaposed with orange Euphorbia tirucallli 'Sticks on Fire'. However, one of my pet peeves is when someones states they don't like succulents without explaining why. You start off saying you don't like them, then you go on for the rest of your post to contradict that. So, are they too common, too pretty, too...well, what exactly?

  9. Hi Debra - thanks for calling me out on this one! I think the reason why I never liked succulents is simply that they are too easy to grow, so as a plant enthusiast who like challenges of horticultural skill, they offer little beyond ease and beauty - which is fine. But don't get me wrong, I still find myself attracted to growing many, I just get a different type of satisfaction from them, compared to a rare, difficult to obtain or grow speces. As I think about it, they are a bit like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. We still love it, and in many ways it's as good, if not better than home made mac and cheese made with organic cheese and home made pasta, - both have room in my pantry, one is just easier.


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