Gardening with Drought Tolerant Succulent Plants

by WriterArtist

The native desert plants are the finest examples of ecosystem that thrives in the extreme hot weather of earth with scanty rainfall and minimal nutrients in the soil.

Stalwart of the earth’s ecosystems and its extreme vagaries, the drought tolerant succulent plants hold promises of surviving the uncertain climates of our living planet in years to come. They attract attention due to their striking hues, unusual shapes, forms and unique foliage patterns. You can start a succulent garden in a small square or rectangular shallow pot or just a small cup with drainage holes.

In the vast arid, dry deserts, the Yuccas and Agaves tell us a unique story of their survival. They learnt to survive through the harsh summer by storing moisture in their swollen leaves. Thorns gave them protection from uninvited vertebrate predators and herbivores.

Image is from my garden.
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My Encounter with the Succulents

I fell in love with succulents recently. The versatile Jade plant had me started on these hardy desert plants. One of my friends gifted me some hardy succulents and from then on, I am hooked to these fiery plants. The diversity of form, foliage and colours baffled me.

 

Spring and summer bring joy, life and colours in these plants. Right now, it is raining in Bangalore and I have kept them safe in my indoor chamber which is partially exposed to the outdoor climate. My portico has roof enclosed with three walls. The space of fourth wall in this atrium is wide open. It closely resembles a greenhouse that offers protection from harsh sun and heavy downpour.

 

Since it is open, snails and leeches come inside my porch. To scare them away I try some home remedies like putting egg shells and keep checking on the plants for any visual signs of damage or withering.

 

I had my share of experiences good and sad when I started my encounter with these beauties. It took me some time to come at par in realizing that Jade plant and Kalanchoe are Succulents too.

Garden Design with Succulents

Desert Plants

 

They are the obvious choice for arid climates, water conserving gardens as they are the most drought tolerant plants. The ease of cultivation and propagation makes them a prime choice for Rock gardens.

Fire resistant succulents do not carry inflammatory oils, hence they are a good choice for a boundary wall of fire susceptible areas. The foliage accumulates water and they act as a retardant, preventing spread of fire in such zones.

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Succulent Tray from my garden
Succulent Tray from my garden
© WriterArtist

Succulent Types

 

There are as many succulent types as the names and forms appear. I couldn’t find any reliable source of classifying succulents by means of their genus or properties. Succulent lovers describe every plant as a different type. Popular of the types are Sedum, Crassula, Aloe Vera variants, Echeveria etc.

Succulent Care

 

People say that succulents are easy to care for. On the contrary, if you are of too much pampering type, my advice to you is to keep your restlessness at bay, don’t transplant and move succulents very often and at least leave them at bay when it concerns watering. Many of our ardent gardener enthusiasts kill plants by overwatering. It would be wise to remember that succulents can draw moisture from atmosphere too.

Like any plant, succulents may need fertilizer. In the natural environment of desert, the nutrients are supplied by the desert soil and atmosphere. One may apply weak fertilizer once or twice in a year. The plants do not need fertilizer if the soil mix is of right type. It will help to replace the soil once the plant is 1 or 2 years old.

Soil for Succulents

 

My first succulents survived in the garden soil but now I make a soil mix that is native to their origin ie the desert soil. Because of the ease of maintenance and low fertilizer requirements, I can assure that they will survive anywhere unless you kill them with overwatering.

Succulents and cactus love soil that is reminiscence of desert soil. Sand, hard rocks and poor soil nutrient properties would be readily embraced by Desert Succulents.

To make my desert dweller happy my succulent soil mix consists of 2 part of garden soil, 2 part of sand, 1 part of compost and 1 part of perlite. You can also try different variations of perlite, sand and soil.

Watering Succulents

 

Overwatering kills succulent is not a cliché. In fact, overwatering can kill any plant. No plant loves stagnant water, least of it are the succulents. Rotting roots are a sure way to ensure killing your exotic creatures. I generally water them twice a week or when they fully dry out. If you have propagated a baby succulent, ensure that you keep it moist all the time.

When you water, water generously. Remember the scanty rainfalls of deserts, when it rains in deserts, sometimes it is a light shower and other times it is a complete downpour. So drench your succulent in the water completely once in a way so that it soaks and bathes in delight till the water comes out from the drainage hole. Remember if you are overdoing it, your plant will complain. There will be visual signs of withering leaves, stems and rotting of roots Also, as a rule of thumb don’t drench the leaves, while watering stick to the soil. Succulent foliage is well built to store moisture and it dislikes water on its leaves and stems.

Succulents can be propagated from leaves

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Sun Exposure

Requirement of Sunlight

 

Contrary to the belief, the scorching sun does not do any good to some varieties of succulents. My experience has it that they do well with partial sunlight. Especially for the small ones, which I had transplanted recently, they were OK with the dim morning sun and filtered sunlight in the evening. Many of my succulents did even better with indirect sunlight. Bigger and established ones loved sun exposure for 2 to 4 hours. Mind you, Bangalore has scorching sun in summers.

Succulent Tips

Updated: 08/24/2019, WriterArtist
 
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Do you have succulents in your home garden?

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frankbeswick 13 days ago

At the Tatton flower Show in July my stall was close to an impressive stall that displayed succulents and cacti.In Britain these are popular indoor plants.

WriterArtist 20 days ago

@ DerdriuMarriner - I love many succulent species and it will be hard to list out favourites. Some of the succulents, I love to propagate are Crassula ovata (Jade Plant), string of pearls, string of bananas, echeveria and many others.
I have aloe vera and have used the sap many times. Aloe vera gel is good for skin. I generally trim the succulents if they outgrow the pot. When they are too big I transplant them in a big container. I also propagate baby succulents and gift it to my friends who share same interests (gardening) as mine.

WriterArtist 20 days ago

@ blackspanielgallery - Of course, there are succulent species that are huge, Agave and Cactus are some of them. You will have to transfer them to bigger pots when they outgrow. I generally gift it to my friends when they start multiplying.

blackspanielgallery 22 days ago

Most of the succulent plants I have seen are relatively small. Are there larger ones, which could outgrow a space?

DerdriuMarriner 22 days ago

WriterArtist, Thank you for the photos, practicalities and products.
Do you have a favorite among your succulents? Do you know about the medicinal sap of aloe vera?
What will you do when your potted succulents begin to outgrow their tray garden?

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